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The harassment of women police officers



Lesotho Mounted Police Services (LMPS) is an institution that is largely dominated by men. That has been the case ever since the institution was first created by the Leabua Jonathan administration. Today women still account for a very small percentage in the LMPS. It has also always been known that female officers within the LMPS experienced more incidents of harassment than male officers. However, very few female police officers have been willing to come out and report the assaults, physical or sexual. Last weekend, I listened to a harrowing testimony by a female police officer revealing that male police target and inflict sexual harassment and humiliation on female police officers with the purpose of punishing and discriminating against them. This treatment can amount to gender-based torture. The Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA) treasurer ‘Mathebe Motseki spoke out against the abuse committed against women within the police force at a funeral of a relative and fellow policeman Lieutenant Sergeant Thabang Molelekoa in Mafeteng. In her speech, Motseki highlighted discrepancies in the investigation into the murder of the former First Lady Lipolelo Thabane who was gunned down at her home days before her husband former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane was inaugurated in June 2017.  Furthermore, she expressed the pain that this particular investigation caused the family of the deceased, highlighting issues in its investigation that have been clouded by political phenomena in the country. She also used the platform to ask if the police can be trusted to respond to the plight against gender based violence and woman abuse when harassment and victimisation of policewomen in the workplace is overlooked. ‘Mathebe Motseki recounted amongst other incidents the victimisation and harassment of the wife of the deceased, Senior Inspector Lerato Motseki, at the hands of her colleagues.  Senior Inspector Lerato Motseki was stripped naked and beaten by junior officers for doing her job as a Deputy Public Relations Officers. She was beaten after she publicised developments related to the docket into the murder of Mrs Thabane. Her assault allegedly took place because she reported a matter that involved the newly formed government led by Thabane. Ironically, ‘Mathebe Motseki said the same case of the deceased Mrs Thabane seems to now be used by certain individuals within the institution to gain prominence. Furthermore, ‘Mathebe Motseki suggested that Senior Inspector ‘Mabasotho was dismissed from work due to the fact that she assisted a citizen to open a case against the former First Lady ‘Maesaiah Thabane in which the complainant claimed to have been beaten at the State House under the orders ‘Maesaiah who is coincidentally also the prime suspect in the murder of Lipolelo Thabane. In addition, ‘Mathebe Motseki alleges that Senior Inspector ‘Mabasotho was relieved from her duties because of the negative light she shed on ‘Maesaiah and the then government. Lastly, she also indicated her dismay over the silence in a case against DCP Mokete who is being accused of harassing a fellow woman police officer. On June 10, 2020 the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane, wrote to Maseru Dispol Supt Setsomi informing her that she can go ahead with prosecution of case RCI 49/04/2020 whereby Inspector Mphetho reported a crime committed against herself by DCP Mokete on the 30 April 2020 in the district of Maseru. ‘Mathebe Motseki concluded by saying quid pro quo harassment is the most commonly experienced type of harassment. Male police officers, especially senior officers harass junior female police officers and in return give them promotions. Some junior officers are willing to accept the harassment in exchange for rank or promotions. Amidst the distrust and animosity the public already harbors towards police and because of corruption and police brutality, in her speech ‘Mathebe Motseki unraveled yet another layer of abuse against women and gender inequality that is prevalent within the force. This seems to be driven by political figures that inhibit attempts to fight gender based violence and women abuse in the society. She also states that such events leave policewomen who are regarded as instrumental in the fight against gender-based violence and woman abuse within society too embittered and emotionally unfit to answer this clarion call. I call upon the Minister of Police to publicly recognise and condemn the gender-based torture, sexual assault and ill-treatment by the male police on police women. These acts must be punished and the perpetrators brought before the courts of law. Ramahooana matlosa

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