LESOTHO Mounted Police Service (LMPS) Acting Commissioner, Masupha Masupha, says officers are still traumatised by a Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) raid on three key Maseru police stations on the morning of 30 August 2014.
The raid, which left one LMPS member dead, triggered a chain of unsavoury events that led to the collapse of the coalition government and intervention by the international community in an effort to avert a complete breakdown of the rule of law in Lesotho.
The LDF later described the manoeuvres as a special operation to foil a police plan to give civilians firearms for use during a Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) street protest scheduled for 1 September 2014 — a claim the LMPS and Prime Minister Thomas Thabane have dismissed out of hand.
Dr Thabane, who had fled the country for South Africa on the eve of the raids, allegedly after being warned his life was in danger from rogue elements of the LDF, later called the attacks an attempted coup orchestrated by LCD leader, Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing and army commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, whom he had fired the previous day for alleged insubordination.
The premier returned to Lesotho on 3 September under South African police guard, who continue to provide him and fellow coalition government leader, Thesele ‘Maseribane, with security. Due to the attempted coup and fallout between the coalition government partners — Mr Metsing, All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Dr Thabane and Basotho National Party’s Chief ‘Maseribabe — over the prime minister’s alleged dictatorial tendencies, Lesotho is set to hold an early election in February 2015.
Speaking at a sombre ceremony held at Police Training College on Friday to mark Police Day, Acting Commissioner Masupha said the commemoration came at a “difficult time” as the LMPS family was still trying to come to terms with the senseless shooting of Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko at Police Headquarters that fateful Saturday morning.
“Our officers are still suffering due to injuries sustained on that day and the psychological trauma they had to endure following the attacks on their offices,” he said.
Until today, the police still fear being ambushed while on duty. We are now facing this great challenge of soothing the wounds caused by that army attack.”
According to Acting Commissioner Masupha, the police now need to be extra-careful when summoned to emergencies for fear the call could be a trap by renegade LDF members.
“Today, when the community requires our services, we have to ensure that we are not being tricked into a trap or an ambush by soldiers.
“We first have to send intelligence officers to crime scenes to ensure we are not being called for an ambush and when we dispatch our members, we have to make sure we have a team of heavily-armed officers guarding those working on the crime scene.”
Acting Commissioner Masupha further said the police would always remember 30 August 2014 as one of the worst days in the history of the LMPS.
“Our families are no longer comfortable to be with us for fear that they might also be attacked due to our presence,” he went on. “We are told by our families that they feel safer when we are at work and not with them simply because of the attack.”
Turning to the conditions of service in the LMPS, Acting Commissioner Masupha said the coalition government led by Dr Thabane, which came to power in June 2012, had improved the lives of police officers.
“There have been a number of positive developments in the LMPS since the coalition government came into office. We had always wished for a clinic of our own, and today, we have that clinic where police officers in Maseru can easily be referred for medical check-up.
“The LMPS was recently presented with 52 vehicles which now enable us to attend crime scenes timeously, while we now have new uniforms that we had not been given for so long, and a new salary and rank structure. All these developments have improved morale in the LMPS.”
On his part, Police Ministry Principal Secretary, Refiloe Matekane, thanked the coalition government for prioritising the LMPS.
However, Mr Matekane slammed some Members of Parliament for attempting to stop the new rank structure from being approved, last week.
“The police have been trying to review their rank structure for a very long time but we were shocked to hear that some honourable members tried to stop this in parliament,” said Mr Matekane.
“We are happy that police salaries are now at par with their counterparts in other security agencies of this country. The police today are satisfied and all this is thanks to the coalition government.”