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Police criminality and brutality escalates

Business

Mohloai Mpesi

In latter days, the police slogan which loosely translated goes; ‘police-a helper a friend’ seems to have gone to the dogs as the men in uniform have turned into a total opposite in their conduct.

The blue uniform does not seem to bother the police officers any more as proven by the scores of incidences of crime they are mostly involved in.

For instance, a police officer stationed at Lithoteng was apprehended after his failed attempt to rob a businessman of Indian descend earlier in the week.

Unfortunately for him, he was nabbed with the help of passer-by soldiers and the members of community, where he was flogged and thumped by the mob.

The act of the police officer comes not as a surprise as a toll of unfriendly and malicious deeds performed by police officers continue to rise, a feat which poses a beckoning question towards the integrity and competence of the crime-preventing unit to a degree where the institution has become a hide out of felons and law offenders instead of chasing after the lawbreakers.

Senior Superintended Mpiti Mopeli, Spokesperson of the police, said that a criminal will always be one regardless of where they can work.

“A criminal will remain a criminal, regardless of whether they are a pastor, teacher or any job tittle. We may give one a good training at the Police Training College but if one is a criminal, he will remain so. That element of immoral acts will always be there and will reveal itself in due time.

“So we are not involved as the police, it was one individual who decided to be a law offender, and that’s not how police are,” he said.

More so, Mopeli confirmed that the suspect has other criminal cases in court.

It is only a fortnight ago when a sentence of two police constables was read in the High Court of Lesotho by Judge Moroke Mokhesi, where the duo was incarcerated for twenty (20) years after being found guilty of the Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC)’s Head of Internal Audit, Thibello Nteso’s assassination.        

However, according to the Lesotho National University Senior Lecturer in Department of Political and Administration Studies Dr Tlohang Letsie, the police problems emanate from lack of training intertwined with lack of resources.  

“It is caused by lack of training which also includes the resources; the training will be limited and affected if there are no resources.

“You can see even when they walk; they trust nothing other than the handcuffs and the stomp in their hands. The only thing that helps them is the intimidation one receives in the cell, but when they come across the most critical cases which require solid evidence in the courts of law, it becomes a problem to produce because they don’t have skills and proper training to investigate cases.

“They arrest people based on tip-offs which are not enough to arrest and try.

“The other problem is the terrible environment within which they work in; they end up becoming the products of the environment. When they come across people they see inferiority and they would want to show you who they really are, all these things affect them.     

“It is difficult to obtain good results when you don’t have resources. There is no advice that can be given to the institution because this is a general concern; we have been singing this song for a very long time.

“The best advice would be to restructure the institution; they should include training capacity in different aspects. Inclusion of resources will help the institution to operate,” he said.

More than 100 civilians have died in the hands of police since 2017 only. The police brutality has been a tune sung by all ages. Worse is the politicians who take advantage of the police officers to perform their own immoral and callous activities.

The Prime Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro once echoed the same sentiments that the police institution lacks investigative skills, as they beat the evidence out of suspect instead of probing cases. He suggested refresher courses to be held for the police as the only medicine to remedy the crime squad.

It was between 2018 and 2019 when a young teenage boy allegedly said he was forced to suck one male police officer’s genital parts in Leribe.         

Approximately above 80% of road traffic Police officers live on bribery. The administration of this country has submerged in an abyss of ignorance so much that corruption has turned out to be a new trending fashion.

The burning question is whether the constabularies do not earn enough.

The Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) Human Rights Officer ‘Masenono Letsie revealed that the police officers lack proper training as they are only trained to war situations such as when there is marches and protests.

She said they lack skills to extract information from the suspect through intelligent interrogation instead of intimidating the suspects, hence a need for theoretical classes to hone their probing skills. 

“Their training is insufficient; they are not thoroughly taught about how to interact with civilians but to toughen up when they handle people.

“We once conducted trainings for the security forces in Thaba-Tseka; I learnt that these people are not theoretically educated. They are practically trained to be tough and harsh when they come across suspects or only to handle the cases where masses of picketers have to face the police, but not human rights,” she said.

“They don’t have enough skills for how to extract information from a suspect; they use force so that the suspects end up implicating themselves, and many people have done that, many are locked behind bars due to the fact that they couldn’t endure the pain inflicted on them.

“They don’t follow their criminal procedure act even though it is supposed to be their guide.

“Greed is the source of their continuous bribery at the road traffic; they earn enough money to cover their needs. They know about their salary system from the moment they are in training and after they get their appointment letters because they have ranks and one can’t earn much after their graduation ceremony.

“The police rob civilians every day on the road, they are corrupt. They even accept bribes to make cases disappear.

The only way to salvage from this issue, according to ‘Masenono is to dismantle the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) which she said has not even reported a single case against police to court, and does not do its job.

“PCA is a body which has to act on the behalf of civilians, but since it is part of the police and operated by the police officers, it does not serve human rights as its mandate,” she said.

“I think it has to be dismantled and set a whole new independent body which will investigate police and battle to end police brutality; otherwise it will not subside. That body has been there for a very long time without doing its job,” she said.

The police currently use the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act 1981 which states that all evidence brought before court by police officers need to prove that it was not obtained through the use of force.

If a suspect can claim that he was beaten or intimidated to end implicating, that case is dissolved, however that is not the case happening on the ground. People are thumped until they implicate themselves.

She continued that, “The minimal force that they can use is when a suspect runs away.  Their constitution does not agree that police officers should assault civilian, even the international treaty that they have signed does not agree, that’s why many countries spit on Lesotho for not honoring a pact that they have signed for,” she said.

“Another was killed at Kao in 2018 December during a clash that was between police officer and a civilian, the police flocked over that village and started beaten all the men in that village,” she said.

“One was killed in a cell in Leribe,” she said.

TRC confirmed 33 deaths of victims who were cold bloodedly killed by the police from June 2017 until 2019. Victims were shot and killed by the police.

For instance, Thelingoane ‘Mota was shot and killed by the police in Koro-Koro on July 29, 2017. Pakisi Sek’hethe Maqaleha was tortured to death by the police on October 31, 2017 in Butha-Buthe. The 70 year-old Mosuoe Raleaba was also tortured to death in police detention in Maputsoe on November 10, 2017.

The disabled Molete Khalala was kicked and fatally shot and killed in cold blood by police in Mosaqane, Qacha’s Nek, Terene Pitae was shot and killed by riot police at Kao Mine during a protest by villagers. Thabang Maqokoane and Pitisi Maliehe were also shot and killed in 2018. fff0000000000

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