Another M8 million damages lawsuit for Molibeli

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Moorosi Tsiane

A MAZENOD woman has sued Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli for a whopping M8 million. The damages claim is for the alleged torture and killing of her son, Thabiso Molise, by Mazenod Flight One police officers in 2020.

Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Police and Public Safety, Tanki Mothae, Attorney General Rapelang Motsieloa and Commissioner Molibeli are the first to third respondents respectively in the application filed by the late Mr Molise’s mother, Matšeliso Molise.

In her High Court papers, Ms Molise alleges that her now deceased son was arrested by Mazenod police on 22 July 2020 on suspicions of housebreaking and theft.

That was the last time the family ever saw him alive as he was reported dead the following day, Ms Molise states.

“On the 22nd of July 2020, officers under the 3rd defendant (Molibeli) arrested Thabiso Molise at his home in Mazenod on suspicions of housebreaking and theft,” Ms Molise states in her court papers.

“He was taken to Mazenod Flight One Police Station. However, on the 23rd of July 2020, the plaintiff was informed by the police, who came to her home that the now deceased (Thabiso) was dead. The plaintiff was asked to identify him at the mortuary. The deceased was found with bruises and injuries caused by severe beatings.

“This was done while the deceased was in the custody of the police. The deceased was unlawfully assaulted by members of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) while in custody. The death of the deceased was caused by the unlawful and wrongful assault by members of the LMPS and the assault was done in full view of members of the public who witnessed the assault.”

Ms Molise said the family’s efforts to obtain the names of the officers who tortured and killed her son had thus failed to bear fruit as the LMPS was uncooperative. She said the police had also refused to compensate her family.

“Despite several demands by the plaintiff, the defendants have refused to disclose the names of the police officers who killed the deceased. The defendants have refused to compensate the plaintiff for the loss of her son. The deceased was sole breadwinner and was supporting the plaintiff with his salary.

“The deceased was employed at Mamohale’s Tavern at Mazenod and was also an aspiring musician who used to perform for money at events such as marriage ceremonies and birthday parties. The plaintiff is now left without monetary support and lives off her old-age pension without the income from the deceased,” Ms Molise further states.

She is therefore demanding to be compensated to the tune of M1 million for unlawful and wrongful detention of her son, M2 million for unlawful and wrongful killing of her son and M5million for loss of contumelia.

“The plaintiff has suffered immensely as a result of the unlawful killing of her son. The plaintiff is still mourning the untimely passing of her son who was wrongfully killed by the members of the LMPS. Despite her demands, the defendants have refused and/ or failed to compensate the plaintiff.

“Wherefore the plaintiff prays for judgement against defendants in the following terms: payment of M1 000 000 for unlawful and wrongful detention of her late son by the LMPS, payment of M2 000 000 for unlawful and wrongful killing of her son and payment of M5 000 000 for loss of contumelia, loss of support and pain and suffering,” Ms Molise states.

Hardly a fortnight ever goes by without a lawsuit against the police boss for torture and other acts of brutality by his subordinates.

The police boss was recently sued by one Lethoko Lethoko of Mohale’s Hoek. Mr Lethoko wants M250 000 for torture, wrongful arrest and destruction of his property by police. In his High Court, Mr Lethoko alleges that police officers stormed his house on 24 March 2022 and destroyed his property. They also tortured him and unlawfully arrested him. He however, does not say what he was arrested for.

Commissioner Molibeli has also been sued by a Mafeteng man who was allegedly tortured by police officers in September 2020.

The man, Thato Malibeng, alleges that he was tortured by Mafeteng police officers and released from their custody without being charged with any crime.

After a commendable start to his tenure in 2017 which saw the cracking of some unsolved murder cases and the arrests of high-profile criminals like former army commander, Tlali Kamoli, the police have lost their way under Commissioner Molibeli’s watch.

They have frequently been accused of gross human rights violations and the police boss’ name has been a regular feature in numerous High Court applications by torture victims.

In October 2021, two civilians, Lejone Mepha of Leribe and Zibi Nkonyana of Maseru filed separate lawsuits demanding M1 million and M500 000 respectively from Commissioner Molibeli.

In July 2019, rogue officers allegedly tortured Nqosa Mahao of Ha Mabote, Maseru and 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.

Mr Ratia alleged that he was tortured to the point where he soiled himself and was made to eat his own faeces. His story sparked national outrage against the police.

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.

Earlier this year in January, prominent human rights lawyer, Napo Mafaesa, was abducted and severely tortured by members of the police special operations unit (SOU).

All this is happening despite widespread local and international appeals to Commissioner Molibeli and his officers to desist from torturing civilians and other human rights violations.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has even voiced concerns over the “persistent allegations of police brutality” in Lesotho. The ACHPR’s plea to the government to capacitate the relevant institutions to enable them to investigate allegations of human rights violations has so far fallen on deaf ears.

The United States government and the European Union are also on record expressing their displeasure over the “recurrent reports of police brutality, in particular cases of torture and of the death of detainees in police custody”.

They have also 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. Most recently on 16 June 2022, police gunned down National University of Lesotho (NUL) student, Kopano Makutoane.

No police officer has been arrested and charged to date. Police spokesperson, Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli, has said there were plans to charge six officers with murder and assault. But nothing has happened to date. They had since been suspended from work, he said in an interview.

In addition to the torture lawsuits, Commissioner Molibeli has been asked by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro to “show cause” why he should not be fired on various charges including the failure to address the scourge of police brutality.

Dr Majoro wrote his “show cause” letter on 1 June 2022. However, Commissioner Molibeli has filed applications in both the Constitutional Court and High Court to stop his dismissal. The cases are pending.

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