. . . Maximum Tower: LCS’s Achilles heel



MASERU – Absence of guards at the maximum tower has posed a significant security risk to the Maseru Central Correctional Institution (MCCI), a problem that senior officers failed to address until the escape of six inmates in December last year.

The Commission of Enquiry, led by High Court Judge and Chairman Realeboha Mathaba, lawyer and former diplomat King’s Counsel (KC) Kelebone Maope, and retired Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) Commissioner Mojalefa Thulo, is currently investigating the incident at the MCCI premises. Six inmates escaped from the prison facility on December 21, 2023.

Subsequently, all of them were apprehended at different locations and times, leading to the unfortunate demise of one inmate, with another sustaining a fractured leg. Sergeant Sekhohola Tšoeu of the LCS testified before the Commission of Enquiry this week, stating that he had foreseen the risk posed by the unguarded maximum tower and believes the escape could have been prevented.

“If there is no one at the maximum tower, there is a security risk. The risk was foreseeable because the tower poses a risk if there is no guard. I reported to Chief Officer Mokotla Thamae that there are people who need to fill the space at the tower,” Tšoeu explained.

He contended that the escape could have been stopped if the maximum tower had been guarded. “If there was someone at the maximum tower, they would have seen when the inmates escaped from the Maximum Prison facility. I believe that the negligence of the seniors, allowing that facility and the newly constructed tower to remain unguarded, put us in this position,” he said.

Tšoeu said he had informed his senior officer, Thamae, some time ago about the need for officers at the maximum tower. However, Thamae responded that they should wait for officers to be allocated to the tower. Judge Mathaba, questioned Tšoeu: “Some of the inmates in the Maximum Prison are dangerous; some were charged with murder, which is a very serious offense, and no one was placed on the new tower or the maximum tower?”

Tšoeu confirmed that the towers were unguarded and acknowledged that some inmates in the maximum prison are indeed dangerous. “I was so surprised that after the escape, some officers emerged out of nowhere; suddenly there was enough staff to guard the towers,” he added. Correctional Officer Thato Mafihlela testified that he was on duty on the day of the escape, positioned at C Tower under surveillance of C Yard.

“The C tower is structured in such a way that it only gives me a view of C yard on the left and right sides, not the back. I am not able to see the back because it is at its maximum. I cannot see the maximum, not even the fence at the back,” Mafihlela explained. He confirmed that no one was posted at the maximum tower during the escape of the inmates, noting that the tower had last been used by members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).

The commission continues.

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