Lesotho courts suspend operations due to unrest

 

Tefo Tefo

Lesotho’s judiciary has suspended its operations due to the country’s prevailing political unrest and dysfunctional Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS)—the latter which has left the courts without the necessary police protection.

The Registrar of the High Court and Court of Appeal, Lesitsi Mokeke, on Monday confirmed the developments in an interview with the Lesotho Times.

“The honourable Acting Chief Justice (Tšeliso Monaphathi) has been advised by the police that according to the prevailing situation in the country, judges should not report for work as their security would be compromised.

“You are aware that the courts are protected by the police and now that they are not on duty, it means there is no security for judges and everybody else in the courts,” he said.

Mr Mokeke added the police had also said they were not even safe themselves following their attack by members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) at the weekend. LDF members attacked the Maseru Central Police Station, Police Headquarters and Ha-Mabote Police Station on Saturday morning, and took over the three nerve-centres of police operations in what Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has said was an attempted coup. The army is also said to have stormed State House on Saturday morning, allegedly looking for Dr Thabane, but could not find him as he had already fled to South Africa, where he still remains as he seeks the Southern African Development Community (SADC)’s intervention.

Mr Mokeke continued: “The police advised judges to stay at home, including the court staff, because the records are kept by the staff. However, the police said they would advise us when to re-open the courts, as they are now assessing the situation.

“I have, accordingly, advised for the suspension of the functions of the magistrate’s courts, until the police tell us the security situation has improved.”

Meanwhile, the LMPS suspended its operations on Saturday following the LDF confrontation, which left one police officer dead, and several others injured.

However, the LDF has dismissed claims that its occupation of the three police stations was a coup-attempt, but a simple operation to confiscate guns that the police were keeping illegally, with the intention to arm some renegades who would then cause chaos during Monday’s planned street protest.

The protest, which had been organised by the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), was cancelled at the weekend after the police refused to sanction it.

Although Basotho are currently going about their normal business, the situation remains tense, particularly without the comforting presence of the police on the streets.

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