THE police officers who shot and killed a villager and injured two others during last month’s protests at Kao Mine in Butha-Buthe will soon be hauled before the courts to face charges, Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) Commissioner, Holomo Molibeli, has said.
Compol Molibeli said this in a wide-ranging interview with the Lesotho Times on the sidelines of the closing ceremony of the SADC police training course at the Police Training Centre in Maseru on Tuesday.
One person died and two others were critically injured on 8 February 2018 at Kao Mine after violent clashes broke out between the police and villagers who were protesting against the alleged failure by the mine to honour its promises to compensate and relocate them from the areas affected by mining operations.
Compol Molibeli said they subsequently conducted investigations into the shooting incident and they were now awaiting communication from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to indicate how and when the trial of the suspects would proceed.
“We want the public to know that police investigations are complete and we have submitted a report to the office of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP),” Compol Molibeli said, adding, “We are waiting for the DPP to charge the police officers so that they can be taken to court”.
He described the killing of the villager as “disheartening and shameful”.
He however, said he would not respond to the Minister of Trade and Industry, Tefo Mapesela, who demanded his resignation for his alleged failure to act decisively on the shooting incident.
Mr Mapesela, visited the scene of the shooting in his capacity as the acting Minister of Mines at the time, condemned the heavy-handedness of the police which led to the loss of life.
Compol Molibeli said he fully submitted to civilian authority and would therefore not argue with the minister.
“I submit to civilian authority and will not argue with people in authority,” Compol Molibeli said, adding, “I will not discuss Ntate Mapesela’s submissions”.
He said police authorities have asked for forgiveness from the bereaved family and the injured.
“We asked for forgiveness from the bereaved family, the two people who were critically injured and the Kao community. We also admitted that the police were wrong and asked for forgiveness.”
Compol Molibeli also admitted that the police tortured suspects to extract confessions and he blamed the illegal practice on the lack of sufficient training on how to deal with suspects.
“Back in the days, a police officer would enroll for special investigation training which is no longer the case. Police detectives are now chosen without training.
“The lack of training has affected the police’s professionalism because when officers fail to successfully complete investigations they take out their stress on the suspects by torturing them to get information which is so wrong,” Compol Molibeli said.
In another development, Compol Molibeli lauded government efforts to build decent police stations and residences.
He however, lamented the lack of quality uniforms.
“The uniforms we get from local suppliers don’t last a year and they eventually cost the government more because they have they have to budget for new uniforms every year. It is high time the LMPS found quality material and produced uniforms internally.”
Compol Molibeli also bemoaned the high levels of indebtedness in the police force, saying they had since introduced financial literacy courses to help the officers to manage their finances.
He also said there was need to reform the Police Act of 1998 so that it provides for compensation for officers who got injured or lost their lives in the line of duty.