Aggrieved cops want Police Commissioner jailed

RELEBOHILE TSOAMOTSE

MASERU – Thirty-Two police officers who were removed from the Maseru Bridge Police Post and replaced by members of the Special Operations Unit (SOU) want Police Commissioner, Holomo Molibeli jailed for ignoring a court ordering their redeployment.

High Court judge, Justice ’Maseforo Mahase, on May 10 ordered Molibeli to redeploy the 32 officers back at the Maseru Bridge Border post but the police officers say this has not happened. This was an interim order until the High Court has heard the case to finality.

Justice Mahase’s order read, in part: “. . . the purported transfer of the applicants from Maseru Bridge Police Post on 24 April 2021 be stayed and the status quo (previous status) be maintained pending the finalization of this application”. As a final relief, the officers have asked the court to review, correct and set aside their transfers for their unlawfulness.

In his founding affidavit, the officer in charge of the Maseru Bridge Police Post, Senior Inspector Ratselane Rantuba, argued that they were unprocedurally removed from their post and therefore their removal is a nullity. “I must indicate that this is the most surprising and unusual way of transferring or removing police officers from their police station, it has never happened before.

“The procedure used to be that communication in the police service is done by way of a Radio Message LMPS 72 to inform police officers of any activity of change to happen in their duty stations and such police officers (should) sign the LMPS 72 form to acknowledge receipt thereof.

“I must hasten to indicate that with transfers, the officer is first written a letter of representation to ‘show cause’ why he cannot be transferred from one police station to another. I was only given a letter of transfer by the third respondent (District Commissioner Maseru Urban) on 26 April 2021 saying that he found it under his door when he arrived.

The letter purportedly transferred me to Maseru Central Police Station. Despite Justice Mahase’s order, the officers have still not been redeployed. They have now petitioned the High Court to find Molibeli in contempt. In their papers, the police officers say they have waited to be deployed back to their initial posts in vain so they want the court to intervene once again.

As an officer in charge of the Maseru Bridge post before the transfer, Senior Inspector Rantuba has deposed to an affidavit on behalf of his co-employees and says he inquired from the District Commissioner of Police as to why they still have not been called to report at Maseru Bridge despite the order.

The district commissioner is said to have replied that it was not in his hands to decide for he first has to get orders from the office of the commissioner. Rantuba tells the court that when he approached the District Commissioner of Police, he was trying to avoid a standoff that could occur should they just go and assume the posts as directed by the court.

“I aver that we waited with anticipation to the effect that 3rd respondent would communicate with 1st respondent so that we could resume our duties at Maseru Bridge, however, to date that has not happened this is witnessed by the fact that we are still not reporting at Maseru bridge post as we ought to.” According to him, the police management has not only disregarded the order but is in contempt. The court, he says, should commit those responsible to prison.

“I aver further that despite this Honorable court’s order being delivered against the respondents, I aver that they have willfully and mala fide disregarded, refused or failed to comply with an order of this court rendering them to be in contempt, thereby entitling this Honourable Court to commit them to prison for such behavior.” He is, therefore, urging the court to enforce its authority upon police management.

“I also aver that this kind of behavior warrants urgent intervention of this Honorable court in order to enforce its ultimate and superior authority upon respondents so as to curb any repeat of similar offences against it where people wilfully disregard the powers that this Honorable court is vested with.”

He adds, “they should therefore purge their contempt within three days or else be committed to prison for a period not less than six months.” Rantuba is backed by his lawyers who, in a certificate of urgency accompanying their application, maintain that the court should act swiftly on the police management.

Advocate Tlohang Mohanoe narrates that the police management was served with the court order on May 12 but still have not complied with it in defiance. For that, he says, the court should consider the contempt application as a matter of urgency in order to uphold its authority on officers who are expected to lead by example in maintaining law and order. The application will be moved today and it is expected that the commissioner will be given timelines within which to respond the papers.

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