‘LCS inmates torture is the norm’


MASERU – Assault of recaptured inmates has become the norm within the Lesotho Correctional Services (LCS). Assistant Commissioner of LCS Tsoto Manaka this week told the commission of inquiry underway at the Maseru Central Correctional Institution (MCCI) that senior officers lead search teams to protect inmates upon capture. The commission, spearheaded by High Court Judge Realeboha Majara, is investigating the events leading up to the escape of six prisoners from the facility on December 21, 2023.

After making their getaway, all six prisoners were later caught at various times and places while in the process one prisoner died and another was shot on both legs. Other members of the commission include retired LCS Commissioner Mojalefa Thulo, lawyer and diplomat, King’s Counsel (KC) Kelebone Maope. Manaka, who is also the station commander at the MCCI, identified some officers who appeared in the footage and explained to the commission what he observed them doing.

He was then cross-examined by the implicated officers. He stated that officers have a tendency to assault inmates after recapture. “When an inmate escapes, it is considered a grave offense by the officers. A senior officer in charge of the search party is responsible for protecting the inmate because junior officers often attempt to assault them. Even the officers from whom the inmate escaped might take their anger out on the inmate,” said Manaka.

He added that senior officers lead search teams to protect inmates upon capture. “The senior officer must stop other officers from assaulting the inmate,” he said. Ex LCS Commissioner, Thulo questioned Manaka on how to stop such assaults. “In the footage, Superintendent Ramangoane tries to intervene, but what is the simplest way to stop the commotion, if a senior officer shouts ‘fall in,’ would the officers stop?” he asked.

“The simplest way would be to shout ‘fall in,’ and junior officers would cease their actions,” Manaka responded. Judge Mathaba observed that the officers appeared uncontrollable. “The officers seemed out of control; even when the superintendent tried to stop them, they did not. Would shouting ‘fall in’ have worked?” the judge inquired.

“He might have said ‘fall in,’ but we do not know. The superintendent could have asked for assistance from other officers. Not all officers were aggressive; he could have sent someone to get help,” Manaka explained. He recounted that the previous night, six inmates had escaped from the MCCI.

At dawn on December 22, 2023, Senior Superintendent Mahlelebe asked if the Christmas party would continue, given only two inmates had been recaptured. Manaka advised Mahlelebe that the party should not proceed.

“Later, the officers consumed a concoction of alcohol. The report stated that the first inmate fell from the ceiling at Mamochochoko’s residence in Mohalalitoe, where he was captured. I was unaware of the assaults in the sergeant’s office. When the inmate arrived, he was bandaged on his head and legs,” Manaka said.

Advocate P.R. Thoahlane, representing Officers Mokiba and Ratsetse, said he would not dispute the identification of his clients but wanted to record the circumstances of that day. “My clients were already drunk when the first inmate arrived. They were angry about the escape and even angrier upon seeing him. They are not proud of their actions,” said Thoahlane. Manaka countered that correctional officers are trained to control their anger.

“We would not be at the commission if they had been charged appropriately. Even if drunk, it does not justify unlawful actions. Your clients and others would have faced charges for drinking on duty and assaulting inmates,” he stated.