Majoro rejects LEPOSA demands

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  • says won’t fire Molibeli

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

PRIME Minister Moeketsi Majoro has rejected the Lesotho Mounted Police Service Staff Association (LEPOSA)’s demands for the dismissal of Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli on the grounds that there are no plausible reasons to relive him of his duties.

Dr Majoro said this while addressing the media on the findings of an inter-ministerial committee’s inquiry into the instability in police force.

The decision is a huge blow to LEPOSA which has fought Commissioner Molibeli for more than a year and sought to get him fired over his alleged incompetency and maladministration of the police force.

LEPOSA accuses Commissioner Molibeli of bias and ineptitude in handling police grievances. The union alleges that since taking charge in August 2017, Commissioner Molibeli has unprocedurally promoted his close allies like Deputy Police Commissioner (DCP) Paseka Mokete and Assistant Police Commissioner (ACP) Beleme Lebajoa.

Worried by the instability caused by the Molibeli-LEPOSA fight, Dr Majoro appointed an inter-ministerial committee to probe the police force in August this year.

The committee comprised of Police and Public Safety Minister ‘Mamoipone Senauoane, fellow ministers Prince Maliehe (Defence and National Security), Kemiso Mosenene (Prime Minister’s Office) and Professor Nqosa Mahao (Law and Justice) who was its chairperson.

It was appointed on 6 August 2020 and it began its work four days later by summoning Commissioner Molibeli to give evidence on the year-long infighting between him and LEPOSA.

Although the committee completed its work and submitted its report to Dr Majoro in September, its findings were only made public this week.

Addressing the media on the committee’s report, Dr Majoro said among other things, the committee had found no valid grounds for the dismissal of Commissioner Molibeli.

“We have interrogated the issue of whether the Commissioner was still fit and proper for office,” Dr Majoro said.

“We sat down with him and discussed these accusations (by LEPOSA) and he defended himself. He said that he should not be blamed for police brutality as he did not have direct control over individual officers’ behaviour.

“The ministerial committee did not present to me any recommendation, evidence or proof that at this stage the Police Commissioner is no longer fit and proper for the office,” Dr Majoro said.

Prof Mahao concurred with Dr Majoro, saying Commissioner Molibeli could not be fired without any valid legal reasons for doing so.

Police and Public Safety Minister, ‘Mamoipone Senauoane, also weighed in on the issue saying Commissioner Molibeli was not to blame for the presence of rogue police officers who subjected civilians to acts of brutality.

“Even in a classroom, there are some students who will still fail. In the same manner police recruits are trained to protect human rights but there those who do not practice what they are taught. They should be constantly reminded of their duty and relations with the people hence the need for refresher courses,” Ms Senauoane said.

The government decision is unlikely to be well-received by LEPOSA. Only last week, the police union accused the government of shielding Commissioner Molibeli from accounting for his alleged incompetency and maladministration of the police force.

This after Prime Minister Majoro allegedly missed a meeting with LEPOSA he had called to discuss the findings of an inter-ministerial inquiry into the instability within the police service.

Meanwhile, the inter-ministerial committee’s report also blames years of meddling by politicians in the police force for the current instability.

Reading the findings, committee’s findings, Dr Majoro said investigations had revealed that politicians have exerted their influence in the promotions and appointments of police officers to achieve their own ends.

He said that in the past, promotions and appointments were made by committees that had in-depth knowledge of the workings of the security forces. But that changed when the constitution was amended in 1998, dissolving the Defence Commission and giving the prime minister powers to appoint the top brass of the force.

“This amendment, which was an effort by the (then) Basotho Congress Party (BCP) government to wrest control of the institutions that for a long time had come under the spell of the Basotho National Party (BNP), has led to the prevailing polarisation and instability dogging the security agencies and the police in particular. This pattern has become more pronounced with coalition governments beginning in 2012.

“The absence of the Defence Commission was felt in the advent of coalition governments where new administrations appointed their preferred commissioners. The politicisation of the police service became evident and this has caused conflicts within the service.,” Dr Majoro said.

Dr Majoro said the committee had also found that instability and conflict also stemmed from the 2014 salary increments which excluded most junior officers who had hoped the increments would be across the board.

He said this caused bad blood between the junior officers and their superiors who had been awarded increments. Even when the junior officers were eventually given an increment in 2018, the tensions persisted, Dr Majoro said.

He said the committee had recommended the swift prosecution of all rogue police officers who had allegedly tortured and even murdered suspects.

The committee also recommended that the Police Complaints Authority should be completely independent of the commissioner to enable it to investigate and institute criminal proceedings without the involvement of the police command.

The committee also recommended that all appointments to the force must be freed from political interference and all promotions must be merit-based and done in a transparent manner.

In another blow to LEPOSA, the committee also said the union should only operate as an association articulating welfare concerns of its members and not as a fully-fledged trade union which challenged the authority of the commissioner and the police command.

“The committee recognises that LEPOSA acts and carries itself as a trade union and this is outside the boundaries set forth in the regulations that allowed the association to be established. The committee recommends that the regulations be reviewed clearly enunciate the principle that police officers are first and foremost policemen and policewomen and are subject to the authority, command and discipline of the hierarchy of the LMPS at all times. LEPOSA constitution must also be reviewed to ensure that it is compliant with the provisions for an association,” the committee said in its report.

 

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