Ultimatum for Letsoepa
. . . top cop given until Tuesday to ‘show cause’ why he should not be fired
EMBATTLED Police Commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa has until Tuesday this week to “show cause” why he should not be dismissed by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane for alleged misconduct and “and/or criminal activities”.
Among Commissioner Letsoepa’s alleged transgressions is failing to probe the 30 August 2014 killing of Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko and the 25 June 2015 fatal shooting of former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao.
The top cop is also accused of failing to administer the Lesotho Mounted Police Service’s (LMPS) forensic laboratory, violation of procurement procedures and not investigating the disappearance of Police Constable Mokalekale Khetheng.
The charges are contained in a “show cause” letter to Commissioner Letsoepa penned by Acting Government Secretary (GS) Emmanuel Lesoma.
Dated 18 July 2017, the letter all but seals Commissioner Letsoepa’s expected dismissal after he was sent on a 90-day involuntary leave by Dr Thabane last month.
For his part, Commissioner Letsoepa told the Sunday Express he was yet to receive the letter as he was out of the country.
The latest development comes in the wake of a shake up in the LMPS that has resulted in the replacement of Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Keketso Monaheng — who had been acting commissioner — by DCP Holomo Molibeli this past week. DCP Molibeli has been touted as a shoo-in to take over the police commissioner position on a permanent basis.
The shake up in the police has also seen the recalling of 21 LMPS members who were sacked for various reasons by Commissioner Letsoepa.
The officers, who reported for duty last Wednesday, had been fired for accusing Commissioner Letsoepa of maladministration while others had been accused of participating in political activities.
In the letter, Mr Lesoma gives the top cop – who was appointed by the Pakalitha Mosisili-led former government on 3 November 2015 – seven days to justify why he should not be retired.
“I have been instructed by the Right Honourable the Prime Minister Dr Motsoahae Thomas Thabane, as I hereby do, to require you to show cause if any, why you cannot be retired in the interest of efficiency and effectiveness from holding the office of the Commission of Police in the Lesotho Mounted Police Service pursuant to Section 5(3) and (4) of the Police Service Act 1998 regarding the under-mentioned misconducts and/or criminal activities which are alleged against you,” reads part of the missive.
Commissioner Letsoepa is accused of failing to administer the LMPS forensic laboratory resulting in its “total dysfunction” and “impeding its purpose as well as rendering it stagnant”.
“You will vividly recall that on the 2nd December 2015, you intentionally deployed Senior Superintendent (SSP) Khoabane Mpepe and assigned him to be in charge of the entire laboratory despite its well-known hierarchical administrative structure, which clearly indicates that it must be managed by a Chief Laboratory Technologist, a qualification Mpepe does not possess.”
The alleged misconduct, Mr Lesoma states, resulted in “a great financial loss” for the LMPS.
“The shooting range was burnt down and no action has since been taken against anyone. It is not clear as to who authorised the shooting and the alleged testing of firearms during the weekend which resulted in the burning down of the shooting range and other components of the laboratory.”
He also asserts that procured DNA equipment was not installed because of SSP Mpepe’s deployment at the laboratory.
“Consequently the Ministry of Police or the nation lost M593 101.05 worth of goods (reagents) which expired due to delay in the installation because SSP Mpepe lacked requisite expertise in forensics, a fact which you knew.”
Reagents are a substance or mixture for use in chemical analysis or other reactions.
“The total number of 108 cases, which include but not limited to, murder (63), murder and rape (16), assault (24) and inquiry into death (5) were not scientifically examined because the essential parts of the laboratory which had been destroyed have not been repaired to date,” Mr Lesoma further states.
“Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) was not functioning and as a result the influx of people seeking police clearances daily was compromised.”
He also accuses Commissioner Letsoepa of failing to take remedial measures “despite the public outcry regarding protracted investigation of criminal cases and other matters”.
The top cop is also accused of failing to investigate the disappearance of PC Khetheng.
PC Khetheng was stationed in Mokhotlong and last seen being arrested by his colleagues at a feast in Sebothoane, Leribe on 25 March 2016. This is according to papers filed on 18 July 2016 by his father in an ongoing High Court case to compel his bosses to release him dead or alive.
