COVID-19: PM apologises for army, police excesses

TEBOHO KHATEBE MOLEFI

MASERU – Prime Minister Motsoahae Thabane has apologized to the nation for the abuse, torture and other excesses meted out at them by members of the disciplined forces deployed to enforce the 21-days COVID-19 pandemic consequential lockdown. Members of the state security agencies have been deployed around the country to assist in the enforcement of the national lockdown, and to ensure the effective execution of the lockdown meant to control the spread of COVID- 19 around the country.

The lockdown became active at midnight on March 29, and is set to end on April 21. Upon deployment Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli said the deployed disciplined officers were ready to ensure that the lockdown is effected and regulations adhered to. “I urge all people to stay at home as ordered, and for businesses that do not fall under the category of those that offer essential services to close.

We will be monitoring the situation and behavior of citizens around villages and towns to ensure that all of them as well as their businesses abide by the lockdown regulations and are safe,” he said. Army Commander, Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela, also announced that his charges would work together with government officials in ensuring that the lockdown is respected.

The commander further appealed to deployed soldiers to operate within the bounds of their rules of engagement and all other operational guidelines; calling on them to ensure the nation is safe and protected. However, the first five days of the lockdown were marred by a litany of human rights abuses at the hands of the forces, including torture and assault on citizens.

Addressing the nation on national television yesterday Thabane he has already instructed both the police commissioner and the commander Lesotho Defence Force to investigate the alleged excesses, and to initiate proper disciplinary steps. The prime minister applauded all state officials in the frontline as led by the COVID-19 National Command Centre, commending their visible commitment and loyalty to duty during these trying times.

“I similarly would want to commend the leadership of the disciplined forces for the sterling work they are presently doing of urging us to protect ourselves, I request further cordial cooperation between them and the citizens,” he said. Giving a progress report on the lockdown, Thabane, thanked all people who have heeded the call to stay at home to ease management of people’s movement, labeling the step a sign of maturity and care for own health safety and that of other citizens.

In the same vein, the prime minister tore into those members of the public who continue to disregard set lockdown rules, continuing with the varied businesses as usual. “It is truly only an idiot who would expect to be forces to take care of themselves and save their lives, let us all stay vigilant while faced with this pandemic,” Thabane said. He further appealed to those who continue to enter the country through illegal ports undetected to such practice with immediate effect, adding “government will not bar any Mosotho from coming home, so please go to legal ports of entry to enable relevant state officials to ensure that you are all safe and protected from this pandemic.”

“I appeal to those who have come into the country through illegal ports to present themselves before officials to facilitate their screening; I assure you all that the life of each of you is important to this government and none will be arrested for having crossed illegally,” the prime minister made an assurance. While he noted and welcome that Lesotho has not recorded any confirmed even a single COVID-19 infection, “this does not mean we should become complacent and believe that we are immune, what remains a fact is that our testing processes are not up to scratch as we don’t have proper testing equipment.” He thanked the neighbouring South African republic for the assistance it has offered, to date, in servicing local suspected cases.

 

 

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