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Minister says more money needed to avert police brutality

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‘LMPS in need of human rights training’

Nthatuoa Koeshe and Mohloai Mpesi

The Minister in the Prime Minister’s office Likopo Mahase said there is a need for more money to equip the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) with trainings on issues surrounding protection of human rights and public riots.

Mahase said this while addressing the National Assembly yesterday after being asked to furnish the House with information regarding the shooting at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) that transpired earlier on June 16, 2022 and resulted in the death of one student.

The minister was quizzed on whether the police officers who were deployed have been trained in crowd and riot control, whether indeed live ammunition was used as opposed to rubber pellets and to state the number of students reported to the minister as having been brutalized.

He was further asked whether the persons or entities responsible for the health care of the injured and reasons he was told for shooting the students, disciplinary measures taken against perpetrators and the time police brutality will be eradicated in the country.

Mahase said LMPS is working tirelessly to wipe out human rights violations imposed by the police through workshops hosted by different organisations. He added that there is a need for more money to host human rights workshops for the police force.

In one of the latest exploits of police-on-public brutality a NUL student died while some were injured in a disruptive strike launched by the students on account of their allowances cut unilaterally and in disregard of contractual obligations by the government through the Ministry of Development Planning’s National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS).

Mahase said the police are trained to control crowd and riots at the Police Training Centre and are expected to carry out those lessons in their work.

He said issues surrounding the incident of June 16 2022 will be revealed by investigations into the opened cases of the events. One of the latest updates building to the event is that the family of the deceased sued the Roma Police station this week.

Mahase explained that on June 16 the Roma Police received five reports from students with one being a murder report and three of them being assault cases which are currently being investigated. He said all the students who were injured at the protest were taken to S.t Joseph Hospital in Roma.

“The Roma police received a report from the university that there was a protest at the institution and when they arrived, students had already started fire near the university’s gates. The police tried to control the situation but the students started throwing stones at the police injuring some of the officers,” Mahase said.

He said the Maseru Rural Headquarters police came for a backup to buttress the force but the students vigorously threw stones at them too.

Mahase said the police later received a report that there was a student who died and five who were injured at the protest. He said cases have been opened and some are with the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

He continued that steps towards disciplinary measures have been taken adding that the police who were involved in the cases will soon be known and disciplined.

The NUL protest came after the Ministry of Development Planning through National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS) made an arbitrary decision to cut students’ allowances for this month from M1, 100 to M450. The protest disrupted on-going examinations, destroyed school property and vandalized street vendors’ property.

“Destroying property is a criminal act that is why the police had to be engaged. The management of the university has learned that some of the students were injured and were taken to hospital with the school ambulance but we are in no position to confirm about deaths. We will only confirm after receiving report from our security office,” For her part, NUL Director of Marketing and Communications, ‘Mamosa Moteetee told this paper after the protest last month.

Moteetee said after the school found out the reason behind the strike, it had talks with the NMDS the result of which was a decision to reverse the Secretariat’s decision.

NMDS had later issued a statement indicating that the ministry had decided to give full allowances to students without considering the contracts they signed which indicate that they will only get money when they are in school.

The 22-year-old Kopano Makutoane from Quthing was buried on June 31 where the enraged students had even vandalized a police stretch tent erected at the funeral where speakers expressed their disappointment on the police doings.

This is not the first time the police have killed someone and attempt to show remorse thereafter. Earlier this year, a 17-year-old Ngaka Mohlehli was gunned down by a group of police officers on a case of mistaken identity as they mistook him for a suspect they were allegedly chasing.

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