Suspect tortured to death by police

  • as incidents of police brutality escalate

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

ONE person was allegedly tortured to death by police in Mafeteng while three other cases of police brutality were reported in different parts of the country over the weekend.

The latest developments show that instead of declining, brutality against civilians is actually increasing despite government efforts to end the scourge.

Last month, Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu announced that the government had tasked ministers ‘Mamoipone Senauoane (Police and Public Safety) and Prince Maliehe (Defence and National Security) to investigate the allegations of police brutality.  Their findings would determine if a broader commission of inquiry was necessary.

But this has not deterred rogue police officers from continuing their siege of terror against civilians.

Police spokesperson, Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli, confirmed a suspect had been allegedly tortured to death by police in Mafeteng over the weekend.

He, however, said the details surrounding the incident were still sketchy and promised to give a comprehensive interview on the issue once he had full information.

The Mafeteng incident is not the only one. Three other cases of police brutality were reported in other parts of the country.

One such incident was captured on video by a Butha-Buthe woman.

In the video that has since gone viral, a man who had been arrested for allegedly violating traffic regulations is seen in handcuffs and being assaulted by police officers.

The man can be seen writhing in pain on the ground while a police officer stands over him.

A woman is heard shouting at the police and beseeching them to stop torturing the suspect.

“This is not right,” the woman shouts, adding, “you cannot continue doing this to people. I am going to report this”.

The police appear to ignore the victim’s pain and the woman’s appeal to stop torturing the suspect.

Meanwhile, a Quthing man, Seabata Mohlabula, has said he is bedridden in hospital after he was tortured by police officers to force him to confess to stealing money.

Mr Mohlabula this week told a local radio station that he and his friend were summoned to the Quthing police post and threatened with death if they did not “cooperate with the police”.

He said they were asked about money that had been stolen from some people they did not know.

“We were asked about M2000 which had been stolen from some people we did not even know. We were initially interrogated together and then separately in different rooms. My friend was the first to be taken into a room and when he came out limping, I could tell that he had been tortured,” Mr Mohlabula said.

He said when his turn came, he was forced to strip naked and repeatedly beaten up. He said due to the intense pain, he ended up confessing to a crime he did not commit and promised to “pay back” the money.

“I was severely tortured. I was beaten with a hammer on the soles of my feet. After confessing, I was told to dress up and leave. I could hardly walk and I had to hire a private car to take me to hospital,” he said.

In an unrelated incident, Thabang Molete of Semonkong, also alleged that he was severely tortured by police officers after he had gone to file a report that he had been assaulted by a fellow villager.

“A fellow villager had assaulted me and set his dogs on me as I passed by his animal post.

“I went to report the assault to the police and get a medical form to enable me to seek medical attention.  But instead of getting any assistance, I was again beaten up by the police who accused me of stealing animals,” Mr Molete said.

The four cases are the latest in the long line of reports of brutality against civilians which have blighted the tenure of Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli.

Last July, 31-year-old Kabelo Ratia of Nazareth, Maseru was tortured by police to the point where he soiled himself. He was then forced to eat his own faeces.

Attorney General, Advocate Haae Phoofolo, subsequently condemned the incident saying the government was “against the inhumane and degrading treatment which some of the suspects are subjected to while being investigated by police”.

Early this year, then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane unsuccessfully tried to fire Commissioner Molibeli for allegedly failing to discipline officers accused of brutality against citizens.

There have been calls by the Lesotho Mounted Police Service Staff Association (LEPOSA) for Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro to suspend Commissioner Molibeli to facilitate investigations into a plethora of issues including his alleged failure to deal with rogue police officers who engage in acts of brutality against ordinary citizens yet they fail to arrest the real criminals perpetrating mayhem and murder.  Some of the criminals like Lebohang Nkuebe, who killed a woman and attempted to murder that woman’s grandchild, are well known, but roaming the streets freely.  In fact, the only contribution by the LMPS was an effort by one of its officers, Kubutu Kubutu, who rushed to help the criminal Nkuebe by having him released on bail after his arrest and confession to the crime. Kubutu then trashed the docket and did not even bother to visit the crime scene. No action was taken against Kubutu despite the matter being brought to Commissioner Molibeli’s attention repeated times.

This week LEPOSA condemned police brutality on civilians saying that no amount of job stress and pressure justified the ill-treatment of ordinary people.

“We appreciate that both the command and control of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) is vested in the commissioner of police and no one else,” LEPOSA said in a statement.

“The administration of our noble association is however, deeply concerned with the rife public outcry and accusations arising from the media… and the international community of the rampancy of police brutality.

“We believe that policing in a democratic Lesotho is premised on the preservation of human rights and upholding the rule of law. We condemn in possible strongest terms these barbaric acts meted out to ordinary Basotho citizens. “Ha ba se ke ba fella matsohong a rona beng baka” (may they not perish in our hands.”

“We plead with all officers, members and non-members of LEPOSA to refrain from these illegal acts. We understand the stress and pressure of the job but it is our duty to rise above the circumstances,” LEPOSA said.

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