. . . promises DC govt will invest M1 billion in two years to stimulate economic growth
DEMOCRATIC Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, says a DC-led government will “professionalise and restore the dignity” of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS).
The deputy prime minister said under his watch, patriotism, proper training, merit-based promotions and efficient service will be the hallmarks of the police force.
He said this while addressing party supporters during the DC’s 10th anniversary celebrations early this week in Teyateyaneng, Berea.
The image of the LMPS has taken a huge battering over the years owing to persistent reports of nepotism and biased recruitments based on political affiliation. The police have not covered themselves in glory due to their failure to solve rampant killings and other violent crimes.
Lesotho’s human rights record and in particular the issue of police brutality has also been under local and international spotlight. Back in 2018, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) produced a damning report expressing concern over the “persistent allegations of police brutality” in Lesotho. Its plea to the government to capacitate the relevant institutions to enable them to investigate allegations of human rights violations has so far fallen on deaf ears.
Even the Lesotho Mounted Police Service Staff Association (LEPOSA) has repeatedly accused Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli of failing to deal decisively with police brutality. The militant police union unsuccessfully petitioned Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro to fire him over this and several other issues.
The United States (US) government, the European Union (EU) have also on several occasions warned that they could freeze development assistance to Lesotho if the government did not rein in rogue police officers and deal with police brutality.
But despite the universal chorus of condemnations, the police have continued with their criminal behaviour, indiscriminately torturing people- from high profile people such as legislators, former ministers and most recently, prominent human rights lawyer, Napo Mafaesa, who was tortured last month.
But, according to Mr Mokhothu, all these shortcomings of the police office will be a thing of the past if his DC- currently the second biggest party in the governing coalition, after the All Basotho Convention (ABC)- achieves an outright victory or becomes the main governing party after the elections due anytime from September this year.
Mr Mokhothu lamented the alarmingly high rates of murders and other violent crimes as a result of the police’s inability to do their work. He promised that, “when we get into power we will look into the security agencies, in particular the LMPS”.
“The cases of murder, rape and burglary are ever escalating in our country and we are gravely concerned about that. Once we get into power, we are going to work hard to put an end to that.
“The police are integral to the rule of law and to any democratic dispensation. When crimes escalate, democracy is threatened. We need to instill a sense of patriotism in the police. We need to instill the love of the nation and respect for its people. Recruits should be properly and thoroughly trained. They should be full of integrity and shun any criminal activities.
“We will even send their trainers to developed countries to ensure they are properly trained because we want excellent police officers who will take care of this country.
“We will also tackle the scourge of nepotism in police promotions. Nepotism is one of the issues that have destabilised our police force. So, we will ensure that officers are only be promoted on the basis of merit,” Mr Mokhothu said, adding a DC government will fully equip the police with cars, decent offices and other resources to enable them to efficiently execute their mandate.
Mr Mokhothu further promised a devolved administration where local government would be adequately resourced to deliver services throughout the country’s 10 districts.
A DC government will construct new roads to decongest Maseru and other major urban centres. It will also look into the welfare issues of doctors, nurses and other civil servants to ensure they are adequately remunerated, Mr Mokhothu said. There will also be free secondary education to complement the already existing free primary education, he said.
The agriculture sector will also be given support by the government. Wool and mohair farmers will be given the freedom to sell their produce to customers of their choice in any part of the world, he said. Back in 2018, the then Thomas Thabane administration incurred the wrath of wool and mohair farmers when it enacted laws to force them to sell their produce via the Lesotho Wool Centre (LWC) in Thaba Bosiu, a joint venture between wool and mohair farmers and Chinese owned Maseru Dawning. The farmers control 75 percent while Maseru Dawning controls the remaining 25 percent.
The farmers, however, preferred selling their fabric via South African brokers among them BKB saying they were assured of quick and higher payments than those from the LWC.
The regulations were later amended in 2020 to end the LWC monopoly and allow the farmers to sell their produce via other brokers including BKB.
Before then in 2019, Mr Mokhothu, whose DC was still in the opposition, had called for the repeal of the “draconian wool and mohair regulations that have left many farmers impoverished”.
Mr Mokhothu had warned that if the then government did not repeal the regulations, Mr Thabane and the responsible ministers would be made to account for their actions when the DC came to power.
Mr Mokhothu also said upon coming to power, his government would inject M1 billion into the economy to stimulate business growth.
“Our main challenge is that we do not produce and we import almost everything we need including the basics like pork and poultry. We need to start producing our own food.
“We are ready to invest M1billion in the first two years in projects that will enable us to produce as well as create jobs,” Mr Mokhothu said.
The DC’s 10th anniversary celebrations were marked by various activities including song and dance, high school debates, a car competition for taxi drivers as well as a football tournament for Berea district teams.