FOR the umpteenth time, Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli is facing a massive damages claim for “wrongful and malicious arrest”.
This time, the litigant is well-known radio personality, Hlao Rampaleng, who is seeking M1 million in damages from the police boss.
Commissioner Molibeli and Attorney General Rapelang Motsieloa are the first and second respondents respectively in the application.
In his High Court papers filed this week, Mr Rampaleng says on 30 July this year, he was arrested at gunpoint by four members of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) along Kingsway Street in Maseru.
The four officers used vulgar and violent language against him, he claims. He says he was subsequently asked to pay a traffic spot fine. He however, does not say if he had been driving. Nor does he state the offence he is alleged to have committed at the time of his arrest.
Referring to himself in the third person in his application, he says, “Rampaleng was escorted handcuffed on a busy Kingsway Street to the Police Headquarters in full public glare. While on the way, he repeatedly pleaded with the police officers to loosen the handcuffs as they were hurting his hands but he was ignored.”
Mr Rampaleng says that he was humiliated all the way to the Police Headquarters. This damaged his reputation as he is a respected radio presenter, he argues.
“The plaintiff is a well-known and respected radio presenter at one of the Lesotho’s top radio stations, MoAfrika FM. The humiliation he experienced has damaged his reputation in the eyes of the public due to the manner he was escorted along the busy streets all the way to the Police Headquarters in tight handcuffs in broad daylight.”
“The plaintiff was issued with a traffic spot fine and released.” Mr Rampaleng does not state how much he was made to pay before his release.
He says he suffered pain as a result of the “wrongful arrest” and ill-treatment by the officers. He says he had to seek medical treatment as a result.
He therefore wants the court to award him damages which are broken down as follows: M500 000 for wrongful and malicious arrest, M250 000 for contumelia, M250 000.00 for pain and suffering, and a further M40 for medical expenses.
He argues that the officers were acting within the scope and the course of their duties under Commissioner Molibeli.
“The Police Commissioner and the Crown are vicariously liable for wrongful and unlawful conducts of the said police officers. In the aforementioned premises, the defendants are liable to pay the damages to Rampaleng.
“However, despite demand for compensation, the defendants have defaulted such payment or any part thereof to plaintiff up to date,” Mr Rampaleng states in his court papers.
Rampaleng’s damages claim is merely the latest in the ever growing list of lawsuits against Commissioner Molibeli due to his failure to tackle the scourge of police brutality.
In its latest edition, the Sunday Express quotes an Amnesty International report which states that the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) is facing a staggering 58 lawsuits over acts of brutality against civilians since 2018.
According to the report, the lawsuits which are being pursued against the police are for “murder, assault, torture and death of civilians in police custody”.
One of these is an M4 million lawsuit filed last month by the family of the slain National University of Lesotho (NUL) student, Kopano Makutoane. Kopano was gunned down by Roma Police officers during the 16 June 2022 student protests over the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS)’s decision to cut their monthly stipends by half. Following his gruesome murder, the police had promised to investigate the incident and bring the culprits to book. To date, no one has been charged over Kopano’s death. Kopano’s father, Lepekola Makutoane, has since filed the whooping damages claim against Commissioner Molibeli for his murder. In his High Court papers, Mr Makutoane indicates that he has been forced to sue after his efforts to get compensation were rebuffed by the police boss.
Commissioner Molibeli is still in the job despite widespread local and international condemnation of police brutality. Outgoing Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro had in June this year indicted his intention to dismiss Commissioner Molibeli over his failure to tackle police brutality and other issues within the force. However, the outgoing prime minister has seemingly somersaulted and inexplicably failed to show him the exit door despite a Constitutional Court ruling last month which cleared the way for his ouster.
In its report, Amnesty says Commissioner Molibeli had even admitted at a July 2022 meeting that there were indeed cases of torture and other human rights violations by the police.
“Since 2017, Lesotho has seen a number of human rights violations, including excessive and disproportionate use of force by the security forces. There have also been reports of unlawful killings, torture and other ill-treatment of suspected perpetrators of crime by members of the security forces, including the Lesotho Mounted Police Service and the Lesotho Defence Force,” Amnesty states in its report.
The human rights body’s Director for East and Southern Africa, Muleya Mwananyanda, has called on the incoming Sam Matekane-led government to “address unresolved cases of police brutality, torture and unlawful killings and ensure accountability for these human rights crimes”.