DC names its price, demands Molibeli’s ouster

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  • dismissal a key condition for the DC’s continued support for Majoro

Pascalinah Kabi

POLICE Commissioner Holomo Molibeli’s head is said to be on the chopping block. This amid indications that Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu’s Democratic Congress (DC) wants him fired as its price for its continued support for the governing coalition led by Prime Minister and All Basotho Convention (ABC) deputy leader, Moeketsi Majoro.

The DC and the ABC are the two main parties in the current year-old coalition government which was recently rocked by a split in the ABC, which saw its deputy leader Nqosa Mahao and 11 legislators break away to form the Basotho Action Party (BAP) last month.

The ABC-led government was only saved from collapse by the DC which reiterated its commitment to seeing the government last its tenure until next year’s elections expected to be held in September 2022 earliest. The DC’s 27 MPs are crucial to the survival of the government especially now that the ABC is only left with 35 MPs. Together the two parties have a combined 62 seats and thus only just meet the minimum seats required to form a government. Their numbers have also been boosted by the combined 18 seats of the smaller coalition partners that are mostly DC allies.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Dr Majoro at State House in Maseru three weeks ago, Mr Mokhothu said he had no intention of abandoning the government after the ABC’s split.

He said there would be challenges along the way but together with the ABC and smaller coalition partners, they were determined to weather the storms right up to the holding of elections, expected in September next year.

Mr Mokhothu’s support appeared to have put paid to plans by Prof Mahao, to bring down the government through a no confidence vote in parliament.

But it has since emerged that behind the public display of unity, there continues to be intense lobbying by the DC for the ouster of Commissioner Molibeli as its reward for backing the ABC.

It is understood that if it fails to get its way, the DC will easily form a new coalition with Mr Mokhothu as prime minister and excluding the ABC.  The numbers in parliament also support such an outcome.

Contacted for comment this week, both ABC spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa and DC secretary general Tšitso Cheba denied that the DC had made the ouster of Commissioner Molibeli a precondition for its continued support for the government.

Despite their denials, some senior DC officials insisted that they had demanded that the ABC begins processes to fire the police boss.

“We want Molibeli to go and we have made it very clear to the ABC that he must go,” said a DC source who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

“In our talks with the ABC, we made it clear that the sacking of Molibeli is a condition for our continued stay in government. They have promised to act on the matter and we are closely monitoring what will happen in the coming days and weeks.

“The Commissioner has been left to do as he pleases for far too long because of his close ties to the ABC leaders. Under his leadership, the police force has been rocked by instability and it is an open secret that the inter-ministerial committee which was tasked with investigating this instability protected him. It was an ABC committee because it was exclusively composed of ABC ministers,” the source said.

This was in reference to the inter-ministerial committee set up last August by Dr Majoro to investigate the tensions between Commissioner Molibeli and the Lesotho Mounted Police Service Staff Association (LEPOSA).

At the time LEPOSA had threatened an unprecedented mass protest to press Dr Majoro to fire Commissioner Molibeli for alleged incompetence, bias in the promotions of police officers as well as the failure to address the scourge of police brutality.

The inter-ministerial committee comprised of former Police and Public Safety Minister ‘Mamoipone Senauoane, former Defence and National Security Minister Prince Maliehe, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Kemiso Mosenene  and former Justice and Law Minister Prof Mahao who was its chairperson.

Addressing the media on the committee’s report last September, Dr Majoro said the committee had found no valid grounds for the dismissal of Commissioner Molibeli.

However, the DC sources this week insisted that they want Molibeli fired “because the whole country has witnessed heinous acts of police brutality under his leadership.

“He has barely lifted a finger to address this issue despite the public outcry. Instead, he went after LEPOSA leaders for demanding his dismissal.”

Another source said the DC feels that allowing Commissioner Molibeli to remain in office undermines the party’s long-standing campaign against police brutality.

