MASERU – Two students of Lesotho of College Education (LCE) who appeared before the magistrate court on Wednesday this week were released on free bail the same day. The students were held in police custody following the unrest at the college on Tuesday morning.
Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) spokesperson, Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli, told Public Eye that the two LCE students were held in police custody with reference to the Police Act of 1998, Section 55, general offence in relation to the police (e) resists or obstructs a police officer in the execution of his duty. However, Mopeli could not reveal how many police officials were sent to the college to bring order to the unrest.
LCE Deputy Rector, Academic Affairs (DRAA), Paramente Phamotse, told Public Eye that the college has not received formal reports from the police concerning the number of students who were arrested due to the unrest. However, Phamotse said he learned from other students that two students have appeared in court in relation to the unrest. Asked if the college will offer legal support to the students, Phamotse said there is no intention for the college to give legal support to arrested students on whatever charges they are charged with.
Phamotse said this is because when the management of the college realised that the students had become violent and unruly, the management gave them an instruction to leave the campus and to go home. He continued to say some students opted not to leave. “The management of the school had to call the police and the police used the minimum force to bring the students to order,” Phamotse said.
He added: “Before the police were called in, students had begun an impromptu strike where they were forcing their way into the classrooms asking other learners to walk out of classes and join in the strike. They were very violent, breaking people’s cars by throwing stones at them and at the security guards.” Phamotse further noted that the time when the police were called, was when students were trying to force their way into the main administration building, storming the security guards of the college.
On reports that some students had to sleep on the streets, Phamotse said: “Students were given time from around midday to go home but some attempted to stay on campus forcefully so the police had to intervene.” Phamotse said as of now, management have not made a decision as to when will classes resume but the students will be informed through the mediums known to them as soon as management has made proper arrangements.
In his open letter, the leader and representative of Students of Institutions of Higher Learning in Lesotho, Reatlehile Makateng, said he believes the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS) and “the ministry takes the issue of students’ stipends as a joke because there is no explaining why until now we still have this issue as pending, and it has been a crisis for years; every year we strike, marching for our stipends.” The LCE students strike was triggered by the fact that students have not received their outstanding learning stipends from NMDS.