THE parliamentary portfolio committee on law and public safety has summoned Police and Public Safety Minister ‘Mampho Mokhele and Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli over the alleged killing of a villager by the police at Kao in Butha Buthe.
Members of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS), which has faced mounting criticism over its alleged brutality against civilians, are said to have summoned and tortured villagers killing one and injuring many others after accusing them of assaulting one of their officers at Kao over a love triangle.
Violence besieged Kao since Christmas Day when an LMPS officer stationed at Kao clashed with a villager, Mabilikoane Leoma, over a woman identified as Rethabile Makhethe. She had allegedly been dating both men.
The violence started when Mr Leoma allegedly attacked Ms Makhethe who was in the company of her unidentified police officer boyfriend at a bar at Ha-Shishila Village on Christmas Day.
An irate Mr Leoma is said to have confronted Ms Makhethe, accusing her of double crossing him with the police officer.
The police officer then intervened in an attempt to protect the woman prompting Mr Leoma to floor him with a heavy punch.
Other revellers allegedly started assaulting the police officer who sustained serious injuries and was taken to ‘Mamohau Hospital.
Mr Leoma was then arrested the following day but was forcibly released by fellow villagers who had besieged the police post demanding his release.
In an apparent revenge mission, armed police officers raided the Ha-Shishila Village in Butha-Buthe on 27 December 2018 and allegedly summoned all the village men to a nearby valley where they were allegedly tortured. The torture claimed the life of Poshoane Moloi, who was announced dead on arrival at ‘Mamohau Hospital in the Leribe District while scores of other villagers sustained injuries, according those who narrated their ordeal.
Some of the villagers told the Lesotho Times that they had fled the village for fear of enduring more beatings from the police.
Community Councillor, Kamo Molefi, said the Kao community condemned the police for going on a revenge mission and torturing innocent people without any effort to find out the exact people involved in assaulting the police officer.
“The people are not happy that they have been made to pay for a crime they did not commit. They are arguing that the police should have first found out who beat their fellow officer without torturing everybody,” Mr Molefi said.
The Kao community is not new to clashes with the police after a person was killed while two others were seriously injured when the police opened fire into demonstrating crowds at the Kao mine premises. The villagers were demonstrating the alleged “unfulfilled promises” of development by the mine and unfair dismissal of their fellow villager who worked at the mine.
Compol Molibeli confirmed he and the minister had been called by the portfolio committee on law and public safety cluster to brief them on the report they got from the police about how the incident had unfolded.
“The committee wanted a brief of the report we got from the incident prior to today’s (Thursday) meeting with the Kao community,” Compol Molibeli said.
“They (the committee) wanted to have the police side of story before they could listen to the Kao community narrate its side,” Compol Molibeli added.
Compol Molibeli said he had informed the committee that he had already assembled a team to launch an investigation into the incident.
“The outcome of the investigation will inform the direction we will then have to take,” Compol Molibeli said.