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Restructure the police service



A report commissioned by the government to investigate the causes of instability in the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) identifies six key issues it says are at the centre of the crisis. Among these are the six percent salary dispute, the promotion and appointments, human rights abuses, conflicts with the management, intrusion of external politics and the role of the Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA). Most of the issues that have been identified are not really new. They have been bobbling around in the public domain for years. However, we think the report is significant since this is the first time that the government has commissioned a study to identify the causes and offer recommendations on the way forward. Having identified the causes, we think it will be much easier for the government to begin an active search for solutions to fix what is ailing the police. As the report correctly points out the rot is systemic. To fix the problems we expect a significant shake-up of the police service. We agree with most of the recommendations cited in the report. Chief among these is an immediate restructuring of its structures and systems. The police will need to revamp its recruitment processes and training methods. It must begin by rooting out what the report describes as a “dehumanizing training culture”. The government will also need to immediately depoliticise the appointment process of senior officers. It is a matter of uncontested historical fact that our police have been heavily politicised for decades. We know that as far back as 1993, the BCP government tried to wrest control of the police which had been under the control of the BNP government. More recently, we have seen successive coalition governments appoint their own people to drive their own political agendas. The result has been further polarisation within the police. The report also acknowledges that “human rights abuses of citizens by the police including torture and murder have a long history and “are deeply embedded” within the police. We have a police service that uses torture to extract confessions. Unfortunately, hundreds of Basotho have died at the hands of the police, which is totally unacceptable. What makes this really sad is the fact that some of our excitable politicians have contributed to these murders by actively encouraging the torture of crime suspects. Instead of moving with the times in respecting the rights of citizens, the police seem to be stuck in their old 1970s brutal style of policing where torture was used to extract confessions. The police have not moved an inch from those tactics. This report therefore gives the police a platform to recalibrate the entire systems of the police service. This editorial cannot end without saying a word about the Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA). The association, the closest the police have to a trade union, has been at the centre of the recent crises within the police. It has effectively acted as a rival centre of power that has directly challenged some of the decisions by the Commissioner. It is significant to note that the report is calling for a review of the law that set up LEPOSA “to clearly enunciate the principle that police officers are first and foremost policemen and policewomen and are subject to the authority. . . of the hierarchy of the LMPS at all times”. We wait to see how the government implements some of these recommendations to fix our ailing police service.

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