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Top cop breathes fire

by Sunday Express
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  • Molibeli says more arrests will be made in Khetheng case
  • Police promotions were a reward to former govt loyalists
  • Exiled senior officer has case to answer for fraud

Pascalinah Kabi

ACTING Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli says more arrests will be made in connection with the killing of Police Constable (PC) Mokalekale Khetheng, adding that “the net is closing on all the suspects”.

In no-holds-barred remarks made in Mazenod on Friday, Acting Commissioner Molibeli also described the promotions of 36 Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) members a day after the 3 June 2017 parliamentary elections as a form of “payback” for officers doing the bidding of the previous government.

The top cop also weighed in on the case of an officer who recently fled the country claiming he was tipped-off of an imminent arrest, saying he had a case to answer for inflating the cost of a procurement quotation.

Acting Commissioner Molibeli made the remarks during Police and Public Safety Minister ‘Mampho Mokhele’s familiarisation tour of police stations in light of her appointment last month. On Friday, the minister visited police officers stationed in Maseru rural posts in Mazenod.

Acting Commissioner Molibeli — whose substantive position is that of Assistant Commissioner of Police heading the Crime Investigation Department – was appointed to the helm of the LMPS after Police Commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa was sent on an involuntary 90-day leave in June this year by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.

Commissioner Letsoepa is currently negotiating exit terms with the government, with Acting Commissioner Molibeli expected to replace the top cop on a permanent basis.

Acting Commissioner Molibeli’s appointment came in the wake of a massive shake up in the law enforcement agency that has also seen the recalling of 21 LMPS members who were sacked for various reasons by Commissioner Letsoepa.

Acting Commissioner Molibeli urged the gathered LMPS members to do their utmost in fostering unity in the agency, adding that many “injustices” had been committed which had resulted in divisions.

He said it would be difficult for Ms Mokhele to improve the LMPS if it remained fragmented.

“Unity is power. We need a police service with integrity,” he said.

“It is entirely up to us to regain the integrity we have lost and favour in the eyes of Basotho. What has divided us is not in the interests of Basotho nor us.”

Acting Commissioner Molibeli assured LMPS members with doubts about his intentions that he was ready to work with them. However, he also stressed that criminality would not be tolerated.

“Let us work together for the betterment of the police service. But be warned that I am not going to condone crime. Police officers who committed crimes must be tried in the courts of law,” Acting Commissioner Molibeli said, adding that more arrests were in the offing over PC Khetheng’s disappearance and murder.

PC Khetheng was stationed in Mokhotlong and last seen being arrested by his colleagues at a traditional feast in Sebothoane, Leribe on 25 March 2016 and had not been seen or heard from since.

This had prompted his father, Thabo Khetheng, to lodge an application before the High Court on 18 July 2016 for the police authorities to produce him dead or alive.

PC Khetheng had been arrested and charged on allegations he torched the house of a superior officer in Mokhotlong district where he was deployed.

He was allegedly last seen with Inspector Mofolo, PC Ntoane, PC ‘Mabohlokoa Makotoko and Senior Inspector Matona.

The LMPS had initially argued that PC Khetheng had left the Hlotse police station without permission and they did not know where he was. For its part, the Khetheng family argued that the police should know where he was because they arrested him.

The case had been proceeding in the High Court, with numerous postponements, until two weeks ago when a special police investigating team arrested Inspector Mofolo and PC Ntoana in connection with the disappearance. The other two were later arrested in connection with the case.

The investigation led to the exhumation of a man the family believes to be PC Khetheng on Friday after the police were granted a court order by the Magistrate’s Court last week in light of ongoing investigations.

According to information found on the tombstone, the body was found in Ha Setho, two days after PC Khetheng’s arrest in Leribe.

The unidentified body was transported by Ha Mokhalinyane police to Ha ‘Majane before being transferred to a Lesotho Funeral Service mortuary in Maseru.

The body was buried on 7 December 2016 at the Lepereng cemetery together with other unidentified corpses.

Investigators are conducting a DNA test to verify the identity of the body which had been buried at the Lepereng cemetery in the outskirts of Maseru.

