Tšooana hits back at Mosisili

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Embattled Commissioner says the police were no better when the premier was defence, police and national security minister  

Former Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana
Former Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana

Keiso Mohloboli

Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana has come out guns blazing as he battles to remain at the helm of the security agency.

Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili on 3 June 2015 wrote to Mr Tšooana asking him to “show cause” why he should not continue with his intention to advice King Letsie III to send him on early retirement.

In the letter signed by Government Secretary Moahloli Mphaka, Dr Mosisili told Commissioner Tšooana that it was no longer in the national interest for him to remain at the helm of the LMPS and should consequently retire.

The Democratic Congress (DC) leader, who came to power as head of a seven-party government after the 26 February 2015 snap elections had resulted in a hung parliament, accuses Commissioner Tšooana of poor management of the LMPS hence the offer of early retirement.

Commissioner Tšooana had been given seven days to respond to the ultimatum and through a letter dated 8 June 2015, refutes the premier’s allegations and maintains he is an officer who is only guided by ethics of his chosen profession.

The Commissioner, who was sent on special leave in November 2014 at the height of a turf war between the Lesotho Defence Force and LMPS with the move aimed at restoring cordial relations between the two organisations, writes in response to Dr Mosisili’s accusations of incompetence and polarising the LMPS: “I have read the letter seeking to accord me an opportunity to make representations before a decision could be made regarding my intended retirement.

“I should however; point out that it is disheartening to observe from the onset that the Prime Minister seeks to give me an opportunity to make representations on the basis of monitoring he did while he was the official opposition.

“It would not be fair and reasonable to judge me from the point of view of an opposition, hence the observation that since I resumed office (in January 2014), police affairs have gone horribly wrong, is virtually wrongful and untenable.

“I have observed again, with respect, that my assessment is largely based on wrongful assumptions, perceptions and media reports. The assessment does not have, as its basis, my performance appraisals or empirical evidence in the form of crime statistics reports, etc. I mention with respect that it is purely without foundation and or baseless.

“The police, as an institution, is answerable to the government of the day not the opposition. With the greatest of respect, I am not privy to the standards used by the opposition to judge my performance and reach the conclusion that it would not be in the interests of the country for me to continue to hold office. I, however, hold a different view and will express strongly in the body of my letter in turn.”

Commissioner Tšooana continues: “I have attempted to answer the allegations meted out against me paragraph by paragraph, starting with issues pertaining to the so-called politicisation of the institution. May I point out at the outset, that it has been difficult, on my part, to respond issuably to most of the allegations levelled against me by the Prime Minister, inasmuch as most of such allegations have not been substantiated.

“I would, with utmost respect, have expected the Prime Minister to have placed before me tangible facts and or evidence (oral or documented) so that I could react properly to the same. It would thus be unfair for the Prime Minister to proceed to advice The King to retire me from the Police Service on the basis of such allegations.

“I should say it is unfortunate that the Prime Minister does not seem to have reliable information on the issue but relies on the matter of ‘public knowledge’ that some high-ranking members of the service had often declared their loyalty to a political party in its political pursuits, such as assisting it in its electoral campaigns.

“It would have been prudent to furnish the names of such members, the time and place where such pledges were made. I however, want to place it on record that I have never heard of such pledges and that remains a rumour. I note with a sense of shock that the Prime Minister points out that he has been receiving several reports and that he has no reason to doubt their veracity. Clearly, the Prime Minster has already made up his mind in this regard without first affording me an opportunity to react to the same. This then raises doubt whether any representations I make in this regard could influence him otherwise”.

The embattled LMPS boss also responds to accusations that the police issued summons to Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing at Moshoeshoe I International Airport last year to embarrass him.

According to the Commissioner, he was glad Dr Mosisili “seems to be on the same page with the police service that there is nothing wrong with the service of summons which is what is important.

“If I may add word to what has already been said by the Prime Minister, the police service, in execution of its mandate, observes the constitutional principle that all are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law.

“It is thus alarming that the Prime Minister then proceeds to conclude that the stratagem was to embarrass and humiliate the Deputy Prime Minister to the maximum impact possible to satisfy political whim. For the record, may I emphasise that the LMPS executes its lawful mandate without fear or favour, and knows no difference between a man in the street and government official, so long as it operates within the boundaries of the law.

“In any event, I can bet that suspicion of criminal activity will invariably embarrass anyone, the only relief being when they are exonerated before the courts of law”.

The Commissioner also denies being influenced to arrest current Police Minister Monyane Moleleki through a speech made by Dr Thabane at an ABC rally last year.

