THE Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA) has rejected the recent ban of its activities saying neither the Commissioner of Police, Holomo Molibeli nor the Minister of Police, ‘Mampho Mokhele have the powers to suspend its trade union activities.
The Secretary General of the union, police Inspector Moraleli Motloli, said this at a press conference held at the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) offices in Maseru this week.
The statement comes after the Lesotho Mounted Police Services wrote to its staff on Monday announcing the suspension of LEPOSA.
“Kindly note and be informed that the management of the LMPS has suspended all activities of LEPOSA with effect from the date of this memo until further notice,” the memo signed by the police’ human resources officer LC Ralethoko reads.
“You are therefore requested to abide by the decision appropriately.”
And on Tuesday Leposa said neither the Compol nor the Minister of Police had the powers to suspend the body.
“LEPOSA acknowledges receipt of the Commissioner’s letter on 5 November 2018 dated 2 November titled suspension of LEPOSA activities, contents of which are regrettable,” Inspector Motloli said on Tuesday.
“Notwithstanding, LEPOSA’s reaction to the contents and the letter itself is thus, from the outset the title of the letter is not in order. The office of the commissioner is vested with no powers in law and otherwise to issue a suspension letter to an independent entity like LEPOSA which he does not at all control nor command.”
He said LEPOSA remains an autonomous organisation established by the Police Act No. 7 of 1998 Section 66 (3).
“The Act further establishes the bodies in which the association is a party to, being the police negotiating council Section 67 and the Training Advisory Board Section 70.
“Nothing therefore contained in the Police Act 1998 or any other law as purportedly alleged stipulates that the operations of LEPOSA shall be subjected to the instructions or command of the Commissioner.
“The Commissioner of Police was the president of this union and is still a member but he has no right to tell us to suspend our activities as a union, he is just a member,” Inspector Motloli said.
He further said provisions of the LMPS (Administration) Regulations 2003 Section 24 should be observed.
The provisions read: “There shall continue to be Lesotho Mounted Police Staff Association which shall be a body corporate, independent, having a right to sue and be sued and have a right to issue summons and be summoned in its own name”.
“In the result, the effort to write LEPOSA a letter of suspension simply is to misplace his powers or energy, hence runs ultra vires and misinformed. In fact is unconstitutional and of no legal force whatsoever.”
Inspector Motloli further said it should also be noted that “the minister too does not have powers to tell us who to see and who not to see”.
“We are not subjected to the bureaucratic operations of government and we will not consult, not now and not in the future.”
He said Ms Mokhele’s primary role is to guide police officers especially where there is a possibility of a looming instability “because when we are not happy, this also means that crime will be rife”.
“The Minister of Police should be available when LEPOSA knocks at her door. She is a retired police officer and our relationship with her is not good at all. We are however, still waiting for her response as she promised to respond when she has time.”
Inspector Motloli disputed allegations that the union’s activities were suspended for fear that they could pose a threat to the security of the police force.
“We are a police union but at the end of the day we are police officers who have an interest of the national security and tranquillity of this country at heart. We have just emerged from a very turbulent time in 2014 and we shall not go there.
“And any person who might threaten such under the frolic of LEPOSA, shall be taken to task especially because we have an obligation to help the Commissioner of Police to deal with crime. It is not true that we pose a threat to any security,” Mr Motloli said.
Earlier this year, LEPOSA marched and petitioned Prime Minister Thomas Thabane over the salary increase which they claimed some police officers did not receive along with other civil servants in 2015.
Mr Motloli said they are fighting for their six percent salary increment and that police officers be placed in their appropriate posts.
“We are fighting that officers be placed at appropriate points and that our salary arrears be paid. We have no interest in who gets to be promoted but all the promotions effected should be legal,” Inspector Motloli said.
He also said that the union was ready to take police authorities to court if the need arises.
“LEPOSA will approach the courts for contempt of court and evaluation of the six percent so that it keeps time with the inflation rate thus putting more debt on the government. The same shall apply for suspension of our activities. We will go to court if that’s what is needed,” Inspector Motloli said.
He said they had been dealing with this issue since 2015, “When the previous regime arbitrarily and with total disregard to the rights of police officers denied to offer us the same”.
“All that we want is our six percent. The sooner the six percent is paid, the sooner the stalemate is resolved.”
Inspector Motloli said it should be stated that “Without going back, the six percent issue now has the court ruling that states clearly that police officers” should be paid their dues, “and failure to do so we shall approach the courts of law again,” said Motloli.
He said as LEPOSA they were aware that their fight for the six percent has strained their relationship with Commissioner Molibeli and minister Mokhele.
Expressing their disappointment further as a union Motloli said, “We are very disappointed at the cavalier manner in which the office of the Minister of Police has handled this matter that involves the livelihoods of police officers.
“This has the possibility to compromise her statutory obligation of the overall direction of the police service thereby loosing legitimacy by which she intends to direct the police service,” charged Motloli.
On the other hand, the deputy president of LEPOSA, Senior Inspector Teboho Modia, said the national executive committee had received letters to “show cause why” they could not be dismissed from the police force.
“All 18 of us have received such letters and we are already responding to them as the deadline is on Friday and they will be fully responded to,” said Snr Inspector Modia.
He said they were fully aware that in Lesotho such letters are followed by summary dismissal.
However, Inspector Motloli said this would to deter them from doing what is right.
“In Lesotho corruption is institutionalised. It’s wrong but it’s accepted. Dismissal from the police force does not immediately warrant dismissal from the union, it only means you will be working full time at the union and people who don’t want to see you will see and feel you quite often and more aggressively now that you are out of sight and this means that one shall now speak as a politician” Inspector Motloli said.
Contacted for comment, police spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli, said that the police authorities would later issue a statement responding to the issues raised by LEPOSA.
“I can’t comment now but the management shall respond to these issues later,” Superintendent Mopeli said.