Police promotions trigger uproar

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. . . as parties claim its part of outgoing govt’s strategy to ‘rule from the grave’

’Marafaele Mohloboli

PARTIES in the incoming governing coalition have questioned the timing of promotions for 32 police officers, saying they were part of a strategy by the outgoing regime to retain control after losing power.

The parties say the promotions, which were announced on Sunday, were in keeping with outgoing Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s deployment of allies and family members in strategic areas of the government so that he could “rule from the grave”, referring to the premier remaining in control of the government even after leaving office.

However, Police Commissioner Molahlehi Letsoepa has rebuffed the allegations, saying the promotions were not politically-motivated but based on merit.

The officers were promoted to the rank of senior assistant commissioner (one), two assistant commissioners, nine senior superintendents, 16 superintendents and four senior inspectors.

The promotions were announced in a memo addressed to various police departments and issued on 4 June 2017, a day after the National Assembly elections.

The polls were held after the collapse of Dr Mosisili’s outgoing government through a 1 March 2017 no-confidence vote in the National Assembly.

The elections outcome resulted in a hung parliament, with former premier and All Basotho Convention leader Thomas Thabane yesterday forming a coalition government with the Alliance of Democrats (AD), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho.

Titled “Announcement of Senior Officers Promotions”, part of the memo reads: “The following promotions to the rank of Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Senior Superintendent, Superintendent and Senior Inspector herewith published for information of all ranks.”

Responding to the development, BNP Youth League President ’Machere Seutloali said the timing of the promotions was “suspicious” given that Dr Mosisili’s administration became a caretaker government after the dissolution of parliament on 6 March 2017.

“It is very surprising that the caretaker government decided to effect such promotions at such a critical time,” she said.

“It makes us wonder if there was a hidden reason for such a rushed decision. The promotions would still have been questionable even if they were made during the election campaign.”

Ms Seutloali also stated that the promotions sullied the image of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS), since they gave the impression to Basotho that appointments were influenced by political considerations.

“Basotho may end up losing respect for the LMPS, because they won’t be able to differentiate between police officers who were promoted based on merit and those appointed on the basis of political affiliation. “One may end up thinking that they were promoted to serve the agenda of the outgoing government by throwing spanners in the incoming administration,” she added.

Echoing the sentiment, AD Youth League president Thuso Litjobo said members of the outgoing government had used the security sector to do their bidding when in power or in the opposition.

“This is a government that was using security agencies to its advantage and to drive its own political agendas,” he said.

“We just don’t understand why the promotions were made so hastily. We will definitely get to the bottom of this issue.”

Mr Litjobo said Commissioner Letsoepa’s protestations that the promotions were not partisan were debunked by the fact that they were made during the elections period.

“Ntate Letsoepa knows the political affiliations of the officers he promoted in as much as we know their political affiliations.

“He is only pretending not to know because he is trying to protect himself. The very fact that the promotions were effected during the election period shows that they were politically-motivated and in trying to protect himself, he didn’t sign the memo himself.”

For his part, Commissioner Letsoepa told the Lesotho Times the promotions were in line with LMPS regulations.

“Even though the memo was dated 4 June 2017, the promotions were made on 1 June 2017,” he said.

“They were made by the Board of Promotions which comprises me as the chairman, one member delegated by the Minister of Police and one by the Minister of Public Service.

“I want to firmly reiterate that the promotions were not in any way politically-motivated because I don’t know the political affiliation of the promoted officers.”

Commissioner Letsoepa said the 32 officers satisfied the Board of Promotions’ criteria, adding that the LMPS had the financial wherewithal to pay their increased remuneration.

“We have satisfied ourselves as the Board that these people met the criteria for promotion. We have also considered the financial implications of the promotions and we are sure they will be catered for.

“If there is one thing I will not compromise on or negotiate is discipline among the police officers. They were promoted because of their professionalism, discipline and loyalty to the management of the institution. They are people who are willing to implement the reforms and depoliticise this institution.”

Dr Mosisili has been accused of deliberately placing relatives in strategic areas of the government to retain control even after losing power.

His son, Rethabile, was recently appointed to the influential and plum post of Lesotho Highlands Water Commission chief delegate.

The appointment the multi-billion maloti project ignited controversy because the younger Mosisili is a lawyer while the previous officeholders were Physics Professor Lebohang Moleko and Engineer Charles Putsoane.

The LHWC is the largest infrastructure partnership between the Lesotho and South African governments, and consists of three delegates from each of the two nations. The commission is tasked with implementing the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) — a multiphase initiative comprising several dams and tunnels in Lesotho and South Africa.

It is currently tasked with overseeing the estimated M26 billion second phase of the LHWP aimed at alleviating South Africa’s acute fresh water shortages.

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