Tšooana faces graft probe

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COMMISSIONER of Police Khothatso Tšooana.
COMMISSIONER of Police Khothatso Tšooana.

Keiso Mohloboli

COMMISSIONER Khothatso Tšooana faces an unceremonious exit from the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) after sources told the Lesotho Times this week that he is being investigated for possible corruption.
According to sources privy to the case, the commissioner is being accused of promoting undeserving officers in exchange for money and loyalty, as well as getting more than the stipulated allowances when he was on leave-of-absence in Algeria and South Africa from 21 November 2014 to 2 April 2015.
Commissioner Tšooana was sent on special leave alongside Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao, and his predecessor Lt Gen Tlali Kamoli, in line with the Maseru Security Accord signed on 23 October 2014 under the auspices of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The Accord sought to ensure peaceful elections on 28 February 2015 after persistent squabbling between the three security heavyweights in the run-up to the poll, was threatening to plunge Lesotho into a civil war.
Lt Gen Kamoli returned home on 29 March while Commissioner Tšooana and Lt Gen Mahao came back on 2 April. However, none of the trio has resumed duty, with Commissioner Tšooana and Lt Gen Mahao telling the Lesotho Times that they had been verbally informed that they should continue with their special leave “until further notice”.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Keketso Monaheng has since been appointed Acting Police Commissioner following his return last week from a one-year sabbatical he was forced to take due to the “many leave days” he had accumulated.
According to the sources, Commissioner Tšooana is accused of taking advantage of the new police structure by “selling” some of the new ranks hence the corruption charge. On the issue of allowances, the sources told the Lesotho Times that the commissioner is being accused of getting more than his two exiled colleagues. The sources further said government was determined to get rid of Commissioner Tšooana “by any means possible” but was not prepared to pension him off because of the huge sums involved, hence the investigation which is hoped to find him guilty, which would then justify his dismissal.
However, in an exclusive interview with the Lesotho Times this week, Commissioner Tšooana said he had not been “officially” told that he was being investigated but only heard about it through “rumour”.
Commissioner Tšooana — who assumed the LMPS top post in January 2014 under the Thomas Thabane-led government which relinquished power after failing to win the required outright majority seats in the 28 February snap elections — also said he did not know when he would be resuming duty and was hoping to meet “the relevant authorities” regarding the issue.
The police chief also said he was becoming increasingly frustrated by the extended leave and not being informed of what was happening in the LMPS since he was still the commissioner.
Commissioner Tšooana, who said he had only met newly-appointed Police Minister Monyane Moleleki once since his return from exile two weeks ago, also said he had not been officially told that DCP Monaheng had replaced DCP Holomo Molibeli as acting commissioner despite being head of the LMPS.
“First of all, I have not been officially informed that I am being investigated for anything; I have only heard about it through rumour, so I can’t comment on something that might not be true at all,” he said.
According to Commissioner Tšooana, Mr Moleleki, Ministry of Police Principal Secretary Refiloe Matekane, DCP Molibeli and other senior police officers were at the Police Headquarters Boardroom to receive him when he returned to Lesotho on 2 April 2015, and had hoped to resume his duties with immediate effect.
“I met Mr Moleleki, PS Matekane, Acting Commissioner of Police Molibeli and other senior officers at Police Headquarters; even DCP Monaheng was there but to this day, nobody has told me that he is now the Acting Commissioner. I only saw him on Lesotho Television on Friday last week introducing himself as the Acting Commissioner.
“Yet being on leave doesn’t take away my powers as Police Commissioner, and if such appointments were to be made, and also if there were any investigations against me, I was supposed to be officially informed.
“If the allegation that there is a team of detectives that has established to investigate me is true, I don’t have any problem about that; that team can go ahead and do its job. I am ready to be investigated anytime because I don’t have anything to hide.
“I am confident that I didn’t sell any promotions during the implementation of the new police rank structure and didn’t calculate or approve my allowances while I was in Algeria on leave-of-absence.
“Maybe the inquiry, if indeed it is going on or is about to begin, is a way to force me to resign from the LMPS, which unfortunately, I won’t do. The truth will triumph over lies, and I will not be intimidated by any investigation against me.