“When we were in opposition, we strongly condemned acts of police brutality, the wool and mohair monopoly and we demanded Ntate Thabane’s exit. When negotiating the coalition agreement, we made it clear that we will not be in the same government with Ntate Thabane as prime minister and we won that battle.

“The wool and mohair laws were subsequently amended after the formation of this government to allow more players in the sector and to allow farmers to sell their produce to whoever they wanted. The outstanding issue is that of Molibeli. Allowing him to stay on will make us look like hypocrites who used the police brutality campaign as a means to an end. We can compromise on other issues but Molibeli has to go,” said the source.

Another source concurred, saying the Molibeli issue was still a “top secret” to give the ABC time to find ways to comply with the DC’s demand. The source said it would not be easy for the ABC to let him go because Commissioner Molibeli played a key role in the collapse of the previous Thomas Thabane-led government.

He made Mr Thabane’s position untenable after he named him as the key suspect in the 14 June 2017 murder of his ex-wife, Lipolelo.

Commissioner Molibeli had even said they would ensure Mr Thabane would be tried alongside his wife, ‘Maesaiah but this has not happened to date. The police management and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Hlalefang Motinyane have blamed each other for the inordinate delays in trying Mr Thabane.

“This (Molibeli ouster demand) is a closely guarded secret. No one was supposed to know about it because the ABC needs time to find the best possible way of engineering Molibeli’s departure. It is not that simple to get rid of him because he played a significant role in the collapse of Ntate Thabane’s government and the advent of the current government.

“But we want Molibeli to pay for all that has happened under his leadership. We cannot continue pretending that things are normal in the police force. Molibeli is failing to address those challenges and he must make way for someone who will stabilise the police and decisively deal with police brutality,” the source said.

The sources also described Commissioner Molibeli as the worst ever police commissioner the police has ever had. Under his command, crime has spiralled out of control with criminals enjoying an unfettered free reign.  Cases are simply not investigated and criminals are effectively incentivized to ply their heinous trades.

However, Mr Cheba denied that his party’s stay in government was predicated on the sacking of Commissioner Molibeli.

“Our stay in the coalition government is not determined by who occupies the office of Police Commissioner. Our stay is informed by mutual commitment to and adherence to the coalition agreement.

“There are specific interventions spelled out in the agreement. For instance, the agreement speaks to freeing wool and mohair farmers, ending brutal killings of suspects in police custody, providing full support to the reforms agenda and improving service delivery to the people.

“We will not withdraw from this government because of the Commissioner. If there are issues concerning him, there are ways which can be applied to find a solution other than pulling out of government,” Mr Cheba said.

On his part, Mr Masoetsa briefly said “there is nothing like that” when asked about the allegations that the DC had demanded Commissioner Molibeli’s ouster.

Back in 2017, when it was still in opposition, the DC initially refused to participate in the multi-sector reforms process until Commissioner Molibeli and other heads of key government institutions were fired. It said that they had all been appointed on partisan grounds and substantive appointments should only be made after the security sector reforms to ensure impartiality had been completed.

The DC and other opposition parties only reluctantly agreed to participate in the reforms process after mediation and pressure from SADC leaders.

Commissioner Molibeli was appointed to the top job in 2017 by then Prime Minister Thabane.

However, the duo fell out after Mr Thabane attempted to fire Commissioner Molibeli last January for alleged incompetence.

In his court papers, Commissioner Molibeli accused Mr Thabane of seeking to get rid of him to avoid prosecution for the Lipolelo murder. He said police investigations into Lipolelo’s murder pointed to Mr Thabane’s involvement.

Mr Thabane denied attempting to fire Commissioner Molibeli to stop the Lipolelo murder probe and instead claimed his decision was driven by his desire to rejuvenate the police force which was being hamstrung by what he described as Commissioner Molibeli’s incompetence.

LEPOSA joined Mr Thabane’s crusade to get rid of Commissioner Molibeli, a move that has driven a wedge between the police boss and the union.

 

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