Bongiwe Zihlangu | ‘Marafaele Mohloboli
AFTER two years of resisting widespread calls for Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli’s dismissal, Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro finally decided to pull the trigger after it became apparent that the police boss had completely lost control of the police force.
Not only was the police chief feuding with rebellious subordinates who had coalesced under the banner of the Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA), he was now at loggerheads with highly influential members of the police command including some of the deputy commissioners of police (DCPs) like Beleme Lebajoa.
This according to senior police officials who recently sat down with the Lesotho Times to shed light on the ructions in the troubled Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS).
To cap it all, Commissioner Molibeli had allegedly become a law unto himself, making unilateral decisions either without consulting or acting in defiance of Police and Public Safety Minister, Lepota Sekola. Understood in its full context, Commissioner Molibeli’s alleged defiance of Mr Sekola is in essence a defiance of the prime minister himself, the senior officers said. Given such an untenable situation, Dr Majoro had no choice but to finally do what LEPOSA had been imploring him to do ever since he replaced Thomas Thabane as premier on 20 May 2020- that is- to advise His Majesty, King Letsie III to relieve the commissioner of his duties.
For the past two years, LEPOSA had sought the police boss’ dismissal but Dr Majoro had refused to act against him.
LEPOSA accused Commissioner Molibeli of ineptitude, bias, cronyism and failure to rein in his subordinates who tortured civilians and engaged in other acts of brutality.
The militant police union also accused the premier of protecting the commissioner despite his glaring shortcomings.
Dr Majoro’s 1 June 2022 letter to Commissioner Molibeli demanding that the police boss “show cause” why he should not be fired on various charges hence came as a surprise to many outside the police force who considered the two to be close allies.
“In terms of section 5(3) of Police Service Act No.7 of 1998, The King, acting on the advice of the Prime Minister may require the Commissioner to retire in the interests of efficiency or effectiveness.
“As the Prime Minister and acting in terms of the above section, I intend to advise the King to retire you in the interests of efficiency or effectiveness in the Police Service. But before doing that I want to give you the opportunity to make representations with regard to the following (issues)…,” Dr Majoro states in his letter to Commissioner Molibeli.
The premier went on to list several allegations against the commissioner including the latter’s “unbecoming conduct” as exemplified by his failure to comply with a 2021 High Court order to reverse some police promotions that he illegally made in 2018, his failure to investigate crimes and deal with complaints of police brutality.
Not only had Commissioner Molibeli been in contempt of court, he had even ignored the laws requiring him to consult the Police and Public Safety Minister before promoting anyone to the senior ranks within the force, the premier said.
This and other failings on Commissioner Molibeli’s part, were “rendering the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) inefficient, if not ineffective,” Dr Majoro stated in this “show cause” letter.
But just as he did in December 2019 when then Prime Minister Thabane attempted to fire him over similar allegations of incompetence and allowing police brutality to go unchecked, Commissioner Molibeli has rushed to the courts to try and save his skin. He has petitioned both the High Court and Constitutional Court to stop Dr Majoro from advising King Letsie III to sack him. The matter is pending in both courts.
While Dr Majoro’s moves to oust Commissioner Molibeli may have come as a surprise to many, they were not at all surprising to several senior police officers who recently spoke to this publication.
“LEPOSA’s fight with the commissioner is known to everyone and junior police officers in that organisation are all over the media attacking the commissioner in ways that never happened with previous police bosses. They are literally wiping the floor with the commissioner and this has not only reduced him to a laughing stock, it has caused reputational damage to the LMPS locally and internationally,” one of the senior police officers said.
“But LEPOSA is not the commissioner’s only problem. The truth is that he has completely lost the trust and confidence of the entire police force. That includes most of us in the police command. Save for a few, he is at loggerheads with most DCPs including Ntate Lebajoa. If it was football, it would be said that the coach (Molibeli) has to go because he has completely lost control of the dressing room and his coaching staff. There is no coming back from that,” the senior officer said.
Another officer concurred, saying, “The biggest problem we have in the LMPS is that professionalism has been discarded he (Molibeli) is running the force like a spaza shop. He makes unilateral decisions without consulting us in the police command. There is never a time when he sits down with his DCPs to solicit their views before making decisions.
“There are so many things that he does alone. He never sits with DCPs to draw the annual roadmap of action. We just operate in the dark and fail to implement anything because there is no cohesion.
“He makes appointments and promotions without consulting with his deputies. He never seeks advice, he just acts alone. We always wake up to new appointments and promotions, all made unilaterally. DCPs are always in the dark. You wonder how he personally knows junior police personnel to the point of promoting or transferring them.
“He has tampered with the CID headed by DCP Lebajoa for the longest time, transferring investigators all the time. He does this over Lebajoa’s head. Lebajoa often learns about new developments in his department in the media along with the rest of us. He (Molibeli) deploys new police officers to the CID without Lebajoa’s knowledge. You could swear that he is setting Lebajoa up for failure. To begin with, he has never been happy with Lebajoa’s appointment to the CID (by Minister Sekola). He initially appeared to resist the appointment when it was made in July 2021. It took him three weeks to give Lebajoa an office. Again, Lebajoa was not assigned bodyguards for a long time. This was as shocking as it was senseless because DCPs are considered the VIPs of the police community hence deserving of tight security.”
As if that was not enough, Commissioner Molibeli established a parallel CID unit to investigate high-profile cases. This parallel structure bypassed DCP Lebajoa and reported directly to the commissioner, the senior officer added.
