Defiant Molibeli insists he is the right man to lead LMPS
EMBATTLED Police Commissioner, Holomo Molibeli, insists he is the right man to continue leading the police service.
This is despite the widespread calls for his ouster by the Lesotho Mounted Police Service Staff Association (LEPOSA) and other sections of society over the alleged deterioration of policing standards under his watch and an alarming increase in crime, particularly brutal murders.
LEPOSA has been fighting for Commissioner Molibeli’s dismissal for the past two years. The police union accuses him of bias and ineptitude in handling police issues. It alleges that since taking charge in August 2017, he has unprocedurally promoted his close allies like Deputy Police Commissioners (DCPs) Paseka Mokete and Beleme Lebajoa. The police union also accuses Commissioner Molibeli of allowing his blue-eyed subordinates to get away with acts of brutality against civilians which have been heavy criticised by the judiciary and resulted in the awarding of unprecedented hefty damages amounts to victims by the High Court and Court of Appeal.
The union’s latest bone of contention with the police boss is over his incompetence which resulted in the theft of at least 75 guns from the Mafeteng Police Station. The guns, which were stolen a fortnight ago, were allegedly sold to Famo gangsters who have been blamed for the rampant killings of people in Lesotho and neighbouring South Africa.
LEPOSA blames Commissioner Molibeli for the “disappointing” theft of the weapons which police investigators and the Police and Public Safety Minister, Lepota Sekola, believe was an inside job. In a weekend statement, the militant police union said the Mafeteng debacle and a subsequent attempted break-in at the Hlotse Police Station armoury had both “eroded public confidence in the police force”.
Such incidents were due to Commissioner Molibeli’s incompetence and would not have happened had Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro heeded its call to fire Commissioner Molibeli, LEPOSA said.
Well-placed sources have since told the Lesotho Times that Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro and his deputy, Mathibeli Mokhothu, have agreed to fire Commissioner Molibeli.
But despite all this, Commissioner Molibeli cut a defiant figure at this week’s press conference in Maseru. The press conference had been called to address various issues including the theft of the guns and the alleged theft of M49, 5 million by staffers in the Ministry of Finance.
Commissioner Molibeli told journalists that he was still fit and proper to hold office and he would only go “when the appointing authority decided otherwise”.
He said those blaming him for theft of the guns were “attention seekers who had never received any praise in their childhood”.
He said those calling for his ouster should similarly demand the sacking of the “person in charge of the ministry” that lost about M49, 5 million to fraudsters.
This was in reference to Finance Minister, Thabo Sophonea, who recently revealed that some of his staffers had allegedly been involved in fraud and money laundering activities which had prejudiced the government of M49 497 972, 72. The matter is pending before the courts.
Addressing the media, Commissioner Molibeli, said, “you asked if I am fit to continue leading and the answer is that I am fit.
“The appointing authority is the one which should say when it feels I’m no longer fit. I have heard these statements that I am not fit (to lead the LMPS). Are you honestly saying that when a gun is lost in Mafeteng, I am the one responsible for the loss? When livestock go missing from police custody in Mokhotlong, am I the one responsible for that loss? No. The answer is no.
“If that was the case, then even the responsible person at that ministry where the money disappeared is not fit. Isn’t that so? These issues are being raised by attention seekers. They want attention because they were never praised when they were young,” he said.
He also accused the media of making issues out of “non-issues” by publicising the World Population Review’s 2021 report which placed Lesotho at the top of its homicide rankings for Africa and sixth globally. He said although the report was published this year, it had made use of outdated 2016 data on Lesotho. The situation could have changed since then he said.
“I don’t know if you are aware of this but one of the things that offend us is that people can make issues out of non-issues. For example, there is this issue that Lesotho is a certain number in the world in terms of murder statistics. Those who conducted that study did so in 2017, using 2016 data and only published the study in 2021. I request that you closely interrogate these issues. We are too ready to admit negative things about our country. It is important to be philosophical when dealing with issues and we should not be too ready to accept (negative things about Lesotho),” he said.
But as he was belittling the World Population Review’s report, a French Pastor, Francois Snyman, was being murdered in Semonkong in front of his wife and children, the latest in a series of gruesome murders that have seen even police officers themselves becoming targets. Seven police officers were killed in a short space of three months between June and August 2021.
Commissioner Molibeli also denied allegations of bad blood between him and Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Beleme Lebajoa, saying these were being peddled by people bent on fomenting instability in the force.
“People say a lot of things and we should not take it as the gospel truth just because it has been said. I started working with Ntate Beleme Lebajoa years ago in Koro-Koro and this is not my first time working with him here (police headquarters in Maseru). I was accused of making him jump ranks by promoting him from the position of Inspector to ACP (Assistant Commissioner of Police) and today when people want to divide us, they say Lebajoa is going to overthrow you.
“Are you happy to have an unstable police service? It is not in your best interests to have an unstable police service because its performance will be poor when the command is always suspicious of each other.
“You know that a journalist (presumably former Lesotho Times editor Llyod Mutungamiri) has been shot before and this required a strong police service to deal with the crime. This means that the country needs a strong police force to prevent crime. It is therefore not in your best interests to have an unstable police service. You need strong police force which will urgently fight crime by arresting and taking suspects to the courts of law,” Commissioner Molibeli said.
He called on media houses to desist from talking to LEPOSA spokesperson, Motlatsi Mofokeng, as he had been fired from the force earlier this year. Mr Mofokeng was fired for allegedly concealing information about his alleged criminal conviction before he was recruited into the force.
Commissioner Molibeli also pleaded for the media’s cooperation, saying it had helped them address various issues including police brutality.
“At times I see you giving the LEPOSA spokesperson a platform despite the fact that he is no longer a police officer. He was dismissed from the police force but you give him the platform to continue to cause confusion in the police service. Please take this advice not to give him space. Our country is unstable ladies and gentlemen and we will not be happy for it to become the likes of the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo).
“This is a special request to you. You (media) and I can take Lesotho out of the state that it is currently in. You assisted me a lot and we dealt with police brutality. You helped me a lot because that criticism built us. We are pleading with you to stop with the negative criticisms which don’t build us in any way.
“We are looking for the stolen guns and we must help each other. Let us condemn this theft. Let us refrain from discouraging those looking for them (guns), let us support them. I want to take you into my confidence and stress that there are police officers who work very hard. We just need to pat them on the shoulder and say well done. We should not create an impression that they are all the same bad apples,” he said.