“In any event, what political leaders say in their political gatherings is the least of the concerns of the police service, as long as it does not border on criminality. All I know is Honourable Moleleki was apprehended per the order of the court issued by Magistrate ‘Makampong Mokhoro on 1 July 2013.

“May I bring to the attention of the PM that Hon Moleleki did challenge the issue pertaining to the legality or otherwise of his apprehension before the High Court and his case was dismissed, even by the Court of Appeal. I have thus been exonerated by the courts of law but if looked from the point of view of the Prime Minister while he was still in opposition, the Prime Minister is unlikely to be convinced otherwise”.

Commissioner Tšooana also rejected any blame for announcements made over local radio stations regarding Mr Moleleki’s bank accounts, which are the subject of an investigation by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences.

“It seems that the Prime Minister’s recollection is not right even on this issue. The pronouncement regarding the bank accounts was made by Masupha Masupha while he was still Police Spokesperson and the Commissioner of Police was Mr Kizito Mhlakaza at the time.

“But if looked from the point of view of the Prime Minister while he was still in opposition, I am worthy of blame even for things done by my predecessors. That goes to show the standard used to measure my performance; it is skewed and extremely biased.”

Commissioner Tšooana again denied polarising the LMPS.

“I deny sowing seeds of confusion as alleged but it would be prudent rather, to say that the seeds of confusion were sown by the action of appointing an Acting Commissioner to act in my position while I am not incapacitated and my office not vacant. That is a typical example of sowing confusion, instability and disharmony within the police service.

“I deny ever directing the police not to take instruction from Mr Keketso Monaheng (LMPS Acting Commissioner). My performance has got nothing to do with Mr Monaheng as he is my junior in service and has to take orders from me. It is not the other way round as the Prime Minister seems to perceive”.

He also denied responsibility for suspects dying while in police custody. Commissioner Tšooana argued suspects were dying in various police stations in the country even during the 14 years Dr Mosisili was Minister of Defence, Police and National Security “but did nothing about it”.

Dr Mosisili was Prime Minister as well as Defence, Police and National Security minister between 1998 and 2012. He quit the posts after his DC failed to garner the required majority seats in the 26 May 2012 parliamentary elections, and was replaced by Dr Thabane’s tripartite government.

Commissioner Tšooana then cites some of the people who died while in police custody during Dr Mosisili’s tenure : “On 17 April 2007, Liteboho Sekaleli was shot dead in Mohalalitoe by Pitso Ground police, Thato Mahlelehlele died in Lithoteng Police Station on 11 June 2009, Moitlhaisi Mohloming died in Thaba-Tseka Police Station on 26 May 2009, Sekete Moshoeshoe died in Berea on February 2009, Thuso Kaso died in police custody in Police Headquarters on 26 June 2010 and Matšeliso Thulo, daughter to former Commissioner of Prisons, was shot dead by police at the National University of Lesotho but the PM did not blame any of the deaths on the Police Commissioners at that time.”

He continued: “The following is a list of high-profile people, local and expatriates, who were shot and killed (assassinated) during the 14 years the Prime Minister was in power.  No arrest were made but the Prime Minister did not blame the Police for incompetence and dereliction of duty:  Ellen Samuella Jacobina Verwey – an American citizen who was shot dead on 24 November 2006 at Black Swan Guest House, Morena Bereng Sekhonyana, Maile Mosisili – 2002, Sello Machakela – 2012, Setsoto Ranthimo – 2007 and Thabiso Tšosane – 2015.

“I am disheartened to discover that my performance or lack thereof is based on media reports, speculations and biased perceptions spelled out in the body of the letter addressed when so many heinous and dreadful crimes were committed during the PM’s reign and no arrests made as intimated earlier. The standard used to measure my performance is indeed groundless and jaundiced”.

Commissioner Tšooana further notes that he should not be retired because within the short time he was at the helm of the LMPS, he managed to convince government to change the salary structure of the police, and also improve their working conditions, which he said was proof that he was good enough for the job.

“In 2014, new uniforms and boots were procured and the police are now well-clothed and have proper badges. New vehicles have been procured since 2014 and the police are now able to travel far and wide.

“Police stations like Thabana Morena and Matelile which did not have vehicles in the past now have fully serviced cars. Documents in the police service and police website in particular have reported that in 2014, there was significant reduction of murder. The police also managed to investigate white-collar crime. The investigations discovered that politicians and high-ranking officials in government have been implicated”.

Contacted on Tuesday, Mr Mphaka confirmed receiving Commissioner Tšooana’s letter but would not comment further.

On the other hand, Commissioner Tšooana acknowledged responding to the ultimatum, adding “my fate within the LMPS will be determined by the Prime Minister.”

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