Commissioner vows to cleanse police

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Police Commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa
Police Commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa

Keiso Mohloboli

Police Commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa says he is working tirelessly to depoliticise the law-enforcement agency and wants dedicated officers “who work for the institution like they are serving God himself”.

Commissioner Letsoepa was appointed to his current position on 3 November 2015 amid allegations the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) had become deeply divided along political party lines.

In an exclusive interview with the Lesotho Times this week, the police boss said party politics had no place in the LMPS and vowed to rid the service of any officer who goes against this “very important principle” of the profession.

Commissioner Letsoepa said what Lesotho needs are police officers dedicated to serve their country without bias.

“Lesotho’s political environment over the past two, three years, has had a huge impact on the police service because officers had become very active in party politics and on social media at the expense of service-delivery. This was totally unprofessional, unethical, and unacceptable hence we took measures to root this out of the service,” Commissioner Letsoepa said.

“Police officers are not supposed to take part in party politics but have to serve the government of the day. Like I said, we have taken measures to make sure no officer is involved in any of these unacceptable practices.

“The police service needs officers who work for the institution like they are serving God himself because people are God’s creatures and protecting them is protecting God himself.

“But to achieve this, the officers need to be dedicated.”

Asked if the shakeup which took place in the LMPS when he was appointed commissioner was due to these “unacceptable” practices, Commissioner Letsoepa said: “No; it must be very clear that the movement of officers had nothing to do with party politics like some people have alleged; it was very transparent as it involved the Police Appointment and Promotion Board.

“This Board comprises the Police Commissioner, representatives from the police chain of command and Ministry of Public Service, and bases itself on performance and nothing else when making any appointments.

“Some officers had been misled into believing transfers and promotions were done according to party affiliation and I truly think that was the main reason why some of them had become active in politics.”

He continued: “But let me remind my colleagues that the Board looks at officers who know and understand the mandate and vision of the institution, contribute in mending relations among officers and sister security organisations and have shown devotion and loyalty in executing police duties.

“These are officers who are then promoted by the Board and no other criteria is used.”

According to Commissioner Letsoepa, he would not tolerate any officer who brings politics into the LMPS.

“It is really an embarrassment for any of our members to be labelled Congress or Nationalist police officers when they are supposed to be His Majesty’s government’s police, so we will not allow the LMPS to be politicised,” he said.

Commissioner Letsoepa also responded to allegations that he was not seeing eye-to-eye with Police Minister Monyane Moleleki over officers’ promotions and transfers.

“I could not ask for a better Minister because we have an excellent and smooth working relationship.

“Ntate Moleleki has been the best Minister I have worked with so far. He has shown his support by sharing leadership skills because it was not easy for me, at the beginning, to be in this position.

“I have enjoyed every minute I have worked with Ntate Moleleki because I can report to him about police issues without any problem and anytime. There was never a time he complained about either the policing efforts or conduct of the LMPS under my leadership. He is ethical and professional and never intrudes in police operations,” Commissioner Letsoepa said.

Asked about an ongoing police operation in Mafeteng during which officers are seizing traditional blankets commonly associated with feuding famo music gangs by the names Terene and Seakhi, Commissioner Letsoepa said there was urgent need to put a stop to the killings associated with the groups. Dozens of Basotho have been killed and injured over recent months due to the groups’ turf war which has been fanned by offensive lyrics in their songs.  The two groups, which are identified by the distinct colours of their traditional blanket-attire, originate from Mafeteng but the killings have since spread to different parts of Lesotho and neighbouring South Africa.

“We started the operation in Mafeteng because famo-related killings have escalated in that district.

“There is urgent need to search and take blankets from people wearing them in town because some are taking advantage of these blankets and using them to conceal weapons which they then use to kill others or in robberies.

“The police are out in full force to dismantle famo gangs because Basotho have lost so many relatives and the killings must come to an end before the situation gets worse.”

Commissioner Letsoepa further said because the famo turf war had spilled into South Africa where Basotho living in that country are also killing each other over the same gangs, a delegation from the Free State was in the country on Sunday for consultation.

“A SAPS (South African Police Service) delegation of nine officers led by Free State Provincial Commissioner General Simon Mpembe visited us on Sunday.

“We discussed how best we can share intelligence and tactics on stopping violent crime in all its forms, and that included famo-related killings,” he said.

Commissioner Letsoepa also urged the police to work hard for the benefit of their country and never to be partisan in their operations.

“The police authority is not only here to condemn but also reward and motivate officers who understand their mandate,” he said.

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