Senior Superintendent Thabo Tšukulu (51), Senior Inspector Mabitle Matona (39), Sub Inspector Haleokoe Taasoane (44) and Inspector Mothibeli Mofolo (49) have since been charged for murdering PC Khetheng.

Last Monday, Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police, Tšeliso Monare, was also arrested in connection with the case, before being released the next day.

However, the LMPS has stressed that the released officer might be called back “if need be”, as investigations into the case continue.

“The net is fast closing in on all the suspects and the suspects are dismally failing to untie themselves from the matter because we have a strong case against them,” Acting Commissioner Molibeli said.

“Khetheng was arrested in Leribe and dumped in Ha Mokhalinyane. Why was he buried before the lapsing of two years which is the usual period for the interment of unidentified corpses?”

He added: “I am owed answers and I demand those answers. I am not fighting or after anyone, I am simply fighting crime within the police service.

“Why did we defend a case in which the family wanted their son, one of our own, be produced death or alive? Who is supposed to pay the lawyer for Khetheng’s case?

“More people are still going to be arrested in connection with Khetheng’s death. If Khetheng was an arson suspect, why didn’t he see his day in court?”

Acting Commissioner Molibeli also asserted that the controversial 4 June 2017 police promotions were meant to reward officers who had done the previous government’s bidding.

The promotions were effected by Commissioner Letsoepa, a day after the elections that resulted in the ousting of the Pakalitha Mosisili-led seven-party coalition government.

In its place was inaugurated a four-party coalition government led by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane which accused Commissioner Letsoepa of being used by Dr Mosisili to deploy allies in strategic areas of the government.

They claimed that Dr Mosisili wanted to “rule from the grave”, referring to the former premier remaining in control of the government even after leaving office.

For his part, Commissioner Letsoepa argued that the promotions were not politically-motivated but based on merit.

“If you look closely, you will discover that some of the suspects arrested in the Khetheng murder case were among the promoted police officers while some were the ones who confiscated guns belonging to Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s bodyguards during the elections campaigns yet no cases have been opened against the bodyguards,” Acting Commissioner Molibeli said.

Members of a joint armed forces platoon confiscated weapons from Dr Thabane’s bodyguards at a roadblock in March this year while the former premier was on his way to Qacha’s Nek for an All Basotho Convention (ABC) rally.

The ABC claimed the seized guns were all licensed and that Dr Thabane’s bodyguards had offered the police and army officers’ documentation to substantiate that but to no avail.

Acting Commissioner Molibeli added: “These promotions were a form of payback. Some of these people were promoted three times in a year. “Even if an officer is such a hard worker, what were they doing which other officers were not doing to deserve three promotions in a year?”

While not mentioning him by name, Acting Commissioner Molibeli also took a swipe at Senior Superintendent Lebohang Setsomi who fled the country a fortnight ago claiming that he had been tipped that his life was in in danger.

SSP Setsomi, who was in charge of the LMPS’s procurement division, had said he was warned of an imminent arrest and interrogation over alleged irregularities in the awarding of tenders.

Acting Commissioner Molibeli said the exiled officer had a case to answer, adding that a quotation with a “reasonable price” was submitted to the Police Procurement Office for a water pump at Mokhalinyane Police Station.

“That quotation with a reasonable price was inflated to M1 million. And when I demanded answers, that same person then fled the country. Does it mean that I am chasing after people when I demand answers to legitimate questions?”

He said the LMPS was facing numerous compensation claims worth millions over from people who were kidnapped by the agency. Some of the abductees, the top cop said, were claiming up to M4 million as compensation from the police.

“People were arrested and taken to Ha Ramabanta police station and the courts have since ruled that those were not arrests but kidnapping,” Acting Commissioner Molibeli said.

“Now those individuals have since filed applications in court demanding M4 million each from the police.

“Who is supposed to pay this money? The LMPS is already broke as it is, yet we are facing these huge debts.”

He added: “Allow me to take us back to the right direction. Open your hearts and help me build a police service with integrity.”

 

 

 

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