Under-fire Molibeli hits back at Lebajoa

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Mohalenyane Phakela

POLICE Commissioner Holomo Molibeli says he was never against the promotion of Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Beleme Lebajoa, as has been alleged by the latter.

He has denied DCP Lebajoa’s claims that he created a parallel unit to investigate crime just to frustrate the Criminal Investigations Division (CID) which DCP Lebajoa heads.

He also argues that contrary to DCP Lebajoa’s claims, he (Molibeli), is vested with powers to transfer DCPs and other police officers to any department within the force. He makes these arguments in his replying affidavit filed in response to DCP Lebajoa’s High Court application to stop him (Molibeli) from transferring him from the CID to the police’s Finance and Infrastructure Development (FID). The FID is currently headed by DCP Paseka Mokete. The two would have swapped places with effect from 2 June 2022.

However, a day earlier, DCP Lebajoa’s lawyer, Rethabile Setlojoane, successfully petitioned the High Court to temporarily bar Commissioner Molibeli from transferring DCP Lebajoa until the court has made a final ruling on his application to permanently stop his transfer.

Commissioner Molibeli and Attorney General Rapelang Motsieloa are the first and second respondents respectively in DCP Lebajoa’s application.

In his court papers, DCP Lebajoa argues that only the Police and Public Safety Minister Lepota Sekola has the powers to transfer DCPs.

He accuses Commissioner Molibeli of usurping Mr Sekola’s powers to transfer him and also ignoring the latter’s decision that he (Lebajoa) should remain as head of CID.

DCP Mokete had previously headed the CID before he was moved to FID on 6 July 2021. He was replaced by DCP Lebajoa who had just been promoted from the rank of Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police by Mr Sekola.

DCP Mokete recently told the Lesotho Times that Commissioner Molibeli was redeploying him to the CID to “sort out” shoddy police work which had resulted in the acquittal of high-profile suspects.

Of particular concern to DCP Mokete is the swift and “shocking” acquittal of business mogul Tšeliso Nthane. Mr Nthane was in April this year tried and discharged in less than 72 hours without even being put to his defence despite that it was his gun used in killing his truck driver, Kopang Mohapi, on 10 January 2019.

This was a “straightforward case where the evidence connected him (Nthane) to the crime from the onset,” DCP Mokete says.

He said it was hard to fathom why the police and the prosecution had failed to hand over the ballistics report as part of the evidence against Mr Nthane when such a report had been prepared by the police. He vowed that one of his tasks on reassuming the CID reins would to be to get to the bottom of what actually happened with that ballistics report.

The top cop said he was also at pains to understand why murder-accused former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, and treason and murder-accused cabinet minister Selibe Mochoboroane had also been seemingly treated with ‘kid gloves’ by the judiciary in their respective cases.

This was in reference to the fact that both Messrs Thabane and Mochoboroane have not even been remanded in custody and asked to apply for bail as is the norm with such serious cases.

This is the sort of mess, DCP Mokete said Commissioner Molibeli has redeployed him back to the CID to fix.

However, in his court papers, DCP Lebajoa said the police boss was only redeploying out of personal animosity and nothing else.

In fact, Commissioner Molibeli had never liked his appointment to the CID by Mr Sekola in the first place, DCP Lebajoa states in his court papers.

However, Commissioner Molibeli denies DCP Lebajoa’s allegations in his answering affidavit.

Contrary to the DCP’s claims, Commissioner Molibeli argues that the Police Service Act empowers him to assign and transfer police officers under his command. The police minister is only empowered to appoint DCPs, not assign them duties, the police boss argues.

“I aver that in terms of section 6 of the Police Act, the Police Authority (Sekola) has the power to appoint the Deputy Commissioner of Police like he did to the applicant (Lebajoa),” Commissioner Molibeli argues.

“However, I have power in terms of the provisions of the Police Act to redeploy the applicant. I chose to redeploy him to the department of Finance and Infrastructure Development for the purpose of the administration of the said office and delivery of the police services. I further aver that the applicant was given the notice before redeployment. I therefore submit that the applicant is not going to suffer any prejudice because he had been redeployed from one office to another within the same building. And he is remaining with the same benefits of Deputy Commissioner of Police,” Commissioner Molibeli argues.

He also argues that it is not true that he usurped Mr Sekola’s powers as alleged by DCP Lebajoa.

“I aver that in terms of the Police Act, I am responsible for the administration of the LMPS. The Police Authority has its own appointing powers as it is provided in the Act. His (Sekola’s) powers are limited to appointing, not to redeployment or administration. When I redeployed the applicant, I was not reviewing his (Sekola’s) appointing function. I did what is prescribed by the law hence I submit that my conduct was not unlawful,” Commissioner Molibeli argues.

DCP Lebajoa alleges that the police chief’s dislike of him is so intense that the latter went as far interfering with his (Lebajoa’s) duties and also establishing a unit to do the very work that the CID was supposed to do. He also accuses his boss of dismantling a unit referred to as the Theft Detention and Counter Robbery Crime Unit (RCTS), which is under the CID, and transferring the 30 police officers who had been specifically assigned to that unit.

DCP Lebajoa has also argued that Commissioner Molibeli had assigned a junior officer, one Makoetlane to do work similar to that of the CID. The DCP further alleges that Makoetlane reports directly to Commissioner Molibeli.

The police boss has however, denied this.

“It is incorrect to say that I was dissatisfied with the applicant’s appointment as Deputy Commissioner of Police as I have never challenged his lawful appointment by the Minister of Police.

“I aver further that Mr Makoetlane is the officer in charge of Intelligence Services in the LMPS and his assignment is not similar to that of the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of the CID. The (Intelligence Services) office had been in existence long before the applicant’s appointment. The Intelligence Services head reports directly to the Commissioner of Police.

“It is also incorrect to say that I have dismantled a unit called RCTS. I aver that the said office is still operational in the LMPS. Some of the officers in that unit were transferred to other stations or units. I did that as part of administration in the LMPS,” Commissioner Molibeli argues.

Adv Setlojoane is yet to file DCP Lebajoa’s replying affidavit. Only then will the matter be set down for hearing.

Besides the Lebajoa lawsuit, Commissioner Molibeli has started a legal battle of his own to keep his job. This after Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro wrote to him on 1 June 2022 demanding that he “show cause” why he should not be fired on a plethora of charges including the failure to punish rogue officers who have caused untold suffering to the public.

The police boss has pending applications in the Constitutional Court and High Court to stop Dr Majoro from advising King Letsie III to fire him.

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