CHIEF Justice Nthomeng Majara on Tuesday ruled in favour of Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA) deputy president Senior Inspector Teboho Modia who had challenged his transfer to Mohale Police Post by Police Commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa.
SIP Modia, who also heads the Diamond and Drugs department at police headquarters in Maseru, had been transferred on 19 December 2016 to the Maseru Rural – Mohale Police Post to serve as the officer commanding.
According to the letter of transfer signed by Commissioner Molahlehi’s staff officer, Superintendent Mohato Lerotholi, SIP Modia was supposed to have commenced duty at Mohale Police Post by today.
However, SIP Modia lodged an urgent application through his lawyers MJ Motšoari Chambers before the High Court on 30 December 2016 challenging the transfer.
Commissioner Molahlehi and Attorney-General Tšokolo Makhethe (King’s Counsel) were cited as first and second respondents respectively in the case.
In his founding affidavit, SIP Modia stated that the letter of transfer came “as a shock” since it did not ask him to give reasons why he should not be transferred.
“I have been advised and verily believe the same to be true and correct that the first respondent (Commissioner Molahlehi) ought to have given me chance to put forth reasons that make it difficult for me to go to Mohale Police Post especially at this time,” he said.
SIP Modia further argued the transfer was unjustified as he had recently been dispatched to The Hague in the Netherlands — in his capacity as head of the Diamond and Drugs department — where he attended the World Forum on Illicit Diamond Trafficking organised by the American security agency Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
“That is where I have been able to hook up the FBI interest to this organisation (LMPS). They (FBI) ended up sending their legal attaché to the first respondent (Commissioner Molahlehi) herein to share ideas on a number of issues related to diamond trafficking. The FBI is ready to bring developments to the organization through this office (Diamond and Drugs department).”
SIP Modia also cited his postgraduate studies at the University of Fort Hare in South Africa as another reason the transfer was not justified. He said Commissioner Molahlehi had endorsed the further studies, which he argued would be “impeded” by the transfer.
The LEPOSA deputy president also averred that the transfer would adversely affect the association’s operations which include bringing LMPS members’ grievances to Commissioner Molahlehi’s attention.
“This transfer is meant to take out the heart of the association and the engineering power of it. The practice within the organisation is to have members of the association work in Maseru so as to have the organisation run smoothly,” he argued.
SIP Modia also accused Commissioner Molahlehi of creating “unprecedented challenges” for the police union.
“Up to the current time, LEPOSA has not yet obtained the blessings of the commissioner and the entire board which has resulted in serious obstacles for the new committee to perform its expected duties as well as its mandated resolutions from the general conference held at Thaba-Bosiu.
“This transfer seems innocuous on the surface but is highly coercive and restrictive . . .”
In her ruling, Chief Justice Majara ordered that the transfer be declared “unlawful, null and void”.
Meanwhile, LEPOSA General-Secretary, Inspector Moraleli Motloli, yesterday told the Lesotho Times SIP Modia Modia’s transfer was meant to “destabilize” LEPOSA.
“The fact that he has been reinstated is a huge victory for us because the court’s judgment has charted a transparent policy for police transfers,” he said.