Minister to be charged for violating liquor ban

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Ntsebeng Motsoeli

POLICE and Public Safety Minister Lehlohonolo Moramotse will soon appear in court after he allegedly purchased alcohol at a local liquor shop in contravention of the lockdown regulations declared by the government to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID -19).

Police Spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli this week told the Lesotho Times that “a docket has been opened against Mr Moramotse for contravening the lockdown regulations and buying alcohol”.

If he convicted, He could be fined M5000 or jailed for two months or both punishments.

In terms of the lockdown regulations, the sale of alcohol is prohibited and all liquor outlets are supposed to be closed.

However, a video appearing to show Mr Moramotse contravening the ban on alcohol purchases went viral on social media last week. Mr Moramotse’s mobile phone rang unanswered when this publication called him for comment yesterday.

In the video, Mr Moramotse appears to receive assistance from another male person to load boxes containing what is believed to be liquor into a silver grey Landcruiser SUV vehicle.

The boxes are retrieved by a masked man who appears to be of Chinese origin from a shop in the presence of a man who appears to be a security guard armed with a firearm.

The video has caused an uproar with some opposition parties calling for Mr Moramotse’s arrest and dismissal for breaking the lockdown regulations.

The regulations stipulate that “for the period of the lockdown, every person shall be confined to his place of residence, unless the person has to leave the residence to provide or acquire an essential service or goods”.

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“All businesses and other entities shall cease operations during the lockdown period except for any business or entity involved in the manufacturing, supply or provision of essential goods and services.”

The regulations said that a business which contravenes the regulations are liable to fines not exceeding M10 000.

In a statement this week, the DC called on Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to fire Mr Moramotse and “deal decisively” with the businessman who sold him alcohol in contravention of the lockdown regulations.

“The Democratic Congress calls upon Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to relieve the Minister of Police Lehlohonolo Moramotse of his official duties and responsibilities immediately following his breach of lockdown regulations by buying beer at the time the (lockdown) regulations don’t allow such purchases.

“DC also calls on the police to deal decisively with the minister and the Chinese man who opened the store on that day for solely serving the minister. These two culprits should face the full might of the law,” the DC it statement.

Movement for Economic Change (MEC) Spokesperson Napo Moshoeshoe condemned Mr Moramotse’s actions, saying this painted a picture of a government which had no respect for its own legal frameworks.

“We are in a very precarious period where government should not be sending negative signals that they are not genuine and honest about the lockdown regulations.

“It does not help that a cabinet minister acts against the regulations and sneaks out to buy alcohol. The prime minister went to the extent of proroguing parliament to stress the seriousness of the situation.  For one of his ministers to be seen buying beer, this seriously undermines the lockdown regulations,” Mr Moshoeshoe said.

Meanwhile, the Academic Forum for Development of Lesotho (AFDeL) – a registered association of academics and professionals in various economic and development fields in Lesotho, also condemned Mr Moramotse’s behaviour.

“The AFDeL urges the relevant authorities to take swift action against the Police Minister to protect Lesotho’s dignity and to ensure we are not a nation where the rule of law is a mere statement that can be flouted at will. We keenly await decisive action on the matter,” AFDeL said in a statement to the Lesotho Times yesterday.

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