By Thuso Mosabala
The Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) has partnered with National University of Lesotho (NUL) in a landmark initiative to transform the former, MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism (MNNCIJ) has learnt.
Although the arrangement is much at an embryonic stage, the Centre has observed Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli and NUL Vice Chancellor Nqosa Mahao met recently to discuss the transformation blueprint.
Under the arrangement, NUL anticipates to establish a Department of Counselling for Police that will serve as training hub for the workforce to up their professional behaviour, improve their investigative skills and mitigate brutality, among others.
It remains sketchy yet how long will the trainings, which are expected to be undertaken in different lots, take.
As things stand currently, the police receive their six-month primary training at the Police Training College (PTC).
Both Commissioner Molibeli and Professor Mahao have confirmed the developments with MNNCIJ albeit the initiative was at an infant stage to divulge details.
“The plan is to provide a lot of training regarding investigation techniques, criminology, counselling, and many more. We are on preliminary stage with the National University of Lesotho to introduce and establish a counselling department for police,” Molibeli said in a recent interview with MNNCIJ.
The police boss added they had engaged the SADC Preventive Mission in Lesotho to also offer training interventions.
“Eventually, we want to turn our college (PTC) into a fully-fledged academy producing professionals in various fields,” he said.
For his part, Mahao told the Centre, talks had begun between him and Molibeli over establishment of the police counselling department.
“I was with the commissioner on Friday, we are discussing it but we are yet to design a program for them,” Mahao said.
The developments come just a few weeks after the LMPS launched a five-year International Youth Fellowship’s (IYF) mind education programme at PTC aimed to curb police brutality.
In the latter arrangement, the YMF conducts one-hour mind education lectures every Wednesday to help the police to transform their behaviour.
The YMF originates from South Korea and aims at transforming youths into responsible people who can make positive contributions to society.
The LMPS has recently came under fierce scrutiny by opposition, civil society organisations and individuals for torturing suspects.
Molibeli told the Centre they were doing everything in their power to take disciplinary actions against violent police officers.
“The LMPS mandate is to uphold the law. We should be doing that within confines of the law. Where a police officer deviates from that proper disciplinary measures are taken, he said.
The commissioner added public confidence was re-emerging “as the public complaints against the police are being dealt with without any of the endeavour by LMPS management to exonerate any wrongdoers. We have cases against the police which are in the courts of law. We are trying vigorously to be seen as part of the community by sports and recreational activities…”
These positive developments within the police service follow damning reports of police brutality by rights group, Transformation Resource Centre. TRC noted with concern acts of police brutality and called upon the government action decisively against police officers accused of violating human rights.
Among recent cases of suspected human rights violations are incidents which occurred on the 31 August 2017 where police officers assaulted members of the community in Ha-Mofoka.
The Centre learned the community members were made to lie on the ground and were severely beaten. One of the community members was allegedly shot by police and was later found dead with part of his face missing.
On another incident, on 8 February 2018, riot police called to a protest of Kao residents who had blocked access roads to the Kao mine operated by Storm Mountain Diamond over unfulfilled obligations as stated in an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA), used deadly force to quash the protest.
The Centre understands the protestors had blocked the road leading to the mine to deny vehicles access to the mine resulting in Police officers shooting the protestors, two got severe injuries while one was shot and killed.
On the 17th April 2016, the Centre understands residents of Liqhobong had clashes with the Liqhobong Diamond Mine emanating from the mine’s failure to fulfil its promises to the residents.
The Centre learned the residents were engaging in a peaceful protest, but police officers intervened by beating protesters with batons and rifle butts and detained four residents at Botha-Bothe Police Station for more than 48 hours.
Another case against the police is of 24-year-old Tumelo Mohlomi, a fourth year Development Studies student at the NUL who was shot at the back of her head by a police officer while sitting in a restaurant outside the university campus. The police officer was arrested after the killing and apparently released on bail.
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