SEVEN people, including two security guards, were this week shot during student protests at Limkokwing University campus in Maseru.
The students were protesting against last week’s decision by the university’s management to expel Students’ Representative Council president Moeketsi Pholo.
The firebrand student leader was expelled for allegedly disrupting examinations that were scheduled for last month.
He has vociferously denied the charge.
But what started off as a legitimate protest against what the students considered an act of gross injustice against their own soon degenerated into an orgy of violence.
University buildings were stoned, lecturers were beaten up and the police were attacked.
Students who refused to join the protest were also targeted in the mayhem.
The violence was totally uncalled for.
The response by the police was also not helpful.
Police claim they used rubber bullets and pellets.
The shooting of the students raises serious questions about the manner our police deal with threats to public order.
Was the level of force used at Limkokwing commensurate to the threat at hand?
We think not.
The shooting is the most vivid illustration of the serious problems rocking the police as they seek to enforce public order.
It also reflects the endemic violence that is troubling this country.
We think the shooting of the students is a stain of shame on the police.
On another level the misadventure at Limkokwing also graphically illustrates what is so wrong with our current policing methods.
We seem to have a police force that is poorly equipped to deal with threats to public order.
Their only arsenal when faced with such trying situations like they met at Limkokwing is to unleash more violence — which is a shame.
We also think our police are generally prone to perpetrating unnecessary acts of violence.
This has been demonstrated time and again in numerous lawsuits filed against the police by ordinary citizens.
The police have been badly exposed in these court cases.
We seem to have a police that thinks the best way to extricate information from suspects is by subjecting them to horrendous torture.
There is more to police work than torturing suspects and instilling the fear of God in ordinary citizens.
What happened at Limkokwing this week served to corroborate the popular negative view about our police.
We also think the police have a serious image problem among Basotho.
It will take a monumental effort on the part of the police bosses to correct the damage.
We think the government is also aware of the problems rocking the police.
It should now seriously think about investing heavily in the training of police officers to comply with modern demands.
We must equip the police to deal with threats to public order while at the same time instilling within the force respect for human rights.
Respect for human rights is a basic tenet of modern policing methods.
Of course there are many good police officers who are serving their country with distinction.
But their good reputation is too often soiled by a few bad apples who seem to think they can shoot their way through every small problem that comes their way.
Lesotho needs to move away from apartheid-style policing tactics.
Without undertaking these reforms we will continue to have misguided police officers wreaking havoc among the people.