Lesotho: Leposa Petitions Majoro to Oust Molibeli

The Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA) has launched a fresh bid to oust Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli.

In its 14 July 2020 letter to Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro, the police union said Commissioner Molibeli should be suspended to facilitate investigations into the latter's alleged criminal misconduct, maladministration and abuse of power.

The criminal charges stem from a perjury case which a junior officer, Senior Insp Haleeo Leluma, filed against Commissioner Molibeli earlier this year.

Snr Insp Leluma wrote to then Police and Public Safety Minister, Lehlohonolo Moramotse, on 1 April 2020 accusing Commissioner Molibeli of making false claims in his answering affidavit to a court case Insp Leluma had filed to stop the police boss from transferring him from Maseru to Qacha's Nek.

The junior officer had alleged that Commissioner Molibeli had sought to transfer him from Maseru to Qacha's Nek on the basis that there had only been one senior officer responsible for that district yet that was not the case.

Former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane had attempted to fire Commissioner Molibeli on the basis of Snr Insp Leluma's letter to Mr Moramotse.

Mr Thabane said he had been advised that Commissioner Molibeli's claims were false because there were three senior officers at the level of senior superintendent and two senior inspectors in Qacha's Nek instead of the one senior alleged by the police boss. Mr Thabane accused Commissioner Molibeli of having committed perjury.

LEPOSA had backed Mr Thabane's moves to oust Commissioner Molibeli but the latter was barred by the courts from doing so. The courts ruled that Mr Thabane had acted unprocedurally in attempting to oust the police boss.

This has, however, not deterred LEPOSA from petitioning Dr Majoro who succeeded Mr Thabane on 20 May 2020. In his 14 July 2020 letter to Dr Majoro, LEPOSA secretary general Inspector Moraleli Motloli says Commissioner Molibeli should not be treated differently from other police officers who have been suspended to pave way for investigations whenever they were accused of misconduct.

He says that Commissioner Molibeli, who is suspected of a criminal offence, should not be left to command a police force before he has been cleared of the charge. He warns that failure to suspend the police boss will leave LEPOSA "with no choice but to approach the courts for immediate relief".

"We are perplexed by the appalling policing environment, which left alone and unattended could deteriorate into chaos thereby compromising the already fragile national tranquility," Insp Motloli states in his letter to Dr Majoro.

"It is our robust view that all security forces including the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) should be subjected to democratic control and be accountable to civilian authority.

"It is common knowledge that the commissioner of police is currently under criminal investigation (for perjury) ... Ever since March 2020, this case has not even done a moderate crawl nor taken at least a tortoise pace towards justice simply because the accused is both the arbiter and determinant. Furthermore, the matter between LEPOSA and the Commissioner (challenging some police promotions) is still pending in the High Court.

"We should categorically state that we subscribe to equality before the law... In the circumstances, the continued presence of the commissioner as the head of the LMPS while he is under investigation by the same police officers that he commands is sure to compromise the aforesaid case...

"It remains ironic that an officer suspected of criminal offence is left to lead and command a police force in democratic Lesotho in which he is expected to uphold the rule of law...

"Regrettably, failure to act appropriately (sic), LEPOSA will be left with no other option but to approach the courts for immediate relief."

Inspector Motloli also accuses Commissioner Molibeli of bias and favouritism in the handling of cases of alleged police brutality.

He said four Butha-Buthe police officers suspected of brutality against civilians were suspended in 2019 but no attempt was made to suspend or probe some police officers in Hlotse, Leribe after two suspects died in police custody last year.

He also said the police force should not be a breeding ground for lawlessness or anarchy. He said that LEPOSA was hopeful that the necessary steps would be followed to also have Deputy Police Commissioner (DCP) Paseka Mokete suspended to facilitate investigations into allegations that he sexually assaulted a junior female police officer.

DCP Mokete appeared before Maseru Magistrate Senekal Qobolo last week on charges of sexually assaulting Inspector 'Makatleho Mphetho on 29 April 2020. He was released on free bail and is expected back in court on 24 July 2020.

Insp Motloli further accused Commissioner Molibeli of being in contempt of various court orders including orders to reinstate suspended police officers.

He also alleged that Commissioner Molibeli had disobeyed instructions from Dr Majoro himself in a case involving Mr Motloli himself.

"Your Excellency, your good office will recall that one Mr Moraleli Motloli was appointed on special assignment to occupy a vacant position of chief executive officer of the Disaster Management Authority. Your office will further recall that your good office withdrew the same (appointment) on the 1st of June 2020 and a clear instruction was issued from your good office to reinstate him to his substantive position in the police force.

"It is mind boggling to note that the commissioner has refused to honour such an instruction without a clear cause. Without doubt, this is a flagrant disregard to authority, let alone the high office of the prime minister. This leaves a plethora of questions on the commissioner's intellect, capability and competence to lead and chart the police force to the desired equilibrium (sic)," Insp Motloli said.

He also accused Commissioner Molibeli of making what he said were illegal promotions in the force and creating new posts like that of assistant commissioner in charge of forensic science and medical services.

"Further puzzling, is the unilateral expansion of the police structure... Unchecked, these discretionary powers will have serious implications on the economy including the rise in the wage bill.

Dr Majoro's spokesperson Mosito Moqhekoana confirmed the office of the prime minister had received the letter from LEPOSA and was giving it the necessary attention. He did not elaborate.

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