“If I am to leave the LMPS, I want it to be a fair separation. In fact, there are two options here — either I return to the LMPS as Commissioner or I am sent on early retirement, and paid accordingly. I will definitely refuse to be redeployed to another post. If the authorities have decided that I should leave, I will go but on the terms that I have said, which means compensation. I want to live in peace in my homeland, and if I am to leave the LMPS, I also want to do so peacefully.”
Asked what his leave-of-absence had indicated regarding when he should be back in office, Commissioner Tšooana said it had been a “gentleman’s agreement” which was not clear on the date of return both to Lesotho and work.
“When I met Mr Moleleki on my return, he said I should continue with the leave.
“He said this verbally, and insisted that I should only come back to the office after I have been told to do so. Mr Moleleki also told me that the Police Act of 1998 was clear that my appointment was the responsibility of the Prime Minister, but to this day, I have never met the new premier, (Democratic Congress leader Pakalitha Mosisili, who was inaugurated on 17 March 2015).
“Because I can’t continue waiting forever to be called back to office, I am considering approaching the relevant authorities about the issue. Now I want something in writing indicating that I am on special leave and why, because verbal agreements can be broken anytime.
“The other issue is that according to the Maseru Security Accord, our leave-of-absence indicated that we were supposed to be outside the country, but we have been back since 2 April and yet I don’t even know when I will be back at work, or what exactly is going on in the LMPS. SADC which brokered the Accord that sent us away has also not said anything about the issue. The other thing is there is nothing like leave-of-absence in the Police Act, and I only agreed to go on one to ensure peace prevailed in my country because we all know what was happening at the time. That is the only reason why I decided to leave the country — for the peace of my country although I knew that I had done nothing wrong to warrant that exile,” Commissioner Tšooana said.
Asked if he regretted agreeing to go on the special leave, Commissioner Tšooana said: “No; I have no regrets at all.
“This was an agreement made in good faith, and because SADC was involved, as well as other relevant stakeholders, I decided to go and never thought there could be any complications upon my return. I accepted to go because it was for the sake of Lesotho’s peace and stability, as well my fellow police officers,” he said.
Commissioner Tšooana said he did not have any problem working with the new government because he was a professional. He was elevated to Commissioner by the Thabane-led government, which collapsed last year due to infighting by the leadership.
“As a professional police officer, I am ready to serve the new government with loyalty,” he said.
On how he would relate to Mr Moleleki who has been the subject of police corruption investigations over recent years, Commissioner Tšooana said there were no “personal issues” between him and the DC deputy leader — and that he would have no problems working with the new minister.
“Despite Mr Moleleki’s court cases, I am ready to work with him and execute my duties as Police Commissioner,” he added.
Asked to comment on Mr Monaheng’s statement to senior police officers on Friday last week, in which he said the LMPS had allowed itself to be manipulated by politicians to the detriment of service-delivery, Commissioner Tšooana said the announcement was an insult to police officers.
“Associating the police with party politics was an insult, and the fact that foreign police had to provide security in Lesotho during the elections was confirmation that there was a huge problem in this country.
“Maybe there is some personal agenda that he wants to push; the police were raided and attacked by the army (on 30 August 2014). We even lost Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko during this attack and that had nothing to do with the police engaging themselves in politics because they were ambushed on duty, in their police stations and not at political rallies,” he said.
On his part, Mr Monaheng on Tuesday told the Lesotho Times that he did not know of any police investigations against Commissioner Tšooana.
“It is my first time to hear that there is an investigation against Commissioner Tšooana. I am only acting in his position and don’t know anything about it. Even if there was such an investigation, it would be an administrative issue that I would not even know about,” Mr Monaheng said.
He refuted allegations that he was angry with Commissioner Tšooana for sending him on special leave, hence the probe.
“I am not angry and have never said I am angry about it. I am a principled man of responsibilities and can’t be proud of arresting my own boss. He is still a boss here and I am his junior.”
Meanwhile, repeated attempts to get Mr Moleleki’s comment were fruitless.

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