MASERU – Police Commissioner, Holomo Molibeli has said Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s deployment of the army troops on streets was a strategy to arrest and detain him. Thabane deployed army on the streets last Saturday, shortly after his address to the nation with regards to compliance with the national lockdown regulations. In his address he accused unnamed individuals and institutions of hiding behind the courts of law to attack the government.
He said his government was surprised to notice that certain people and some government institutions responsible for protecting and upholding democracy were out to soil the government and undermine the pillars of democracy by launching attacks hiding behind courts of law, freedom of speech and fundamental human rights. The police commissioner said Thabane’s statements were targeted at him, having recently approached the court of law when an attempt was made to suspend him. Molibeli contends Thabane, together with the police authority, the Police and Public Safety Minister, Lehlohonolo Moaramotse, want him arrested and detained so that his deputy Deputy Commissioner of Police (strategic management and support services) Sera Makharilele can freely act in the office of the Commissioner.
In court papers, Molibeli says Thabane and Moramotse are in desperate attempts to get rid of him as he got intelligence reports that despite a court order preventing the Prime Minister from proceeding to suspend him, the pair is determined to get rid of him.
Thabane on April 15 asked Molibeli to show cause why he may not be suspended from the office of Commissioner of Police after a criminal charge was levelled against him. Thabane said it cannot be right and fair that COMPOL remains in office while criminal investigations against him are in progress. Molibeli is accused of lying under oath. Thabane also said it was in the interest of justice that Molibeli be suspended while investigations are ongoing. The police boss did not respond to the letter but approached the High Court which then ordered that the status quo should be maintained while parties file papers for the case to be argued.
However, Molibeli learnt about the intended appointment of Sera Makharilele and said he learned the PM and Moramotse will do anything to force him out of police service. “I received intelligence reports from intelligence service personnel who form part of the 1st and 2nd respondents’ security detail, respectively, and whose identity they requested me not to disclose on account of fear of identification, reprisals and retribution,” Molibeli states.
He adds, the intelligence told him the plan was for him to be arrested by the military and to be detained so that Makharilele could continue to act as the commissioner of police. True to the intelligence reports, Molibeli says he noticed the army had been deployed as soon as 7 am in the morning of April 18, heavily armed in an unusual manner than during their collaboration with police in ensuring compliance with Covid-19 regulations.
The police boss says the police, being responsible for maintaining law and order and having recently collaborated with the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) and the National Security Services (NSS) since the beginning of the national lockdown, the three institutions were not aware of reports nor have they made observations that the Prime Minister alluded to in his address to the nation.
“Neither the police service, the NSS, nor the military have made observations or reports of the nature alluded to by the 1st respondent, or tension or riots which necessitate the invocation of the measures adopted by 1st respondent in his speech.” Molibeli says the non-compliance of the Covid-19 regulations continue to exist but is being dealt with by the three institutions according to law. He maintains that Thabane’s remarks in his speech were targeted solely at him for having launched an application in the High Court against his intended suspension.
“It is clear the measures adopted by the 1st respondent on the 18th April 2020 were therefore context-specific and were targeted solely on me, as the person who launched an application before the courts on the 16 April 2020 against my intended suspension, and the courts have made an order against the 1st respondent as aforesaid. It is this very order which it is alleged I am hiding behind, to soil the dignity of the government.” He also says the deployment was limited to Maseru city only as there were no other military operations of the same scale and magnitude in other parts of Maseru and the other nine districts.
Molibeli also states he learned a meeting was convened with the Commander of LDF and other high ranking police and military officers immediately after Makharilele’s appointment. In the meeting, Makaharile’s appointment and its legality was discussed. Makharilele then wrote to Moramotse informing him that it would be contemptuous to act in the office of the Commissioner of Police while the courts have directed that the status quo should remain.
Molibe argues the Prime Minister along with Police Minister want him out of the police service for having investigated them on allegations of criminal conduct. He says the pair is dissatisfied that their names are in the public space as a result of the investigations and are therefore determined to get rid of him.
“The 1st respondent, 2nd respondent, whom I had occasion to investigate on allegation of criminal conduct on their part, and whose names were as a result in public discourse space. “I aver that by resorting to laws of this kingdom to deal with the illegalities aforesaid has nothing to do with soiling the integrity of the 1st respondent ad 2nd respondent or of threatening the pillars of democratic governance, or destabilising government itself,” Molibeli said. He added: “All that it does is to frustrate the 1st and 2nd respondents in their strategy and ploy to have me illegally suspended and forcefully removed from the office of the Commissioner of Police.”
According to Molibeli, his replacement is sought so that investigations and prosecutions against the Prime Minister, the First Lady and Police Minister can be frustrated. “I aver that the 1st respondents’ speech was a tactful and strategic ploy to camouflage the real intentions of the 1st and 2nd respondents to effectuate my unlawful and illegal suspension from the office of the Commissioner of Police and to have me arrested and detained so as to give way to the 4th respondent (Sera Makharilele) or any other member of police service being appointed to act, with the consequence that all investigations and prosecutions against 1st respondent, the First lady, 2nd respondent are thwarted.”
Also, Molibeli says Thabane would do anything to ensure his removal from the office of Commissioner of Police. He narrated a series of attempts by Thabane to fire him dating as back as December 2019. The police boss says when he investigated Thabane over the murder of one Lipolelo Thabane (Thabane’s late wife) the prime minister on January 3 reacted by sending him on forced indefinite leave. Molibeli approached the court and it ordered that in the interim, he should not be suspended but he says in his court papers that on the same day, Thabane wrote to him purporting to suspend him with immediate effect for a period of six months.
Further, Molibeli was also served with a show cause letter why His Majesty the King cannot be advised to retire him from police service. The commissioner approached the court once again and a settlement was reached and he remained in office. Another attempt was made on February 10, 2020, this time Thabane wrote to His Majesty that Molibeli had retired as the Commissioner of police and that one Jankie Hlaahal would be appointed as the commissioner. High Court Justice Tseliso Monapathi ordered against Molibeli’s removal and the order was later confirmed by Justice Molefi Makara who said the Prime Minister’s decision to retire Molibe was irrational.
With the latest order having ruled that the status quo should remain, Molibeli says he got intelligence reports on April 18 that Thabane and the police authority continue to communicate with DCP Makharilele that his appointment was not illegal and that he should act as commissioner of police and that another candidate would be appointed if Makharilele refuses to act as COMPOL. The hearing will be on Monday 27.