COMPOL Molibeli regrets NUL student’s death
MASERU – Commissioner of Police Holomo Molibeli says he sees himself guilty and on behalf of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) he apologises to the family and the nation for the death of a National University of Lesotho (NUL) student Kopano Makutoane. Makutoane was shot dead by the LMPS members on June 16 at the university campus when students interrupted examinations and protested against a reduction in their allowances by the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS).
Makutoane’s death has since stirred fury across the country, including the within the NUL community which has urged the government to take legal action against the police officers that shot him. Speaking at the Truth and Reconciliation Centre (TRC) first episode of dialogue on developing long-term strategies to mitigate protests at institutions of higher learning Molibeli said: “I feel weak and ashamed to stand before you and cannot justify why and how a student was killed. I stand here to apologise on behalf of the LMPS.”
He continued to say that legal action has been taken against some police officers regarding the tragic incident, and that six police officers have since been suspended, adding there is a possibility of more suspensions as investigations are ongoing. Molibeli noted that although social media is sometimes used for malicious ends, “this time I am thankful for it because I learned about the students’ strike through it and immediately deployed police from the headquarters to handle the matter.”
He said if it was not because of the social media, he could have failed to even know about the gruesome assault of the lady whose beating by the police trended on social media. He said those made it easier for police to get the needed evidence. Molibeli said despite the challenges, the LMPS is determined to serve the nation hand in hand with other leaders because it is through working together that essential change may be achieved.
He admitted it has become common to record deaths during students’ protests due to police brutality. As a result, he said, police have resolved to have a ‘desk for institutions of higher learning affairs’ within its community policing forums. This will assist the police to approach and interfere in students’ affairs with the necessary force and proactively attend to the matter. Speaking at the same occasion TRC director, Tsikoane Peshoane, noted that the same problems that are persisting in NMDS have been continuing for years – even while he was a student at the institution where he completed his first degree in 2006.
He posed a rhetorical question on whether anyone has ever heard politicians outlining education as a priority. Peshoane then noted that the NMDS is a secretariat and there are public officials and authority above it which it accounts to. Peshoane said sometimes he finds it uneasy to put the whole blame on the NMDS on recurring students’ problems while it is only a secretariat. He said in his view the NMDS turns out to be an easy target while there is a white elephant that everyone shies away from.
He highlighted that it is not that he is protecting the NMDS, but rather raising a point of concern which he thinks Basotho should also assess. He said to resolve this systematic problem requires institutions of higher learning to come on board and introspect on the departments of students’ welfare on whether those departments are competent to take responsibility. “As far as I am concerned, for Student Representative Councils (SRC) to be given the responsibility to leave their classes to address students’ issues is highly unnecessary.”
He suggested that students’ welfare departments in schools should be responsible to address students’ issues and have a specific desk to monitor students’ needs and their welfare. Present at the dialogue were also representatives from the Development for Peace and Education (DPE), NMDS and higher learning officials as well as members of the SRCs and Student Unions from both local and international institutions.
Tumo Tsanyane, who is the current NUL SRC president, said the NMDS contracts do not classify the money that is allocated for students but only states the total amount. He suggested that for transparency and accountability the contract has to be clear on how much each student of each institution receives and for what purpose. He said it should be clear how much is the tuition fee, rent allowance and the likes. Tsanyane continued that if it is written that way it would be easy to question it with fact.