. . . ‘I have no illusions about the challenges’
By Keiso Mohloboli
Khothatso Tšooana, recently assumed the reins of power at the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) after his January 2014 appointment as the Commissioner of Police by King Letsie 111. At 36, he is probably one of the youngest police commissioners in the world but he seemingly commands the pedigree to shepherd the Kingdom’s police force into the future. His arrival as police commissioner was nevertheless a baptism of fire as a group of unknown bandits bombed his house in an apparent attempt to ensure he did not live to assume his new role at the apex of the LMPS. Lesotho Times caught up with Tšooana for a detailed interview on his plans for the LMPS and for update on the progress of investigations on those who bombed his house and that of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s partner, Liabiloe Ramoholi.
LT: Who exactly is Khothatso Tšooana?
Tšooana: I am 36 years old. I was born on February 26 1978. I come from Mafiteng and stay in Ha Abia.
Very briefly, I joined the LMPS in 2006. In 2007 I was deployed at Thaba-Tseka until January 2008 when I was transferred to the Police Training College. I was subsequently attached to the Child and Gender Protection Unit at Thamae Police Post in 2009. In 2010 I was transferred to Maseru traffic after promotion to the rank of Inspector.
In 2011 I was promoted to the rank of Senior Inspector and was transferred to the LMPS’s procurement unit at the police headquarters (HQ). After that, I was appointed to become deputy commissioner (strategic management and support services) around June 2013. On January 16 2014, I was appointed to the position of Commissioner of Police.
LT: What are your educational qualifications?
Tšooana: I hold a Bachelor of Philosophy degree from Pontifical Urbanioan University in Italy, a BA Honours degree from the National University of Lesotho (NUL) and a Masters in Philosophy from NUL. I also have a certificate in theology from the St Augustine’s Seminary in Roma.
LT: You are pretty educated but yours is still a typical story of meteoric rise to power. What do you attribute your success to?
Tšooana: I am a hardworking person. I do work assigned to me by my superiors diligently. I have no disciplinary record in the police service. Discipline is important in the police service. You cannot be appointed without recommendation by your superiors who must attest to your discipline. Even my previous appointment as deputy commissioner was recommended by Kizito Mhlakaza (the former police commissioner). Now I was recommended by Prime Minister Thom Thabane to King Letsie III, who appoints the police commissioner.
LT: But there seems to have been some serious discord over your appointment with some of your colleagues grumbling that you were appointed ahead of more experienced seniors. Is the LMPS thus united behind you?
Tšooana: Everyone in the service is behind me. We have a Commissioner’s Advisory board, which represents the top management of the LMPS. It comprises of the commissioner, deputy commissioners and assistant commissioners of police. It is constituted in terms of the Police Act and is responsible for advising me. The board is behind me 100 percent. We have no factions in the LMPS.
LT: So, unlike other segments of the security cluster like the army that have been dominating the news headlines over divisions within their ranks, you insist that the police force is united?
Tšooana: Definitely. I have full command of the police.
LT: What is your vision for the LMPS?
Tšooana: I want to see the LMPS being one of the most relevant organisations in terms of its responsiveness to its challenges. For instance, we have increasing incidents of cybercrime.
I want police to be ahead of the criminals and know everything about the technology used in cyber crime. For the police to be effective in responding to crime, they must always be ahead of the criminals in terms of knowledge of the activities and methods of criminals.
The LMPS must also be part of the global village in terms of policing and work with Interpol and actively participate in international police fora. We currently have no representation in Interpol at the highest level. I will remedy that. The LMPS must be responsive to national and international needs for policing. We must be the best police service in the world. We need to address the issue of training and capacity-building so that our cadres are best equipped to respond to any challenges.
I am currently working on a strategic plan and annual policing plan to improve our overall performance. The vision will endeavour to address challenges that remain unresolved.
LT: One of those challenges obviously seems to be the poor remuneration of your officers which seems to be their perennial complaint?
Tšooana: We have proposed a new salary structure for the police service. The Police Act nevertheless needs to be changed first to take into account new realities governing the police service.
Previously, we were located under the Ministry of Home Affairs. We are now under the Ministry of Police in the Prime Minister’s office, and therefore police remuneration and welfare in general will be addressed and coordinated at that office.
The new structure will also have new ranks that will improve the supervision of the police. There will also be a shift in the remuneration structures. The new salary structure will address all that and improve morale and therefore service delivery. It will address all discrepancies.
LT: The LMPS also appears to be consistently hamstrung by shortage of crime fighting resources?
Tšooana: Yes, we do struggle with resources but we strive to improve subject to the availability of the finances. We will buy new cars.
In fact, we are waiting for the delivery of 12 new twin cabs, among others. We have budgeted for that for the next financial year.
In terms of infrastructure, we will have a new police headquarters under construction. We will have such new district offices in five districts. Construction has started at Mafeteng, Leribe and Mohale’s Hoek and the issue of police uniform is being addressed. We are done with the tendering processes and are now awaiting the delivery of the uniform.
Even though it will take time, things are happening. We have introduced a new planning and research department which we did not have before.
LT: Your arrival as Police Commissioner can simply be described as a baptism of fire. Your home was attacked by unknown assailants barely a week after you took office. How has that affected you?
Tšooana: It obviously affected my family members. They were traumatised by the experience. I have a boy of only five years of age. One day the door was banged. He was shaken thinking the bomb had come again. It was tough. It happened a week after my appointment.
There were no signs of any impending threats. I did not expect it. A team was formed here to investigate. Investigations are continuing. We enlisted South Africa’s forensic service experts for help.
Progress in the investigations is good. We are still waiting the final report so that the proper legal steps can be taken against the perpetrators.
LT: How has this whole incident affected you professionally?
Tšooana: I am performing my duties diligently. I attended two meetings in Rwanda and Algeria after the incident. I have no illusions about the challenges.
I am well aware that this position holds challenges. I confront these challenges and rise to the occasion as the nation rightly expects of me. So there will always be challenges.
LT: One of the key issues you have inherited is that of Lehlohonolo Scott, who is wanted here over his involvement in suspected double ritual murders.
Conflicting statements continue being made over the Scott issue. Is he indeed arrested and in police custody in South Africa awaiting deportation? Or is he in Lesotho already in jail here as some are suggesting?
Tšooana: We are still working hard to get Scott. I can assure the nation, however, that there is progress in tracing Scott. Very soon, we will nail him. I cannot tell you how but we will get him.
LT: What’s your last word to Basotho in your new role as police commissioner?
Tšooana: I am committed to providing safety and security to all Basotho and everyone who visits us here. I will also work in partnership with other stakeholders in the security cluster, that is, the army, the national security service, the correctional services, and communities in ensuring peace and safety in this nation.
Prevention of crime is a top priority for me. It’s better to be pro-active in preventing crime rather than waiting for its commission and then responding. We are also working with other regional bodies in doing our work.
We are members of Interpol and the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Organisation (SARPCO) under Sadc. We also have an obligation to be loyal to our masters; that is the government of the day.
We are also part of the African Union. Lesotho is going to take the chairmanship of the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, therefore, LMPS is ready to host the Sadc region.
In addition, we are also going to host the African standby force exercise code-named “Amani Africa II” and LMPS is a major stakeholder in the exercise.