. . . as 36 cops sue acting commissioner for freezing new salaries
THE ongoing saga over the promotions of some Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) members has taken a new twist with 36 of them dragging Acting Police Commissioner Keketso Monaheng to the High Court for stopping the payment of their updated salaries until the legitimacy of their promotions has been ascertained.
This development comes in the wake of the sending of Police Commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa on an involuntary 90-day leave by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, with sources privy to the matter saying it was a strategy to ease the top cop out of the post.
The 36 LMPS members had been promoted by Commissioner Letsoepa, with the decision announced a day after the 3 June 2017 National Assembly elections — which ended the seven-party coalition government headed by former premier Pakalitha Mosisili.
The promotions had triggered a firestorm, with the four parties in the governing coalition accusing Commissioner Letsoepa of doing the former government’s bidding in a strategy to retain control even after losing power.
The governing parties — which include the All Basotho Convention, Alliance of Democrats, Basotho National Party and Reformed Congress of Lesotho — said the promotions were in keeping with Dr Mosisili’s alleged deployment of allies and family members in strategic areas of the government.
They claimed that Dr Thabane wanted to “rule from the grave”, referring to the former premier remaining in control of the government even after leaving office.
However, Commissioner Letsoepa had scoffed at the allegations, saying the promotions were not politically-motivated but based on merit. He asserted that the promoted officers satisfied the Board of Promotions’ criteria, adding that the LMPS had the financial wherewithal to pay their increased remuneration.
The Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA) has since dragged Commissioner Letsoepa to the High Court challenging the legality of the promotions.
LEPOSA also asked the court to temporarily halt the promotions and the revised salaries until it had finalised the application.
However, High Court judge, Justice ‘Maseshophe Hlajoane, ordered that the new promotions remain in force until the application had been finalised. The case is scheduled for hearing on 7 August 2017.
Last week, Commissioner Letsoepa was sent on a 90-day leave with Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Monaheng taking over in an acting capacity.
Sources privy to the developments told the Lesotho Times’ sister publication Sunday Express that Commissioner Letsoepa’s tenure at the helm of the LMPS was all but over, with DCP Holomo Molibeli and former commissioner Khothatso Tšooana being the main contenders to replace him.
Upon assuming his new role last Friday, Acting Commissioner Monaheng ordered that the revised salaries for the newly-promoted police officers be suspended pending the finalisation of the LEPOSA challenge before the High Court.
This did not go down well with the 36 newly-promoted LMPS members who filed an urgent application before the High Court on Monday seeking to reverse Acting Commissioner Monaheng’s decision.
Acting Commissioner Monaheng, Attorney-General Tšokolo Makhethe and LEPOSA are cited as first, second and third respondents respectively in the application.
In a founding affidavit supporting the application, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Lebohang Setsomi argues that there was nothing wrong in law with their promotions “as we were promoted by the proper repository of power having followed applicable laws and procedures”.
He also asserts that Commissioner Letsoepa publicised a memo stating that they should continue to perform their duties in their new ranks. Commissioner Lestoepa, ACP Setsomi argues, remained the top cop despite going on leave.
“Amid the foregoing developments, the Commissioner of Police was ordered by the government to go on leave and vacate office. I submit that he still holds his substantive rank. He is presently on leave.”
ACP Setsomi also avers that Acting Commissioner Monaheng verbally instructed the salaries division of the LMPS not to pay the salaries of the newly-promoted officers, adding that it was followed by an unsigned memo reiterating that their salaries should be stopped.
“It is clear that the order was not granted which stops the payment of our respective salaries.
“The Acting Commissioner of Police has no power in law to interfere with the very issue that is pending final decision by the court and which the court has already refused to grant.
“We did not promote ourselves. The issue as to whether or not our promotions are valid and legitimate is sub judice.”
He further argues that Acting Commissioner Monaheng did not follow the rules of natural justice when revoking the memo that promoted them because he did not give them a hearing.
“In so far as we are concerned, we have to earn salaries at the new ranks until the issue has been settled because the court has already refused to grant an order for stay of our promotions. We are already discharging functions of the new posts,” he adds
The date of hearing for the case had not yet been set as of yesterday.