Matobakele should apologise over police comments: Majoro

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Bereng Mpaki

PRIME Minister Moeketsi Majoro says he is unhappy with deputy army commander, Matela Matobakele, for saying “Lesotho has no police force to speak about”.

Dr Majoro said Major Gen Matobakele was out of line and he had undermined the police force with his comments. Therefore, he should retract his statements and apologise to Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli, the premier said yesterday.

Dr Majoro said this while fielding questions from senators on various issues including the rampant killings that have earned Lesotho the dubious accolade of being Africa’s top-ranked homicidal nation.

Thaba Bosiu principal chief, Khoabane Theko, had said the time had come for the police and army to join forces to combat the high murder rates.

Even though this was the best thing to do, Chief Theko said such a collaboration was highly unlikely after Major Gen Matobakele last week said the army had been forced to take on policing duties due to the incompetence of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS).

Addressing a Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) parade at Makoanyane Barracks last week, Major Gen Matobakele said, “our commander (Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela) has given us instructions to perform duties everywhere because we honestly don’t have a police force.

“I say this with my head held high, we don’t have it (police force). If we had it, you (soldiers) would not be involving yourselves with the public in this country. A few days ago, the commander instructed me to go to the police on a certain assignment. I shared my views with them (police) that we don’t have the police in this country,” Major Gen Matobakele said.

Chief Theko alluded to Major Gen Matobakele’s remarks during the premier’s question time in the Senate yesterday.

In reply, Dr Majoro said he was unhappy with the deputy army chief and he had ordered him to apologise to Commissioner Molibeli.

“I have had a word with the deputy army commander after he made comments that have undermined the police. We have directed him to withdraw that statement and apologise to the commissioner of police,” Dr Majoro said.

During the Senate session, opposition Basotho Action Party (BAP) leader and former cabinet minister, Nqosa Mahao, also asked what was fuelling the high homicide rates. He also wanted to know what measures the Majoro administration had implemented to stem the tide of murders.

In response, Dr Majoro said the government was gravely worried by the rampant killings and it was taking steps to address the situation.

“We are shocked by these killings that have been happening around the country,” Dr Majoro said, adding, “some of these cases are yet to be resolved as the police are yet to finalise investigations and arrest suspects”.

“Our preliminary investigations have revealed that some of the killings emanate from conflicts among rival famo music groups.”

Dr Majoro said extra marital affairs, ritual killings and retributive killings also contributed to the high murder rates.

He said they had begun recruiting new judges such as Justices Realeboha Mathaba and Fumane Khabo to reduce the huge backlog of cases in the courts. The two judges were sworn in last week.

The premier also said 1058 serious criminal offences had been reported to the police since last month and 328 arrests had been made so far.

He said 89 suspects had been tried and released after being found not guilty. Another 29 suspects are out on bail while another 140 were in remand prison awaiting trial. Another 76 suspects were currently in police custody ahead of their court appearances, the premier added.

He said they were working on several initiatives including training over 2 000 people in community policing at Ha-Ramabanta, Maseru.

“We are in the process of establishing new crime prevention committees. We are training and offering support to the existing ones,” he said.

He said the government had collaborated with Vodacom Lesotho to establish a toll-free emergency line to alert the police on possible criminal activities or emergency situations.

“In collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), we are also going to introduce a cellphone-based alarm system that will alert different authorities like the police and chiefs on possible crimes and emergencies. The system will be piloted tomorrow (today) in Tšakholo (Mafeteng).”

Dr Majoro said the government had also set aside M1, 5 million for a DNA test machine to aid investigations of suspected crimes. Lesotho currently relies on South Africa for DNA-based investigations.

On his part, the principal chief of Matšekheng, Lesaoana Peete, blamed the under-resourcing of the police force for the high crime rates.

He said successive governments had failed to provide enough vehicles to the force to enable it to do its job.

“Why have the governments allowed this (vehicle) problem to continue for such a long time,” Chief Lesaoana asked.

An unidentified senator called on the government to implement the death penalty to deter criminals.

In reply, Dr Majoro said the death penalty still existed on the country’s statutes and it was up to the judiciary to hand down death sentences.

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