Tšooana booted out of police



Police Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana
Police Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana

…PM Mosisili calls outgoing police commissioner ‘a politician in denial’ and ‘wolf in sheep’s skin’.

Keiso Mohloboli

Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana (38) has been sent on forced retirement after government deemed him unfit to continue holding office, the Lesotho Times can reveal.

Mr Tšooana’s fate has been hanging in the balance since Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili issued him a seven-day ultimatum on 3 June this year to “show cause” why he should not be sent on early retirement for incompetence.

Although the embattled police chief had responded to the ultimatum and insisted he was being harshly judged, Acting Government Secretary Emmanuel Lesoma has informed Mr Tšooana’s his defence was not good enough to change the  prime minister’s scathing assessment of his professional conduct.

According to Mr Lesoma’s letter dated 14 August 2015 which Mr Tšooana was handed on Monday this week, the premier was now proceeding to advice King Letsie III to retire him from the police.

The letter, headlined ‘ Intended retirement from office of Commissioner of Police’ partly reads: “I acknowledge receipt of your time-barred letter of representations dated 8 June 2015. The letter is time-barred, hopelessly so, because you served it, and was received by my office only on 15 June 2015, being five days late after the time within which you were bound to have your representations. You were served with the letter to show cause, and received the same, on 3 June 2015, in terms of which you were bound to have made your representations within seven days of the receipt of the same but you failed to do so.

“…Subject to all the aforegoing, I write to inform you that I have been directed by the Right Honourable the Prime Minister to write and inform you that after careful consideration and reflection, your representations, even time-barred as they are, have in fact confirmed his belief that it cannot be in the interests of Lesotho, in particular, the Police Service, for you to continue in office as Commissioner of Police.

“He considers that your representations have added even more urgency for him to tender a humble advice to His Majesty the King to retire you from office as Commissioner of Police, in the interests of efficiency and or effectiveness of the institution”.

Dr Mosisili accuses Mr Tšooana of insolence in his response to the ultimatum.

Mr Lesoma’s letter continues: “He finds it very interesting, but significant, that you go all out to lambast him on his alleged failures as Prime Minister in the last 14 years. He is mindful of the fact that this is the common refrain and political tactic of his detractors  and opposition political parties. He says that undoubtedly your representations depict you as if you are the mouthpiece and spokesperson of such detractors, especially opposition political parties.

“He is mindful of the fact that he has, on numerous occasions, heard the same criticism made by supporters and members of the main opposition political party, the All Basotho Convention (ABC). He observes the fact such political criticism is also adopted by yourself could possibly surprise other people, but not him; and for this, you may wish to remind yourself of the views of the Right Honourable the Prime Minister, as succinctly set out in my said letter of 3 June 2015.

“…The Right Honourable the Prime Minister is astounded by your proposition, effectively that the opposition, which includes the official opposition in Parliament, has no role to play in the government of the country; thus, necessarily suggesting that the opposition has no business to be monitoring the performance of the Executive and its institutions. That you seriously believe in that notion, he finds it incredible.

“Contrary to your assertion, he observes that it is the historic mission of the official opposition in Parliament to monitor the performance of the Executive and its institutions, including the Police Service. It is not for fun that the official opposition is ‘Government in waiting’. That constitutes the raison d’e tre for the existence of the opposition, in all constitutional democracies, which Lesotho is. You surely would have known that in the last two years of your leadership of the Police Service, the Right Honourable the Prime Minister was then in the official opposition, and the political party he led, the Democratic Congress (DC) was the single largest party in Parliament. It is obvious that in that capacity he had done his assignment. You cannot properly falter him for monitoring the Executive at the time”.

Dr Mosisili also accuses Mr Tšooana of being in “denial” regarding his active participation in politics.

“The Prime Minister is convinced that you are in denial of yourself as truly an active politician. He says the whole tenor of your representations says it all. He tells the story of a wolf in a sheep’s skin; and drawing from the analogy, contends that your representations reveal your true character as an active politician, yet masquerading under a police uniform.

