- as LEPOSA president fights looming suspension
- accuses Commissioner Molibeli of discrimination
THE long-drawn fight between Police Commissioner, Holomo Molibeli, and the Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA) has taken a new twist.
This time, the LEPOSA president, Senior Inspector Teboho Modia, has petitioned the High Court to block Commissioner Molibeli from suspending him from the police force.
Commissioner Molibeli and Attorney General Rapelang Motsieloa are the first and second respondents respectively in Snr Insp Modia’s application.
Snr Insp Modia’s High Court application filed on 10 March 2022 was prompted by Commissioner Molibeli’s show cause letter dated 31 January 2022 in which he demands that the former makes representations on why he may not be suspended from duty.
On the same day Commissioner Molibeli wrote the show cause letter to the LEPOSA boss, he also charged him for allegedly contravening section 56 of the Police Service Act. The case is premised on the LEPOSA press release of 12 November 2021 issued in reaction to a case in which 75 guns were stolen from the Mafeteng Police Station armoury that month.
Two police officers and a civilian were subsequently charged before the Mafeteng Magistrate Court after seven of those guns were found and linked to them. Their case is still pending before the same court.
In its press release, LEPOSA had labelled Commissioner Molibeli “incompetent and inefficient”, demanding that he must no longer hold his office.
On the same day Commissioner Molibeli charged Snr Insp Modia before the Maseru Magistrates Court for violating police laws after issuing the press release, he also ordered the LEPOSA boss to show cause why he could not be suspended until the finalisation of his case.
“You will recall that on 12 November 2021 you made a press release regarding the missing firearms at Mafeteng Police Station and also attacked the Commissioner of Police, stating that he is incompetent and inefficient,” Commissioner Molibeli’s 31 January 2022 letter states.
“Pursuant to the said press release you made, a case of contravention of section 56 of the Police Service Act has been opened against you and you are a suspect therein since criminal charges were accordingly preferred against you.
“You may be aware of the powers of the Commissioner under section 53 of the Police Act to interdict a police officer pending the resolution of any disciplinary proceedings against him.”
Snr Insp Modia first responded through a letter on 7 February 2022 in which he said the said press release was not addressed to Commissioner Molibeli but to members of LEPOSA. Furthermore, he argued that it was discriminatory for him to be suspended when he had a pending case whereas other police officers such as Deputy Commissioner of Police, Paseka Mokete, were facing more serious charges than him but were still on duty.
“It is fundamental to remind you sir that the Constitution is the supreme law of Lesotho and in terms of the Constitution, no law of Lesotho shall make any provision that is discriminatory either or itself or in its effect and that no person shall be treated in a discriminatory manner by any person acting by virtue of any written law or in the performance of functions by any public office or authority.
“Your good office will be aware that there are many police officers, some of whom hold most senior ranks in the police service, who… are still in office while they have criminal cases that are of public interest and nothing has been done about them.
“I have in this matter, a case of Rex vs Deputy Commissioner of Police Paseka Mokete where he is being charged among others, with a sexual offence against a police officer but has never been on interdiction,” Snr Insp Modia stated.
DCP Mokete stands accused of sexually harassing LEPOSA deputy secretary general Inspector ‘Makatleho Mphetho on 30 April 2020. His trial is still ongoing before Maseru Senior Resident Magistrate Peter Murenzi.
Snr Insp Modia further argues that he has been wrongfully charged as the press release in question was not directed at Commissioner Molibeli but to the association’s members. He claims he also acted in his official LEPOSA capacity.
“I aver that it came as a shock to me when I was being charged in a criminal court for the press release. I aver that the charge levelled against me has no merit at all as I was doing what I did in my official capacity and the charge has nothing to do with section 57 (of the Police Act). This is more so when the Constitutional Court has already made it clear that LEPOSA is independent from the Police Service.
“I aver that the first respondent (Commissioner Molibeli) is being discriminatory in applying the law to the police officers. This discrimination is only made because I am a member of the Lesotho Police Staff Association and is a way for him to dismantle the association.
“I aver that there is no justification for the first respondent to interdict me as there are many police officers who have been accused of more serious offences but are still in active duty,” Snr Insp Modia says.
Snr Insp Modia therefore wants the court to “review and set aside the first respondent’s decision to interdict me from duty”.
This is not the first time that Commissioner Molibeli has attempted to get rid of LEPOSA’s executive members. The LEPOSA secretary general Insp Moraleli Motloli and treasurer ‘Mathebe Motseki have in the past been saved by the courts after attempts to fire them from the police.
Commissioner Molibeli fired Lance Sergeant Motseki on 7 August 2020 for statements she made which allegedly tarnished the image of the police command.
On 30 July 2020, Commissioner Molibeli ordered Insp Motloli to “show cause” why he should not be dismissed over LEPOSA’s petition to Dr Majoro to fire him (Molibeli).
This prompted LEPOSA, Insp Motloli and Lance Sergeant Motseki to file a Constitutional Court application to stop the police boss in his tracks.
In his October 2020 judgement, Justice Sakoane Sakoane said Commissioner Molibeli could not fire police officers without affording them a hearing. He said LEPOSA had a right to freely express itself in a responsible manner. He therefore ordered Commissioner Molibeli to ensure that LEPOSA members were accorded a fair hearing before any decision to fire them was made.
And just last month, Commissioner Molibeli teamed up with Officer Commanding Commercial Crime Counter Unit, Detective Sergeant Molapo Magaga, to petition the High Court to bar Snr Insp Modia, Lance Sergeant Motseki and Insp Mphetho respectively, from accessing the LEPOSA bank accounts held with First National Bank (FNB), Stanlib and Nedbank. They accused the trio of illegally withdrawing funds to the tune of M179 000 from the LEPOSA accounts. This matter is still pending before the High Court.
Snr Insp Modia’s 10 March application is yet to be heard.