MASERU — Prime Minister Thomas Thabane was forced to cancel his trip to Ethiopia this week because of a looming crisis in the police and prison services, the Sunday Express can reveal.
Thabane was supposed to have left for Addis Ababa on Monday to attend the 50th anniversary of the African Union (AU) this week but had to cancel after prison warders briefly downed tools and police constables allegedly embarked on a go-slow.
This paper understands that Thabane was also concerned about the situation in Parliament where Deputy Speaker, Lekhetho Rakuoane, was facing removal after he resigned as MP.
A source said the prime minister was worried that if Rakuone was removed he would be replaced by a Democratic Congress MP.
Several highly placed sources told this paper that the situation in the police and prison services was threatening to get out of hand, forcing Thabane to step in.
Thabo Thakalekoala, press secretary in Thabane’s office, said the premier could not be part of the AU summit because he had “administrative issues” to attend to.
Asked if the issues to be addressed included the police constables and prison warders’ demands for a salary review Thakalekoala said Thabane did not specify.
“The Prime Minister told me he did not attend the AU summit because he had urgent national issues he had to address. He did not specify what those issues are,” Thakalekoala said.
Government Secretary Motlatsi Ramafole was also evasive when asked about the issue.
Ramafole said Thabane was attending to “general national commitments”.
He said the commitments were “not necessarily the police constables salary issues”.
Correctional Service Senior Assistant Commissioner Matingoe Phamotse said superintendents down to correctional officers were not satisfied with the salary adjustments.
“There was a protest however that issue was resolved and things are now back to normalcy,” Phamotse said.
“We are in negotiations.”
The Sunday Express however has it on good authority from five highly placed sources who were contacted separately that Thabane was “very concerned that national security was at risk” and he decided to deal with the situation before it could turn into a security crisis.
Prison warders’ started grumbling on Monday when they found that they had been excluded from the public servants’ salary review.
They engaged in an immediate strike that lasted until Wednesday morning.
Monday was the pay-day for the prison warders, police and the army.
The junior police officers who had similar complaints are alleged to gone on a go-slow while the Lesotho Police Staff Association debated whether to strike or patiently wait for the government to solve their problem.
On Tuesday afternoon there were reports of a go-slow in Leribe where police officers were said to be obstructing traffic flow.
The same reports were heard from Mafeteng on Wednesday.
Police spokesperson Masupha Masupha however denied the reports.
Acting secretary general of the Lesotho Police Staff Association, Teboho Molumo, said the government seems to have committed itself to dealing with the concerns.
Molumo said senior government officials have been part of the talks that have been going on to address the police constables’ salary issue.
“We appreciate the seriousness with which this issue has been handled. Hopefully there will soon be a positive outcome to the matter,” Molumo said.
A memo from the Ministry of Public Service to the Ministry of Finance said police constables who do not have tertiary qualifications will only get the six percent salary hike.
“Your good office is kindly informed that the rank of Police Constable in the Lesotho Mounted Police Service has been adjusted by six percent while other ranks have been reviewed,” said the document dated March 22.
“Please note that officers in the Police Constable rank should maintain their current points while officers in the other ranks are to start at first point of their respective ranks”.
A police constable without tertiary certificate but has served for 10 and more years earns a gross salary of M5 635.
At entry a police constable gets a gross salary of M4 858.
The high ranking police officer gets up to M12 119.