Lesotho: Police Chief Molibeli Working for the Mahao Faction - Thabane

Lesotho Prime Minister Tom Thabane (file photo).

Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has accused Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli of illegally spying on senior government officials and arresting them to settle political scores on behalf of the premier's rivals in the All Basotho Convention (ABC).

Mr Thabane alleged that Commissioner Molibeli was being used by the ABC faction led by his deputy, Professor Nqosa Mahao, to topple him from power.

He also accuses Commissioner Molibeli of failing to inform him that the police were investigating Police and Public Safety Minister Lehlohonolo Moramotse even though protocol dictated that he should report to him whenever a minister was under investigation.

The premier levels these and other allegations in his answering affidavit to Commissioner Molibeli's 19 April 2020 High Court application for an order to block him from suspending the police and appointing deputy commissioner (DCP) Sera Makharilele to act in his place.

Mr Thabane wrote to Commissioner Molibeli on 15 April 2020 asking him to "show cause" why he should not suspend him to facilitate investigations into the top cop's alleged misconduct after a case of perjury was filed against him in the courts by one of his subordinates.

Mr Thabane said it was alleged that Commissioner Molibeli committed perjury when he said that he was transferring one of his subordinates from Maseru to Qacha's Nek because there was only one senior officer responsible for that district.

The premier said he was advised that Commissioner Molibeli's statement was false because there were three senior officers at the level of senior superintendent and two senior inspectors in that district.

Instead of replying to the premier, Commissioner Molibeli petitioned the High Court on 16 April 2020 to block the intended suspension. He was granted an interim interdict by Justice Semapo Peete the following day. However, Mr Moramotse proceeded to "appoint" DCP Makharilele as acting commissioner on 18 April 2020. That too was blocked the following day by Justice Peete. Mr Moramotse), the Attorney General and DCP Makharilele are the first to fourth respondents respectively.

Commissioner Molibeli's two cases have been consolidated into one. It was supposed to be heard by Justice Monapathi on Monday 27 April 2020 but that did not happen. (See story on page 6).

In his application, Commissioner Molibeli accuses Dr Thabane of joining forces with Mr Moramotse to "forcefully and illegally" remove him from office at all costs to "immunise themselves from prosecution".

Mr Thabane faces murder charges in connection with the 14 June 2017 murder of his former wife, Lipolelo Thabane. Mr Moramotse was on 21 April 2020 charged with contravening coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown regulations after he allegedly illegally bought alcohol during the lockdown. He is out on M500 bail.

However, Mr Thabane denies Commissioner Molibeli's claims that he wants the top cop ousted to stop his prosecution. In his affidavit filed in the High Court this week, Mr Thabane claims that instead of accounting for his misconduct, Commissioner Molibeli alleges victimisation by the premier to gain sympathy from the courts.

"I note the history that the commissioner gives (of the Lipolelo murder). He is seemingly obsessed with his investigations as they relate to the death of my former wife. All the allegations that I am implicated in her death are irrelevant to the current proceedings and the commissioner has recounted them to merely attract sympathy from the court and he is accordingly guilty of abuse of court process...

"It is sufficient to indicate that the commissioner seeks to blame the authorities for his conduct. The commissioner should deal with the allegations against him that he committed a criminal offence instead of inferring ulterior motives whenever he is invited to account for his illegal conduct," Mr Thabane states in his affidavit.

He also claims ignorance of the fact that Commissioner Molibeli is investigating Mr Moramotse for violating lockdown regulations, saying the top cop did not inform him. He accuses Commissioner Molibeli of doing the Mahao faction's bidding by illegally spying on him and other senior government officials.

"It is clear that the commissioner is spying on ministers including the prime minister... He knows that his conduct is illegal and when I make him account for this type of conduct, he resorts to irrelevancies.

"There was no reason why he should arrest the second respondent (Mr Moramotse), a sitting minister without alerting me. The offence which the commissioner alleges the second respondent has committed would not justify that he be arrested. All I can tell the court is that the government has discovered that the commissioner is used by members of a faction in my political party that is aligned to my deputy (Prof Mahao). He is using the prosecutorial process to destabilise the government for his selfish personal ends.

"The commissioner relies on spies that he has planted to fish information from ministers and then turns around and suggests that these are members of intelligence community.

"He is fully aware that his conduct of spying on the government officials, particularly ministers, is illegal and constitutes abuse of state resources. It is sufficient to indicate that we are already working hard to find out his illegal activities so that action could be taken against him.

"I must inform the court that I have discovered that he places police operatives and other spies around my residence so that he is able to know who visits me. All these activities show that the commissioner will do everything and anything to protect his personal interests."

Mr Thabane reiterates that a case of perjury has been opened against Commissioner Molibeli which is being investigated by the top cop's subordinates. He says that in the interests of justice and fairness, Commissioner Molibeli should not be in office while being investigated by his subordinates hence his "show cause" letter to the top cop. He however, maintains that he has not suspended or recommended to King Letsie III to suspend him but only called the top cop to make representations about his conduct. He says Commissioner Molibeli therefore acted prematurely by challenging a suspension which had not been implemented.

"I deny that I purported to suspend the commissioner. The current position is that I requested the commissioner to make representations. The commissioner cannot for a moment suggest that he is on suspension. It follows that he is not correct to suggest that I acted arbitrarily, illegally and ultra vires (beyond) my powers. I have not yet advised His Majesty to suspend the commissioner... It follows that his conclusions and contentions are misplaced and without merit," Mr Thabane states in his court papers.

The premier does not however, mention or explain why Mr Moramotse "appointed" DCP Makharilele to act in Commissioner Molibeli's place if the latter was not suspended.

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