ALL Basotho Convention (ABC)’s newest senator, Mphonyane Lebesa, has added his voice to the chorus of senior government and ABC officials calling on the police to shoot and kill criminal suspects.
The police have recently been in the news for acts of brutality against civilians and they have been roundly condemned by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, other government officials as well as Lesotho’s development partners for ill-treating criminal suspects.
However, Mr Lebesa, who was sworn as senator in April 2019, says it is necessary for police to shoot and kill suspects as a preventive measure as well as to deter would be offenders from committing crimes.
Although senior diplomats like the European Union Ambassador to Lesotho, Christian Manahl, have warned that police brutality could scare away investors, Mr Lebesa, who doubles up as ABC Youth League (ABCYL) spokesperson, believes killing suspects would in fact create a conducive environment for investors who would have nothing to fear from criminals. He said investors “cannot come to a “troubled and unstable country to do business and even those who are already here will leave” if strong action is not taken against criminals.
“We are tired of these people who are forever robbing people. Police should make sure that if they fail to kill them (suspects), they at least leave them paralysed and helpless.
“Innocent lives have been lost during robberies, including those of police officers. Orphans and widows have been left behind and this is all because of people who don’t want to work and they resort to crime,” Mr Lebesa said in an interview with the Lesotho Times.
The tough-talking Mr Lebesa accused some unnamed politicians of acting “holier than thou” by attacking Dr Thabane for demanding tough action against suspects accused of serious crimes.
“My leader (Dr Thabane) has been attacked by some politicians who have acted ‘holier than thou’. They blame him for all the civilian deaths at the hands of the police. Impunity has taken root among our people because perpetrators are not brought to book.
“Basotho have a tendency of politicising everything even when it’s not necessary. This stops the police from doing their investigations effectively. We would rather have our police and soldiers brandishing their guns in public knowing that it is for our protection than to lose so many innocent lives.
“As ABCYL spokesperson, I am clear and unshaken. Government should take stringent measures against robbers who resist arrest. They should not play with them. They should make them feel the heat and shoot them to death.
“Just like my leader who happens to be the prime minister of this country, I maintain that they should be beaten to pulp and be a point of reference to all those who might want to engage in similar criminal activities. The police should paralyse them if they fail to kill them because we cannot live like this.”
Senator Lebesa was sworn in as senator in April 2019 alongside ABC women’s league member, ’Mafumane Sebatane. They replaced former senators, ’Mamotsie Motsie (now consulate general in Durban) and ’Mahlompho Mokaeane (now ambassador to the United Kingdom).
Senator Lebesa joins Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Temeki Tšolo, in calling on the police to shoot and kill suspects. Mr Tšolo made the same call in an interview with this publication last week.
The duo’s ‘shoot to kill’ remarks come at a time when the police have been roundly condemned for brutality against criminal suspects.
In the latest reports of police brutality, rogue officers allegedly tortured 49-year-old Nqosa Mahao of Ha Mabote, Maseru and 31 year-old Kabelo Ratia of Nazareth in the Maseru district. Mr Mahao was abducted from his Mabote home on 18 July 2019 on suspicion of hiding firearms on behalf of some rogue soldiers.
While several people have come forward with accusations, it is the alleged torture of Mr Ratia which has grabbed the headlines.
Mr Ratia alleged that he was tortured to the point where he soiled himself and was made to eat his own faeces.
He had been arrested for allegedly stealing M30 000 from a local businessman. During his detention Mr Ratia was allegedly subjected to horrendous torture and forced to implicate others including one Thabo Mei in the alleged theft of the businessman’s money. Mr Mei was hospitalised and eventually died of the injuries inflicted on him.
A fortnight ago, European Union Ambassador to Lesotho, Dr Manahl, said he was dismayed by the “recurrent reports of police brutality, in particular cases of torture and of the death of detainees in police custody”.
Dr Manahl implored the government to investigate and take disciplinary measures against rogue police officers implicated in the torture of civilians and other forms of human rights abuses. He said police brutality was a violation of human rights to life and freedom.
Even Dr Thabane has condemned police brutality and a fortnight ago the government told Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders in Tanzania that at least 30 rogue police officers will soon face criminal charges.