LESOTHO Mounted Police Service (LMPS) Senior Superintendent Khoabane Mpepe has skipped the country claiming his life is in danger after being accused of conspiring to topple Police Commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa.
Sen Supt Mpepe, who is the LMPS’s head of planning at the Police Headquarters in Maseru, told the Lesotho Times he fled the country in the early hours of yesterday for South Africa after the police stormed his residence in Butha-Buthe during the night.
This followed a lengthy and “tense” meeting Sen Supt Mpepe held with senior LMPS officers on Tuesday in which he was allegedly accused of insubordination and attempted mutiny.
Narrating his predicament via a mobile phone from his hideout in the neighbouring country, Sen Supt Mpepe said it all started when he discovered he had a number of missed calls after holding a meeting with Police Ministry Principal Secretary ’Mapalesa Rapapa.
“After my meeting with the police principal secretary (Ms Rapapa), I realised I had several missed calls on my phone. I had voluntarily left my phone with her secretary during our meeting.
“From the many missed calls on my phone, I realised that five of them were from Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police (SACP) Shekoe Sebutsoe,” Sen Supt Mpepe said, adding he only returned SACP Sebutsoe’s call at around 2:45pm.
“SACP Sebutsoe invited me to Police Headquarters as a matter of urgency where I met him together with ACP Shale. He told me upon arrival that the meeting had been requested by Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Masupha Masupha. We waited for him for about 30 minutes as he was in another meeting.”
Sen Supt Mpepe said he only realised there was “something highly suspicious and serious” when, upon his return, DCP Masupha dismissed SACP Sebutsoe and ACP Shale from the meeting, and invited DCPs Keketso Monaheng and Jankie Hlaahla to join them.
It was in this meeting, Sen Supt Mpepe said, that he was accused of insubordination and attempted mutiny.
“The meeting was led by DCP Masupha who immediately told us the reason the four of us were gathered was that DCP Monaheng had reported that I had insinuated I would topple Commissioner Letsoepa.
“According to DCP Masupha, DCP Monaheng reported that when I met with him near the Commissioner’s parking slot at Police Headquarters sometime back I told him that I was soon going to be appointed police commissioner to replace Commissioner Letsoepa.
“He said I was bragging about this to DCP Monaheng, telling him that as much as he was my superior now, he should know that soon I would become his boss. This, DCP Masupha warned me, was tantamount to mutiny. He asked me to be careful in my response because I was already implicated on charges of mutiny for allegedly making that statement to DCP Monaheng.”
In response, Sen Supt Mpepe said he reacted by asking DCP Monaheng to provide witnesses to support his report.
“DCP Monaheng said he was not sure whether some police officers around that area had heard what I said to him. I told the DCPs that what DCP Monaheng told them was a blue lie.
“The only true part was that I had met with him and we chatted about the old days when he used to be my instructor during my recruitment training. We also discussed seniority issues but I never said to him I was soon going to be the commissioner. I am not stupid.”
Sen Supt Mpepe added he was further accused of conspiring with other senior police officers and “some” politicians to topple Commissioner Letsoepa.
In fact, Sen Supt Mpepe said he was told by DCP Masupha that he was the “number one suspect” in the alleged conspiracy.
“He (DCP Masupha) said it was established that I had conspired with some senior police officers, in particular a certain acting senior assistant commissioner of police and other two female senior inspectors, to forcibly oust Commissioner Letsoepa.”
But this too, Sen Supt Mpepe said, was “fresh news to my ears”.
He said he told his bosses there was no way he was conspiring to rebel against his superiors, “especially Commissioner Letsoepa.”
Asked what he suspected was the basis for the accusations against him, Sen Supt Mpepe said: “At the time he was still ACP, DCP Monaheng once requested me to meet with relevant political authorities and recommend him for promotion to become commissioner.
“I met with the authorities and I told him they said he did not qualify to be appointed commissioner because he only holds high school qualifications and nothing else.
“On the second occasion, after DCP Monaheng was appointed acting commissioner following the suspension of former commissioner Khothatso Tšooana, you will recall that he took leave for traditional initiation. Upon his return, he again requested me to approach political authorities to recommend that he should substantively be confirmed Commissioner because he had learned more policing tactics from the initiation. But again the response from authorities was that he did not have the credentials.”
This, according to Sen Supt Mpepe, did not go down well with DCP Monaheng. He said the meeting had developed into “so much tension” that he decided to walk out.
“In fact, I walked out shortly after DCP Masupha instructed DCP Hlaahla to call his team from the Special Support Unit (SSU) to come and arrest me for further interrogations as I was the number one suspect in the alleged conspiracy.”
He said he told his bosses that no-one would arrest or interrogate him.
“I refused to comply with what they were saying because it was unlawful for them to do so. I told them that if they were going to forcefully arrest me, they should know I would rather go down fighting. Then I walked out.”
Sen Supt Mpepe said he left Police Headquarters for his residence in Butha-Buthe at around 7pm.
Sen Supt Mpepe said he realised that there were “unusually” many armed police officers from Special Operations Unit (SOU) at the premises as he left.
He said he reported the events to the Minister of Police and Public Safety Monyane Moleleki, who was outside the country at the time.
He added he was later contacted by the Minister of Labour and Employment Thulo Mahlakeng, who was the acting Police minister in Mr Moleleki’s absence.
“He (Mr Mahlakeng) informed me he had received a report of what had happened to me and had already advised Commissioner Letsoepa to halt his instructions to arrest me. The minister requested for us to meet together with my superiors today (Wednesday) to discuss these issues.”
But during the wee hours of Wednesday, Sen Supt Mpepe said his family was awakened by the sound of hooting police vehicles.
“I woke up to realise the police had surrounded my place. They demanded that I come out for questioning but I refused. We found a hiding place inside the house and hid until morning. I decided to flee the country in the early hours in fear of what could happen to me,” said Sen Supt Mpepe.
Commenting on the issue, police spokesperson, Superintendent Clifford Molefe, yesterday confirmed there was an “administrative” meeting between Sen Supt Mpepe and his bosses, but refused to be drawn to elaborate.
“I cannot disclose what was discussed in that meeting except to say it was about administrative issues that concerned police authorities,” said Supt Molefe.
He also dismissed Sen Supt Mpepe’s claims that the police were out to arrest him.
“Commissioner Letsoepa and the management have not instructed any police officer to arrest Sen Supt Mpepe. We have not even received a report about the alleged attack at his home, or his fleeing the country. It is surprising that my office and that of the commissioner are not aware of the alleged attack or any report about the fleeing of Sen Supt Mpepe,” Supt Molefe said.
The Lesotho Times made efforts to contact DCP Monaheng but he said he was in meeting and promised to call this reporter but did not do so.
Advocate Mahlakeng’s mobile phone repeatedly rang unanswered when this publication attempted to get his comment on the matter while Mr Moleleki was also unreachable on his mobile phone.