. . . LMPS puts the blame on the government
MASERU – The Ha Ramapepe and Malimong Community Policing Forums (CPFs) have recounted the challenges they face in their daily duties singling out scarce resources as a major impediment. These views were aired during a civilian-security institutions relations meeting with communities and security agencies. The platform was provided by the Transformation Resource Centre, (TRC) through community engagements aimed at fostering Civilian-Security Institutions Relations, including the Community Policing Forums promoting adherence to human rights standards.
Safety topped the concerns, with the chairperson of the Ha Ramapepe CPF committee, Liphapang Seekane, explaining that their lives are constantly on the line because where crime prevention is concerned danger is always lurking close by. He said that being a member of the CPF automatically makes one an enemy of community members that do not abide by the law.
A typical example, he said, is having to deal with village taverns that fail to comply with the rules and regulations, especially concerning Covid-19. Some owners of such taverns and their clients accuse law enforcement personnel of intruding to disturb their fun when they attempt to enforce the law which sometimes leads to them being at the receiving end of violent encounters. Seekane also raised the issue of allowances, strongly suggesting that a stipend would boost their already fading motivation to carry out their policing work.
A member of the Ramapepe CPF, Pitso Nono, in an interview with Public Eye, said policing work requires an armed person which is not the case with them as they lack even simple tools such as handcuffs. He explained that tying a criminal with a rope as opposed to handcuffs wastes time and is risky as the perpetrator may fight back and escape. Echoing Seekane, Nono, emphasised the need for stipends which he said would help cover some costs such as hospital bills in cases where injuries occur in the line of duty.
The chairperson of the Malimong CPF, Mosiuoa Mokhethi, on his part indicated that only two of the many CPF members had received a formal training from the police, which he said was insufficient. He further said most of the time they handle criminals on their own when they should be working hand in hand with the police, which he said results in communities taking matters into their own hands.
Mokhethi urged the police to use horses to reach their destinations as there are plenty of them in Malimong as opposed to always using the unavailability of vehicles as an excuse of not responding to them. Addressing their grievances, Senior Inspector Ramokhele explained that police are keen to help the CPFs but their hands are tied since the answer they always receive from government is that there is no budget for that.
From there, he continued, they are always told that the work the CPFs do is in the best interest of themselves so they should continue volunteering. On the issue of offering training, Ramokhele said they can host such sessions but cannot offer meals due to inadequate funding therefore each person would be obliged to carry his or her own lunchbox. “We always seek donations from independent businesses and it has come to a point where we are now embarrassed,” Ramokhele said.
Asked how the working relationship between the police and the CPFs is, especially since the police cannot provide the help needed, Ramokhele told Public Eye that it is “traumatising.” He indicated that it is not everyone that understands their challenges so they have become enemies to some which he said is unfortunate since the only enemy should be crime and not the police.
His worst nightmare or fear he said is the community now attacking and killing police officers considering them useless. TRC’s Judicial Activism and Public Interest Litigation Officer, Mokitimi Tšosane, in an interview with Public Eye, explained that CPFs are not properly constituted under any legislation. He said the forums are set up to bridge the gap between the community and the security institutions, the police in particular, to solve conflicts and challenges of crime.
According to Tšosane, CPFs primary role is assisting with crime prevention strategies and combating crime within societies, assisting and guiding the police to address a variety of issues and challenges. Tšosane, however, highlighted that they are not well equipped to carry out their duties. Asked what their stance as TRC regarding the matter is, Tšosane explained that the organisation, in an effort to foster relationships between the civilians and security institutions, recognises the community policing forums as critical players in bridging the gap between the community and security institutions.
“TRC holds that recognition of community policing forums by the security institutions is essential in overcoming societal challenges that might lead to conflict and combating crime. “Owing to the informality of Community Policing Forums, the link between them and the security institutions is not very clear,” Tšosane said. On the issue of remuneration from government, Tšosane explained that CPFs are not public servants hence they are not necessarily entitled to any remuneration from the government’s purse.
He, however, said there could be incentives from security institutions to motivate these dedicated voluntary structures within communities who add value to the communities by maintaining law and order. “We learned that LMPS in Berea District have training programmes for the CPFs but cannot offer lunch. Due to inadequate funding, the police cannot train the forums as adequately as they may wish to. For example, trainings which may need to take two weeks only take two days,” Tšosane explained.
Tšosane, therefore, said TRC recommends adequate funding in security institutions in order for them to assist CPFs. He continued to say adequate funding is essential as it enhances the independence and proper functioning of the security institutions. With adequate funding, he said, the forums can be capacitated as much as is necessary to ensure their efficiency and efficacy. One other important aspect in relation to funding, according to Tšosane, is adequate funding of the judiciary.
He said the judiciary has been crippled by inadequate funding by the political branches of government and amazingly blame the judiciary for the backlog. Tšosane says with an adequately funded judiciary which functions as the constitution intends, such basic rights as bails would not be problematic. This Tšosane mentioned because some members of the CPF claimed that they are not safe from criminals as they victimise them for blowing the whistle to the police resulting in their arrest.