“These are some of the issues that finally got Ntate Majoro to act against Molibeli. The situation had become untenable. It was no longer LEPOSA versus Molibeli, he had lost control of the entire police force. He was now at loggerheads with senior officers in the police command like Lebajoa. He is the first commissioner to be disparaged by his subordinates on radio and all other media platforms,” the senior officer said.
Another senior officer weighed in saying, the straw that finally broke the camel’s back was that Commissioner Molibeli had become an authority unto himself, acting unilaterally or disregarding orders from the police minister and the prime minister himself.
“He (Molibeli) was no longer taking orders from (minister) Sekola. A good example of this was when he went ahead to transfer Lebajoa from CID to Finance and Infrastructure Department (FID) despite Sekola’s express orders that the transfer should not be done. In defying Sekola, Molibeli was essentially defying Majoro to whom Sekola reports. Faced with such naked rebellion, Majoro had no choice but to act against Molibeli” the senior officer said.
Incidentally, DCP Lebajoa has made similar accusations against Commissioner Molibeli in his legal battle with him.
A fortnight ago, DCP Lebajoa petitioned the High Court to stop Commissioner Molibeli from transferring him from the CID to the FID. DCP Lebajoa was supposed to have swapped desks with DCP Paseka Mokete, the man who he took over the CID from in July 2021.
The reshuffle ought to have been done on 2 June 2022. However, Commissioner Molibeli was stopped in his tracks by DCP Lebajoa who approached the courts the day before and obtained an interim order against the police boss.
Commissioner Molibeli and Attorney General Rapelang Motsieloa are first and second respondents respectively in DCP Lebajoa’s application.
In his court papers, DCP Lebajoa accuses Commissioner Molibeli of acting unilaterally and outside his powers by transferring him to the FID.
He argues that only the Police and Public Safety Minister, Lepota Sekola, has such powers of transferring senior officers in the police command, not the commissioner. Not only did Commissioner Molibeli usurp Mr Sekola’s powers he also ignored the minister’s orders that the transfer should not be effected, DCP Lebajoa argues.
He alleges that from the onset Commissioner Molibeli was not happy when he was transferred to the CID in July 2021 by the police minister.
As a result of his opposition to him, DCP Lebajoa alleges that Commissioner Molibeli went as far as interfering with his work by creating a parallel team to perform the same duties that he (Lebajoa) was supposed to perform.
“I wish to disclose that the first respondent (Molibeli) has never been pleased with my (July 2021) appointment (to head CID),” DCP Lebajoa states in his court papers. He says as proof of the commissioner’s unhappiness with his appointment, he was only allowed to occupy the CID office three weeks after his transfer to that desk. Payment of his benefits was also delayed.
“Immediately after I occupied the office, the first respondent established a team doing a parallel assignment with my office and the same (parallel team) was commanded by my junior, one Mr Makoetlane, who was directly answerable to the first respondent (Molibeli). The said junior officer who is under the command of my office would tell me that he is not answerable to me.
“As if that was not enough, the first respondent would transfer police officers under my watch without even notifying me. While I appreciate that it is his duty to transfer (junior) police officers; that was not good governance and proper administration for the betterment of the police service as a whole.
“The first respondent also dismantled a unit referred to as Theft Detention and Counter Robbery Crime Unit Police Station (RCTS)), also under my watch, and transferred 30 police officers who were specifically assigned to that unit. All these things were done by the first respondent without even notifying and/or consulting me yet all these adversely incapacitated the office of the CID,” DCP Lebajoa states.
He said although Commissioner Molibeli wrote to him on 20 May 2022 about the transfer, he only received the police boss’ letter on 31 May 2022.
He alleges that he subsequently discovered that Minister Sekola had written a memorandum to Commissioner Molibeli informing the latter that he (Sekola) had declined to act on the police boss’ recommendation to transfer him (Lebajoa).
He argues that Commissioner Molibeli went ahead to transfer him in contravention of Minister Sekola’s directive that he should stay put at the CID.
Commissioner Molibeli’s conduct amounted to a usurpation of the minister’s powers, DCP Lebajoa argues. He says he was then given up to 2 June 2022 to make way for DCP Mokete hence his decision to petition the High Court.
“I aver that the first respondent duly recommended to the Police Authority (Sekola) that I be redeployed and correctly so because the first respondent was aware that he has no such power to redeploy me hence his wise move to recommend to the appointing authority being the Police Authority.
“The first respondent is aware that he had no such power to redeploy me regard being had to the fact that I was appointed by the Police Authority in terms of Section 6 of the Police Act 1998. The provisions of section 6 of the Act clearly state who has an authority to appoint Deputy Commissioners and I had been advised that the same Police Authority is vested with the power to remove and/or deploy me.
“It is my contention therefore that the first respondent usurped the functions and duties of the Policy Authority by redeploying me to the office of FID and giving me only 48 hours to have vacated the office. The first respondent’s decision, therefore, stands to be reviewed, corrected and set aside even on this ground alone,” DCP Lebajoa argues.
Contacted for comment this week, DCP Lebajoa initially said he did not “discuss police matters with the the media”.
Prodded further, he said he was aware of “what has been said about me” by some of his police colleagues “but unlike some of them, I will not stoop so low to respond”.
“I am not ready to comment. Even if I were, I wouldn’t stoop to the level of commenting on things that have been said about me. I am not an attention-seeker,” DCP Lebajoa said. Commissioner Molibeli’s mobile phone rang unanswered when this publication called him for comment yesterday.