PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane has called on the police to be tough on criminals, saying “anyone who chooses to steal should suffer immensely at the hands of the police”.
Dr Thabane, who is also leader of the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC), said this while addressing a party rally early this week in Ha Lesiamo in the Leribe district.
Dr Thabane deplored criminal activities including stock theft which is said to be prevalent in the district. He warned criminals that they faced the full wrath of the law enforcement agents for their criminal activities which disturbed the peace.
“The police and the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) are working together to patrol the borders of this country to eradicate stock theft,” Dr Thabane said.
“Anyone who wants to live in peace should have their own animals and anyone who chooses to steal should suffer immensely at the hands of the police.
“I don’t care how that will be done. I am not a police officer and how they (the police) shall do it is entirely dependent on them- it is their business. I am not a police officer and whatever you (the police) choose to do is up to you.”
Dr Thabane has previously been criticised for statements seen in some quarters as inciting or condoning the heavy-handedness of the police towards criminal suspects.
However, the premier recently told the Minister of Police, ‘Mampho Mokhele and the Commissioner of Police, Holomo Molibeli, to “do the right thing” by investigating the deaths of suspects in police custody.
Dr Thabane said this in the wake of last month’s pledge by the government to investigate the deaths of suspects at the hands of the police.
In the National Reforms Declaration signed with the opposition last month, the government undertook to “investigate and report to the coalition of opposition parties in due course” the circumstances surrounding the deaths of several people in police custody.
Foreign Affairs and International Affairs Minister Lesego Makgothi also said the government was not deaf to the public outcry over the alleged police brutality and it would soon conduct inquests into the alleged civilian deaths and thereafter deal with the “rogue elements within our police service”.
“As government we are committed to ensuring that the civilians are protected and safe and the all police officers who have been fingered in the listed killings should toe the line,” Mr Makgothi said.
He said there was now a trend of police officers who took the law into their own hands. He said instead of taking suspects to the courts of law to stand trial, such police officers tortured suspects until they died.
“This (torturing of suspects) is unacceptable and we are going to deal with such officers. We will not allow them to bring the name of the government into disrepute.
“It’s wrong for our people to think that we are quiet over these (alleged civilian) deaths (at the hands of the police). We will act on these deaths because they are unwarranted.
Early this year, the Minister of Police, retired Senior Superintendent ‘Mampho Mokhele, publicly admitted that the police used illegal methods including torture to extract confessions from suspects.
Ms Mokhele, who served as a police officer for 37 years, made the revelation at a ceremony where the LMPS was presented with forensic equipment which was donated by the Algerian government.
She however, said she hoped the donation would go a long way in removing the need for torture as the police could now use it to determine whether or not a suspect had been involved in the commission of a crime.
“We, as the police, are often forced to use violence to get information out of people because at times we would be sure that the suspect committed the crime but due to lack of tangible evidence we have to use force,” Ms Mokhele said.
Three months ago, a Government Printers employee was allegedly tortured by the police after his arrest in connection with the leaking of a government gazette which announced the appointment of South African judge Justice Yvonne Mokgoro as acting president of the Court of Appeal.
The leaked government gazette was allegedly used by three prominent lawyers as the basis for their successful March 2018 lawsuit against the appointment of Justice ‘Maseshophe Hlajoane as the acting Court of Appeal President.
A recent African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) report seen by this publication expresses concern over the “persistent allegations of police brutality” in Lesotho and calls on the government to capacitate the relevant institutions to enable them to investigate allegations of human rights violations.
“The government should incorporate the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights in all its actions as well as in the legal, policy and institutional reforms which would be initiated as a result of the ongoing national dialogue,” the ACHPR report states.
Dr Thabane also used the Sunday rally to implore party members to desist from fighting each other and unite.
“I plead with all of you to keep the peace and stop taking your fights to radio stations. The (ABC’s) national executive committee made some resolutions in the policy conference which was held on 24 August in Quthing and I therefore plead with you to be patient and give them a chance to work on the grievances that were raised.”
This was in reference to the infighting which has plagued the party in the aftermath of its victory in the 3 June 2017 elections which brought it to power.
The party has been torn apart by infighting which has been reflected in the highly publicised spats between Dr Thabane and some of his top lieutenants including former Tourism Minister Motlohi Maliehe and former Health Minister Nyapane Kaya.
In May this year Mr Maliehe raised the ire of Dr Thabane when launched a blistering attack on the First Lady, Maesaiah Thabane, while addressing a rally in Hololo constituency in the Butha-Buthe district.
Mr Maliehe said Ms Thabane was fomenting chaos in the party and in the government through “constant meddling” in the work of ministers and officials. He demanded that the First Lady stops meddling in state affairs forthwith or risk derailing the government.
And on Sunday, Dr Thabane urged the party members to “be respectful and stop taking your fights to the media”.
“Radio stations have always been there so stop acting as if you invented them and airing your problems on them,” Dr Thabane added.
He also said his government would deliver on its campaign promises of ensuring efficient service delivery to the district.
“We managed to win constituencies in Leribe and this calls for me to express my gratitude for your loyal support during the build-up campaigns and during the time I was in exile (from 2015 to 2017).
“I promise that together with my coalition partners we shall make sure that you get what you deserve.
“The ABC will do everything within its power to ensure that farming is revived and Leribe is restored to the food basket of Lesotho that it used to be.
“The issues of poor roads, theft, killings, water, electricity and unemployment shall also be addressed,” Dr Thabane added.