THE Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) has already spent an unbudgeted M100 000 for the upkeep of convicts as the ongoing Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) go-slow, which started on 12 December 2014, shows no signs of abetting.
According to Ministry of Police Principal Secretary, Refiloe Matekane, the LMPS has so far spent M100 000 for the convicts’ food, medication and toiletries among other basic needs.
“Police prison cells are meant to detain suspects for only 48 hours before they appear in court,” Mr Matekane said.
“However, the cells are currently congested with people convicted of serious crimes and we are not sure how long the police will keep them since the go-slow is continuing.”
He said the congestion was taking its toll on the LMPS’s resources with the money supposed to be used for the Police Training College being allocated to the convicts to avoid a humanitarian disaster.
Mr Matekane, however, warned that the LMPS could not hold out much longer since they were yet to receive their fourth quarter budget allocation from the government.
“The police don’t have money and if the go-slow continues, we will definitely have a serious problem,” he said.
Mr Matekane said Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara’s office had since ordered magistrates to issue bail and community service judgments to offenders if the go-slow continues to avoid sending them to prison.
Police spokesperson, Senior Inspector Lebona Mohloboli, confirmed the congestion in police cells, which he said was acute in Thaba Tseka and Berea districts. He also said they had already released convicts in Mokhotlong, Leribe and Maseru before Christmas last year.
“Police cells accommodate a capacity of 10 to 11 people, but in this crisis situation, police cells accommodate 20 or more,” said Senior Inspector Mohloboli.
“It is risky to release convicts who have committed serious crimes back into society without rehabilitation because people’s lives might be at risk. If convicts are released before they serve their sentences, some members of communities might attack them and murder them for their crimes.”
He also warned that at some point they will be forced to release the convicts.
“In the strictest sense of the law, it is not the police’s responsibility to take care of convicts but only suspects,” he said.
Contacted for comment, Ministry of Justice and Correctional Service Principal Secretary, Teboho Mohlomi, would not be drawn on when the demands of the striking LCS officers would be met.
He said discussions were still underway and “strategies being made” to address the crisis.
“It is true that the prison cells are congested but it is not like the strike was planned,” Mr Mohlomi said.
“That is why the ministry is working tirelessly to convince LCS officers to go back to work while their issue is being addressed and immediately after stakeholders are through with discussions, LCS officers will get paid.”
Efforts to get a comment from the High Court Registrar Lesitsi Mokeke were fruitless yesterday as his phone rang unanswered.
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