“Despite the public uproar about the disappearance of the said police officer, who was alleged to have been arrested by his fellow police officers, no action has since been taken to attend to this worry,” says Mr Lesoma.
“In order to substantiate this outcry, the Khetheng family lodged a Habeas Corpus case in the High Court of Lesotho demanding that the body of the said police (officer) be produced. You failed totally to take measures leading to the investigation which would reveal the whereabouts of his body.”
Mr Lesoma also lays the charge of failing to investigate the 30 August 2014 killing of Sub-Inspector Ramahloko who was on duty at Police Headquarters during an LDF raid on Maseru police stations.
Dr Thabane, who had fled to South Africa on the eve of the raid, described the operation as an attempted coup. However, the LDF said it was a special operation to foil a LMPS plan to give civilians firearms for use during a Lesotho Congress for Democracy protest march that was scheduled for 1 September 2014.
“Although you said on numerous occasions that the culprits are known, no action has been taken in order to bring them to justice,” Mr Lesoma states.
On the killing of Lt-Gen Mahao, the acting GS avers that there was “no sign or even an indication” that Commissioner Letsoepa was ever prepared to investigate the case.
Lt-Gen Mahao was shot dead by his erstwhile LDF colleagues on 25 June 2015 in Mokema, with the military claiming he was resisting arrest for allegedly plotting to overthrow the army command.
However, Lt-Gen Mahao’s family has accused the army of killing him in cold blood basing on the account of his nephews who were with him during the incident.
After the killing, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili asked the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to help establish the circumstances surrounding the tragedy, resulting in a Commission of Inquiry led by Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi of Botswana. The 10-member commission carried out its investigations between 31 August and 23 October 2015 and recommended, among other things, that government should investigate the killing and prosecute those found to be responsible.
“You admitted before the Southern African Development Community Oversight Committee that the suspects in this case are known to you. However, no suggestion whatsoever, shows that you were prepared or willing to investigate this case and bring the suspects before court.”
Mr Lesoma further accuses Commissioner Letsoepa of violating procurement procedures by sending LMPS fire brigade motor vehicles to South Africa for repairs, allegedly without following proper procurement channels.
The acting GS also accuses Commissioner Letsoepa of insubordination and rebellion, saying he went out of his way to try to deny National University of Lesotho a protest permit last October.
“You will recall that the National University of Lesotho students had on the 3rd October, 2016 applied for a procession permit, which was earlier denied by Senior Superintendent Motlatsi Mapola as he then was; under your clear instructions.
“The students then procedurally appealed your decision to the Minister of Police as provided by the law and their appeal was upheld. Following this, you went out of your way and lodged a case which you lost in the High Court of Lesotho against the then Minister of Police Honourable Monyane Moleleki whom you had statutory authority in terms of section 13 of the Police Service Act, No. 7 of 1998 to be under his general direction.
“This is a clear manifestation of gross insubordination and may be termed a rebellious act.”
Mr Lesoma also slaps Commissioner Letsoepa with a charge of instigating and facilitating civilian torture.
“You established several teams comprising of LDF and LMPS members, wherein civilians were subjected to torture and other forms of degrading and inhumane treatment.
“As a police commissioner, you know very well that torture is not only prohibited under national laws, but has received international condemnation. Those who suffered the ordeal included among others; Lira Moeti, Mohato Seleke, Machesetsa Mofomobe, Thuso Litjobo, Nkoebe Marole and Makara.”
Commissioner Letsoepa is instructed to give reasons “if any, within seven days, why the Right Honourable the Prime Minister cannot proceed to advise His Majesty to evoke the provisions of Section 147 (3) of the Constitution of Lesotho as amended read together with Section 5(3) of the Police Service Act No. 7 of 1998 to move you from the office of Commissioner of Police”.
“Please note that if you do not respond within the stipulated period, it shall be taken that you have waived your right to make representation in this regard,” Mr Lesoma adds.
Commissioner Letsoepa would not be drawn to comment on the letter except to say: “I am in Gauteng (South Africa) and have not received the said letter.”