THE High Court on Tuesday this week postponed to 1 June 2015 a case in which the Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA) is challenging the legitimacy of Deputy Police Commissioner (DCP) Keketso Monaheng’s appointment as acting commissioner of police.
Justice ‘Maseshophe Hlajoane said she was rescheduling the case because both LEPOSA and the respondents had filed their papers before the court late.
Mr Monaheng, the Minister of Police, Commissioner of Police and Attorney General, are cited as first to fourth respondents in the matter, respectively.
LEPOSA’s legal representative, Advocate Makhetha Motšoari, told the court new lawyers representing the respondents, King’s Counsel Salemane Phafane and Motiea Teele, could not proceed with the case because he had only served them with a replying affidavit that previous day.
“We only served them with our reply yesterday (Monday) because they did not file their answering papers on time,” he said.
However, the judge remarked that the last set of heads-of-argument were supposed to have been filed on 15 May, adding: “The sad thing about this late filing of papers is I don’t have nearer dates unless the case is re-allocated.
“The applicant should file the heads-of-argument on or before 22 May 2015, while the respondents should file theirs on or before the 28th of May.”
In response, Advocate Rethabile Setlojoane – who stood in for Advocates Phafane and Teele respectively – said: “I don’t know what transpired between Mr Motšoari and Mr Phafane, but my instructions are that we are not able to proceed with the matter because we were only served with the reply yesterday.”
In his founding affidavit submitted before the court, LEPOSA General Secretary, Senior Inspector Motsamai Kholumo, noted under the Maseru Security Accord (MSA) signed on 23 October 2014, Police Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana was sent on leave-of-absence alongside Lesotho Defence Force’s Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli and Lt Gen Maaparankoe Mahao.
“As a result of the MSA, Deputy Commissioner of Police Masupha Masupha was appointed Acting Commissioner, which was terminated on 4 April 2015 with an offer for early retirement. DCP Masupha accepted the offer. I must indicate that after the termination, the office of commissioner was vacant and DCP Holomo Molibeli was appointed Acting Police Commissioner by His Majesty King Letsie III in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister,” Senior Inspector Kholumo noted in the affidavit.
He further highlights that DCP Molibeli had still not received a letter terminating the appointment but only told in a management meeting held on 8 April 2015 and chaired by the Minister of Police, Monyane Moleleki that “it was wrong for a junior to be acting while a senior is still around”.
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The affidavit continues: “In a meeting attended by all police ministerial departments and the Commissioner’s Advisory Board (CAB), the Ministry of Police Principal Secretary (PS) Refiloe Matekane informed DCP Molibeli that DCP Monaheng would now be Acting Commissioner of Police and that he should handover the administration of the LMPS to him immediately.”
However, LEPOSA argues Mr Monaheng’s appointment was unlawful “because it has not been done in accordance with the constitution of Lesotho read with the Police Service Act of 1998.”
Senior Inspector Kholumo notes Mr Monaheng had made “a few transfers of police officers already and we are not saying that police officers are not supposed to be transferred but the manner in which DCP Monaheng is doing the transfers shows that he is on a certain mission which we don’t know”.
“I affirm that DCP Monaheng should be restrained from exercising the functions of the office of Acting Commissioner of Police pending the finalisation of his appointment. I affirm that the appointment of DCP Monaheng and DCP Molibeli’s termination should be declared unlawful and illegal.
“The Police Act makes it a point that a senior officer will be appointed to act in the position of commissioner when the commissioner is absent, incapable or there is a vacancy.
“It must also be clear that the Commissioner of Police, Khothatso Tšooana, is back in the country from Algeria where he spent his leave-of-absence from 21 November 2014 until 1 April 2015 and as such, he has to resume his duties. Further, nobody has ever said the Commissioner is incapable of doing his job and it must also be clear that DCP Molibeli is still available and acting in that position and nobody can say he was absent.”