Cutting deals with victims won’t wash

ELSEWHERE in this issue we carry a story about ’Marefiloe Khothe who is said to have been “accidentally” shot and seriously injured by the police while working in a food-for-work project in Leribe in January last year.

The circumstances surrounding the shooting incident almost confirm what we have said before – that our police are a trigger-happy bunch.

It also confirms our fears that our police officers are prone to using violence in the course of duty.

Numerous cases that are before the courts would seem to support this assertion.

However, what is particularly galling about this particular case is what we see as a deliberate attempt by the police to subvert the judicial process by cutting deals with victims.

Speaking in parliament last month Assistant Home Affairs Minister Lineo Molise-Mabusela admitted that the police had indeed offered monetary compensation to Khothe.

Molise-Mabusela also admitted that the police had offered a job to the woman’s husband in Leribe.

“It was agreed that since ’Marefiloe’s state did not permit her to be reinstated to her job, her husband be given a job. He is already working at Hlotse police station,” Molise-Mabusela said.

We think the deal to offer a job to the woman’s husband has the potential to seriously undermine the rule of law and the process of natural justice.

For that reason we think it is in the interest of justice that the whole stinking deal be annulled.

No independent investigation was carried out to determine the exact circumstances surrounding the incident.

Under normal circumstances the police officer who pulled the trigger should have either been suspended or dragged before the courts of law to face justice.

The events across the border in Ficksburg, South Africa, regarding the manner the authorities there have dealt with the death of protester Andries Tatane should be telling.

But here in Lesotho we have a police officer who shot and seriously injured a woman being allowed to go scot-free 14 months after the incident.

No criminal proceedings have been instituted against the offender.

In the absence of an independent investigation we find it quite odd that the police did not see anything wrong in cutting a deal with the victim, who was obviously in a weaker negotiating position.

We also think the decision to offer a job to the woman’s husband, Lebelo Khothe, was not an act of benevolence on the part of the police.

Instead, we think it was a naked attempt by the police to buy the victim’s silence.

The manner in which the police handled the case also raises fundamental questions about the rule of law and the process of natural justice.

If allowed to pass without interrogation such a process could pose a serious threat to the rule of law and our nascent democratic project.

It is also important to note that the case is not between the police and the victim.

It is common cause that once a crime has been committed the case shifts from the private realm to that of the state versus the offender.

It would be a subversion of the rules of justice if we were to allow criminal offenders to wriggle out of sticky situations by cutting deals with their victims.

Such a scenario would certainly create chaos within the judiciary.

It is precisely for these reasons that we think the Leribe case must be revisited so that justice can be done.

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