ELSEWHERE in this issue we carry a story about the dismissal of 16 police officers for allegedly engaging in corrupt activities.
The dismissal sends the clearest indication that the government is finally determined to weed out corrupt officers who have for so long tarnished the image of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS).
The dismissals were long overdue.
We believe the time has come for the coalition government headed by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to match rhetoric about fighting corruption with real action on the ground.
Fighting crime was a major campaign subject for the three parties that make up the coalition government.
The three parties must live up to their election promises and deal decisively with this cancer.
While the level of crime in Lesotho is nowhere near that of Johannesburg, we believe Basotho have a right to live in peace unmolested.
This government must therefore send a clear message to rogue officers within the LMPS that their time is up and that it can no longer be business as usual.
While there are indeed lots of dedicated, intelligent and hard-working officers within the LMPS, the reality is that there is a small, corrupt clique whose activities have been gnawing at the heart of the police.
These should have no place in the LMPS.
While this weeding exercise is still ongoing we believe the LMPS must also work harder to repair its damaged brand.
It is arguable whether our police are the most corrupt in southern Africa.
We would like to be persuaded to believe they are not.
But the ordinary Mosotho’s perception of the police is generally negative mostly because of a belief that the LMPS is also home to lots of rogue officers.
If the police are to restore trust with the nation at large they must do more to kick out the corrupt officers amongst them.
The battle against crime can only be won when the police work hand-in-hand with the community.
But for that to happen there must be a degree of trust between police and the community.
One compelling argument that has been proffered as an excuse for the corruption within the police is the matter of poor salaries.
There is a concern that the government has consistently neglected our police in terms of improving their salaries and perks.
We believe there is nothing as dangerous as a disgruntled police officer.
Such an officer is highly susceptible to bribery.
It is in our interest that our police officers do not starve.
The police must also be better equipped and trained to carry out their professional work.
They must be sent on exchange programmes to help them sharpen their investigative skills.
But most importantly the police must undergo an ideological shift over their policing methods.
The police must not be encouraged to perpetrate human rights violations in the name of fighting crime.
They must work within the confines of the law.
This newspaper has not shied away from highlighting the numerous cases of torture perpetrated by rogue police officers.
We believe any interrogation tactics that involve the use of torture to extract confessions from suspects are antiquated.
It was precisely for that reason that the government has had to pay large sums of money to victims as compensation for torture.
This is money that could be better spent improving the welfare of our police officers.