ROGUE police officers soliciting bribes from tourists are a major threat to the tourism industry in Lesotho.
This was said by Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) Chief Executive Officer Mpaiphele Maqutu this week during a sensitisation seminar for northern region Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) heads in Hlotse, Leribe.
The seminar was convened to find ways the LTDC and police can collaborate in promoting the tourism sector. It was part of the agency’s countrywide sensitisation campaign on issues surrounding tourism launched in 2014.
Mr Maqutu said collaboration between the LTDC and police was an essential element in fostering the development of the tourism sector.
“We both play a crucial role in the development and economic structure of this country, and it is important that we make tourists, be it domestic, from the African continent or from overseas, feel welcome,” he said.
“Whenever a tourist gets a favourable reception, he or she promotes the tourism destination by telling friends about it and sharing pictures on social media which attracts more people. There are so many people who benefit from tourism such as tour operators and hospitality officers.”
The LTDC boss said it had come to their attention some tourists were mistreated by various people in Lesotho including police officers. He said a video made in 2013 has gone viral on social media in which an LMPS officer at a road block demands a bribe from a tourist.
“Tourists have complained about the conduct of some police officers. The video showing a police officer demanding a bribe is very disturbing because it chases tourists away and also paints a bad picture of our country,” Mr Maqutu said.
“When a tourist or citizen sees a police officer, they should see a friend from whom they can get help. I know not every police officer acts in that way, and not every tourist is well mannered.”
He added: “Through working together, we can boost our economy through tourism. Our organisations should operate in an exemplary way so the rest of the nation can follow suit.”
- Advertisement -
For the LMPS’s part, Assistant Commissioner of Police for the Northern Region Tebello Tšephe said perpetrators of crimes such as bribery had been brought to book.
“There are several cases that have been reported in the past and the officers who were found guilty were brought to book. Unfortunately, there is no mechanism to relay this information globally so that tourists know they can trust the police in Lesotho,” he said.
“We can eradicate such crimes if we work together on a continuous basis. It would be essential if we have regular visits from LTDC officers, especially on Wednesdays where we host lecturers at every station for all the staff members.”
ACP Tšephe also called on the relevant stakeholders to ensure tourists are given police contact details upon arrival.
“I believe is it important for the information cards given to tourists when they enter the country to contain contact numbers for police stations so they can report to us at any time if they are harassed. We can then deal with the matter,” he said.
“Police officers should also be stationed at all the tourism destinations to prevent crimes before they occur.”