LEPOSA piles pressure on Majoro to sack Molibeli

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Pascalinah Kabi

A POLICE officer’s oath of office is as good as a death warrant. When one signs up to join the police, they are a signing up to die. So, police officers should not be stopped from marching on account of protecting them from the Covid-19 pandemic.

This bizarre argument is contained in a 17 August 2020 letter by the Lesotho Mounted Police Service Staff Association (LEPOSA) in which they are asking to be granted the right to stage a mass demonstration against their boss, Commissioner Holomo Molibeli, despite the restrictions on gatherings imposed to fight Covid-19.

The letter is addressed to the Officer Commanding Maseru Urban, Senior Superintendent ‘Malebohang Setsomi.   The unrelenting LEPOSA requests permission to march to Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro on 3 September 2020. The march is meant to, among others, push the premier to fire Compol Molibeli.

LEPOSA said it resolved to hold the march during an emergency strategic meeting on 5 August this year.

Among its complaints, the police union alleges that Compol Molibeli had misappropriated funds that were meant for five percent cost of living adjustments for all officers.

If it proceeds, the unprecedented march would be the climax of the ongoing war of attrition between Compol Molibeli and the union, which also accuses him of effecting illegal promotions.

Commissioner Molibeli yesterday told the Lesotho Times he had resolved to give the ministerial committee set-up by Dr Majoro some space to deal with the instability in the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS). He would thus not comment on the planned march against him.

“All these questions centre around the terms of reference of the adhoc committee of the ministers initiated by the Honorable the Prime Minister to deal with the instability in our institution,” Compol Molibeli said.

“It would be appropriate for me to be patient and wait for the ending of that process lest I respond in an inappropriate way. I am not reluctant to respond but as a show of respect to the authorities, I defer my comments.”

Discontent has been brewing in the police service after the top cop declared war on LEPOSA’s national executive committee members.

Commissioner Molibeli fired LEPOSA’s national treasurer Lance Sergeant ‘Mathebe Motseki from the police service last week. He has also commenced processes to dismiss the union’s secretary general, Inspector Moraleli Motloli, from the LMPS.

His efforts to transfer LEPOSA spokesperson Police Constable Motlatsi Mofokeng from Special Operations Unit to Berea hit a snag a fortnight ago after the High Court halted it.  All this after LEPOSA petitioned Dr Majoro to suspend Commissioner Molibeli to facilitate investigations into the latter’s alleged “criminal misconduct, maladministration and abuse of power”.

The alleged “criminal misconduct” stem from a perjury case which an officer, Senior Insp Haleeo Leluma, filed against Commissioner Molibeli earlier this year.

Snr Insp Leluma wrote to then Police and Public Safety Minister, Lehlohonolo Moramotse, on 1 April 2020 accusing Compol Molibeli of making false claims in his answering affidavit to a court case Insp Leluma had filed to stop the police boss from transferring him from Maseru to Qacha’s Nek.

Snr Insp Leluma had alleged that Compol Molibeli had sought to transfer him from Maseru to Qacha’s Nek on the basis that there had only been one senior officer responsible for that district yet that was not the case.

Former prime minister Thomas Thabane had attempted to fire Commissioner Molibeli on the basis of Snr Insp Leluma’s letter to Mr Moramotse.

Mr Thabane said he had been advised that Compol Molibeli’s claims were false because there were three senior officers at the level of senior superintendent and two senior inspectors in Qacha’s Nek instead of the one senior alleged by the police boss. Mr Thabane accused the police boss of committing perjury.

LEPOSA had backed Mr Thabane’s moves to oust Compol Molibeli but the ex-premier was barred by the courts from doing so. The courts ruled that Mr Thabane had acted unprocedurally in attempting to oust the police boss.

This has, however, not deterred LEPOSA from petitioning Dr Majoro who succeeded Mr Thabane on 20 May 2020. They have now applied for permission to stage a protest march to pile up pressure on the premier.

In his 17 August letter, Insp Motloli says LEPOSA was applying for permission to stage a protest march in accordance with the 5 August decision of its national executive committee.

“I wish to forward an application for a procession to petition the coalition government and the Right Honourable the Prime Minister on 3 September 2020 from 10am to 4pm regarding the following concerns:

  • Dismissal of the members of the NEC (sic);
  • Misappropriation of the five percent inflation increase for the general police officers (sic) to the payment of illegal promotions (sic); selective and discriminatory interdiction of police officers in June 2020;
  • Absolute failure to deal with rampant police brutality…”

LEPOSA is also unhappy with the continued presence of Deputy Police Commissioner (DCP) Paseka Mokete in office despite having a pending criminal case. DCP Mokete is facing a sexual assault case for allegedly fondling the buttocks of a female subordinate.

The union also wants Compol Molibeli suspended pending the finalisation of criminal cases against him. Among the cases, LEPOSA cited one in which the police boss is accused of torturing junior officers at the Police Training College and another where he is being accused of assisting former first lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane in torturing a civilian.

LEPOSA also wants Dr Majoro to address issues relating to punitive transfers, re-instatement of human resources policies and Covid-19 personal protective equipment and allowances for frontline officers.

So determined is LEPOSA that it says its members would not be deterred by the deadly Covid-19 which has infected 946 people and killed 30.

“On the basis of Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, please note and recall that as police officers, we have already signed a death contract by being police officers. In the result, whether we die of Covid-19 or any other way, that is still part of our oath of office as police officers,” Insp Motloli said.

On 10 August, Insp Motloli wrote to Dr Majoro and his deputy Mathibeli Mokhothu warning them that the situation unfolding in the LMPS could soon explode into a full-fledged conflict if not contained timeously.

Dr Majoro had not yet responded to LEPOSA’s letters by yesterday. He has however, established a ministerial sub-committee to deal with the conflict between Commissioner Molibeli and LEPOSA.

The committee met with Compol Molibeli and some senior officers on Monday and also met with LEPOSA representatives yesterday.

Meanwhile, Compol Molibeli has allegedly asked the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) to mediate between him and LEPOSA.

According to authoritative sources, Compol Molibeli and the CCL leaders held a lengthy closed-door meeting at the CCL offices in Maseru on Tuesday.

“He is exploring all angles to see how best this conflict between him and LEPOSA can be resolved. He is now under immense pressure to put this issue to bed as some ministers have now joined the LEPOSA chorus and want him fired,” a source said.

The source said it was too early to tell if the church leaders will successfully assist Commissioner Molibeli in his mission to stabilise the police force.

The source said the church leaders were expected to meet with LEPOSA representatives between today and tomorrow.

The funds that Compol Molibeli is accused of misappropriating were redirected by Ministry of Police and Public Safety principal secretary, Matela Thabane, allegedly to avert delays in payment of June 2020 salaries.

According to a 6 June 2020 memo signed by Mr Thabane and addressed to Compol Molibeli, the police service experienced serious financial constraints earlier this year.

“In order to avoid delays in payment of June 2020 salaries as a result of the funding shortfall, the office of the Principal Secretary authorises the use of funds from the following vote to cover the shortfall: LMPS administrative vote number 049-05-02-11-100-0000-00000-411101-01,” Mr Thabane said.

“The amount to be utilised from this vote is M374, 551.85. Your good office is invited to note that funds under this vote were allocated to cover specific expenditure such as five percent salary adjustments and salaries for vacant positions (pathologists),” Mr Thabane said.

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