“He says the veil has been removed by the nature of your representations. He contends that they unmistakably lead to one conclusion only: that you are likely to be holding a brief for opposition political parties. He notes with interest how you unleash upon him political vitriol and rancour concerning his alleged failures as Prime Minister before”.

Dr Mosisili says it is a “shame and scandalous” to be harshly criticised about his political career by a public officer “who is supposed to be a model of discipline within an organisation such as the police service”.

The Acting GS adds: “For him, such political grandstanding and posturing as displayed by your representations, is understandable coming from his political peers and detractors in the ranks of opposition political parties, but certainly not from a public officer; least of all, one wearing a police uniform.

“In fact, he points out it is indeed the common refrain of the opposition to criticise his political record in pretty the same way you have adopted in your representations.

“On a lighter note, he finds the similarity amusing. If the similarity is a coincidence, he finds it strange. He says that though he is a believer in coincidences, truly he does not believe that this one is a coincidence. Instead, he sees it as a mirror of your true self”.

Dr Mosisili further accuses Mr Tšooana of “being silent” and not denying that during his tenure, which began in January 2014,  police officers took part in political activities.

The premier is also concerned about Mr Tšooana’s recklessness over the way  Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing was served with summons at the Moshoeshoe I International Airport last year. The summons related to charges of suspected corruption by the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader.

According to Dr Mosisili, the police should have been “sensitive” and devised other means of serving the summons “as opposed to doing it at the airport in the glare of media publicity and presence of the international community”.

Dr Mosisili pokes fun at Mr Tšooana’s claims of rejuvenating the LMPS during his tenure.

“You allude to what you call your successes of laying out a plan to improve old buildings, and erecting new ones, uniform and boots, and state of fleet of police vehicles. The Prime Minister cannot believe the extent of your dishonesty in this regard by failing to acknowledge while you may have assumed office at the point of implementation of certain projects, the fact of the matter is pretty much ground, in terms of prior planning, had already been covered by your predecessors who already had vision to improve the working conditions of the police.”

Dr Mosisili then seals Mr Tšooana’s fate in no uncertain words.

“After having carefully studied, scrutinised and pondered over your voluminous and wide-ranging representations, it is the serous belief and consideration of the  Prime Minister that indeed, the representations have not advanced your case an iota towards persuading him to think otherwise than proceed in the manner he indicated to you through my letter of 3 June 2015.

“The more he goes through your representations, the more he becomes convinced that you simply cannot hold any bright future for the good name, reputation and image of the Police Service of Lesotho. He is satisfied that you were given sufficient opportunity in the matter to make your own representations but failed to comply in time. Nevertheless, notwithstanding your failure to respond on time, he decided, without prejudice anyway, to entertain your time-barred representations.

“He studied and scrutinised them and applied his mind thereto, but finally was not convinced to the contrary of his intentions to proceed to have you retired from office as indicated to you in my letter of 3 June 2015.

“It is in all the circumstances above that I am directed by the Right Honourable the Prime Minister to inform you that pursuant to Section 5 (3) of the Police Service Act No.7 of 1998, he will accordingly proceed to tender a humble advice to His Majesty King to require you to retire from office of the Commissioner of Police, in the interests of efficiency and or effectiveness of the Police Service”.

Asked on Monday if he had received Mr Lesoma’s letter, Mr Tšooana said: “I did today. I was shocked to receive that letter while I still have a case in the High Court about my future in the LMPS. That case is going to be heard on 21 August 2015, which is this Friday.

“I won’t give too many details about this matter but you must know that I will follow the legal route until everything is dusted and settled.

“Again, when the letter was delivered, some senior police officers went to my house in Ha Abia to let me know that the government vehicle allocated to me and my police security would be taken away with immediate effect. I am being told of an intended retirement and at the same time, being denied the benefits of my office.”

Mr Tšooana joined the police in 2006 as a constable and rose through the ranks to become the head of the LMPS last year. However, his promotion to Commissioner divided the LMPS with some within the service, feeling he did not have the necessary experience for the post. There were also allegations within the police that his promotion was politically motivated because he was favoured by ABC leader and then premier, Thomas Thabane.

Mr Tšooana has previously denied these claims, insisting his elevation was merit-based.

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