THE High Court has barred Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli from removing 32 police officers from the Maseru Bridge Police Post pending the finalisation of their application for a final order.
Commissioner Molibeli had on 24 April 2021, removed the 32 police officers from the border post and replaced them with members of the police’s Special Operations Unit (SOU).
The decision did not go down well with the 32 police officers who subsequently filed a High Court application, arguing that they were now loitering due to their “unprocedural transfer”.
In granting them interim relief, Judge ‘Maseforo Mahase ordered that “the purported transfer of the applicants from Maseru Bridge Police Post on 24 April 2021 be stayed and the status quo (previous status) be maintained pending the finalisation of this application”.
The interim order is valid until 17 May 2021 when the applicants and respondents are due back in court.
Commissioner Molibeli, the police’s Human Resource Officer, the District Commissioner of Maseru Urban, the Minister of Police and Public Safety and the Attorney General are the first to fifth respondents respectively.
In terms of the final relief, the 32 police officers want the “decision of the respondents to transfer the applicants (to) be reviewed, corrected and set aside for its unlawfulness”.
In his founding affidavit, the officer in charge of the Maseru Bridge Police Post, Senior Inspector Ratselane Rantuba, states that they were unprocedurally removed from their post and therefore their removal is a “nullity”.
“I must indicate that this is the most surprising and unusual way of transferring or removing police officers from their police station, it has never happened before.
“The procedure used to be that communication in the police service is done by way of a Radio Message LMPS 72 to inform police officers of any activity of change to happen in their duty stations and such police officers sign the LMPS 72 form to acknowledge receipt thereof. (sic)
“I must hasten to indicate that with transfers, the officer is first written a letter of representation to ‘show cause’ why he cannot be transferred from one police station to another. I was only given a letter of transfer by the third respondent (District Commissioner Maseru Urban) on 26 April 2021 saying that he found it under his door when he arrived. (sic). The letter purportedly transferred me to Maseru Central Police Station.
“I aver that it was unlawful, wrongful, irregular and illegal for the first respondent (Molibeli) to have removed us in the manner he has done from our duty station and to be transferred in that way,” Snr Insp Rantuba states in his affidavit.
He also states that he was shocked when he was told by a member of the SOU that they were taking over the station.
“It so happened that I went to Maseru Bridge at around 6am on 24 April 2021 when I met them (SOU officers, Senior Assistant Police Commissioner of Loke, Snr Superintendent Halahala, Snr Insp None, Snr Insp Voezana and Snr Insp Mabitle). I inquired what their business was at the station without my knowledge.
“Snr ACP Loke then told me that they were taking over the station and therefore I should tell all the officers subordinate to me that they were no longer needed there. He said that those were the first respondent (Molibeli)’s orders and should be complied with immediately,” Snr Insp Rantuba states.
The applicants’ lawyer, Adv Vuyani ‘Mone, further states in the certificate of urgency that “the applicants had been loitering until the third respondent (the District Commissioner Maseru Urban) took the initiative to absorb them within different police stations in the Maseru urban police stations”.