A GROUP of Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) members face dismissal for allegedly attending an All Basotho Convention (ABC) rally on 8 January this year.
The LMPS members, who number up to 11, are being accused of participating in political activities in contravention of police regulations.
However, some of the concerned police officers who spoke to the Lesotho Times say they never attended the rally and were seeking legal recourse.
Among the officers who were issued with letters requesting them to “show cause” why they should not be dismissed were those stationed in the Leribe District. They include Police Constables (PC) Mosiuoa Hlalele, Sehloho, Teba, Khemisi, Mzamane, Machacha, Rakhapu, Lenkoane and Lance Sergeant Letsipa.
The Lesotho Times is in possession of a “show cause” letter issued to one of the officers and signed by LMPS Human Resource Officer Senior Inspector L Letompa.
Dated 10 January 2017, part of the correspondence reads: “You will recall that, on or about the 8th January 2017 at around 1200hrs or immediately thereafter at or near Peka you deliberately left your policing area and or district Leribe, attended and or took part in political party meeting, procession, concourse, picketing and or rally meeting held by the All Basotho Convention (ABC). It appears that, you were not on duty and or assigned any duty thereat.”
SIP Letompa states that by attending the rally, the officers violated provisions of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (Amendment) Administration Regulation Legal Notice No.95 of 2004 Regulation 23A 1 (b) read with relevant provisions of LMPS Standing Orders; paragraph 21.9 (1). He says it is also coupled with section 66 (1) of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service Act No.7 of 1998 which empowers the police commissioner to dismiss an officer who is a member of a political party or trade union.
“It is on the backdrop of the above that Commissioner of Police (Molahlehi Letsoepa) has instructed me to write you this letter as I hereby do to request you to furnish reasons if any why you may not be dismissed from the Lesotho Mounted Police Service in terms of section 31 (1)(e) Police Service Act No.7 of 1998.”
The LMPS members were given seven days to respond from the date of receiving the letters.
PC Hlalele told this paper the letters came as “a shock” to them as they had not attended the rally.
“It is surprising that we are said to have attended a rally in Peka. It is a place that some of us reside in, but we didn’t go to the rally,” he said.
“What makes these letters more shocking is that one of us was in Ha Lejone when the rally was taking place.”
PC Hlalele conceded that some of the officers issued with the letters were seen “passing by” the Peka area during the time of the ABC rally. However, he insisted that none of them attended the event.
“I went to Peka for a personal visit to a friend, and at that time the rally was over as it was late in the afternoon,” he said.
“However, it was difficult to reach my destination due to the multitudes of ABC supporters who had blocked the roads as they were leaving their rally. Because of the congestion, we had to leave our vehicle far from where we were going, which was a braai organised by a friend.
“I frequent that area because I used to stay there. I didn’t go there for a rally, but it so happened that it was held near an area I regularly visit.”
PC Hlalele added that they were seeking legal advice on the matter to ensure their rights were protected.
PC Mzamane chipped in saying he contacted the Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA) for advice after receiving the letter.
Commenting on the matter, LEPOSA Secretary-General Inspector Moraleli Motloli took aim at Commissioner Letsoepa, saying he had not handled the cases “properly”.
“We don’t know what yardstick the commissioner is using to get to this point on the allegations levelled against the officers,” he said.
“We believe the matter has not been handled properly from the onset. I am told about 11 officers received the letters and it appears more are going to be issued correspondence of this nature. It appears to be an arbitrary decision and they should be dialogue first before these letters are issued. But nothing was ever said to them.”
Insp Motloli also argued the accused were not issued any “reasonable hearing” by their superiors.
“We see this move as administrative malpractice in the police service. There appears to be an administrative problem in the LMPS. All the people who received ‘show cause’ letters appear to have been issued the correspondence when a decision to dismiss them had already been made.”
For his part, LMPS spokesperson, Superintendent Clifford Molefe, confirmed the “show cause” letters had been issued not only to officers in Leribe, but in other districts.
“It is not just officers from Leribe who have been issued letters asking them to ‘show cause’ why they should not be dismissed from the police service, but other officers have also been issued with such letters,” he said.
“The commissioner shall take actions against them following their responses to the letters written to them. They are accused of contravening provision of the Police Service Act No.7 of 1998, the Standing order of the LMPS and the LMPS regulations.”
Supt Molefe said police officers were not allowed to attend political rallies unless assigned to do so by their superiors.
“These laws and standing orders clearly indicate that police officers should not be seen at rallies if they have not been assigned duties at such events.
“This is regardless of whether they are uniformed or ununiformed. As long as they are not assigned to do so, they should not be seen at any political party rally.”