Maseru prison security ‘breached’

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’Marafaele Mohloboli

TWO senior Lesotho Correctional Services (LCS) officers have been suspended pending the outcome of police investigations into a possible breach of security at the Maseru Central Prison after a safe containing the keys of the correctional facility was allegedly tampered with.

The Acting Commissioner of Lesotho Correctional Services, Thabang Mothepu, disclosed this at a press conference yesterday in Maseru.

Commissioner Mothepu said the two officers “of the rank of superintendent and assistant superintendent have been interdicted pending investigations into this matter”.

He said they had also engaged the police and National Security Services (NSS) as well as an independent expert to ascertain whether or not the safe could still be used.

Some well-placed sources allege this could have been an inside job which has potentially far-reaching consequences for the security of the institution given that some of the high profile inmates currently in custody include the murder-accused former army commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli.

Police spokesperson, Inspector Mpiti Mopeli, this week confirmed to the Lesotho Times that they had received a report from the Lesotho Correctional Service of the incident which reportedly occurred on Monday.

“Police are busy investigating a case in which the safe that contains the keys to all the holding cells in the Maseru Central Prison could have been tampered with,” Inspector Mopeli said, adding, “This became apparent when the institution’s boss tried in vain to open the safe on Monday”.

Inspector Mopeli however, said nothing had been taken from the safe.

For his part, Lesotho Correctional Services Spokesperson, Superintendent Neo Mopeli, said, “The District Commander found that the safe had been tampered with upon arrival on Monday when he wanted to access the safe which is protected by a secret code of numbers”.

“It was when access was denied that he realised there were some scratch marks on the seal.

“However, no suspects have been arrested in connection with this incident but we are banking on police investigations as it is a security matter that needs handling with utmost caution,” Sup. Mopeli said.

Lt-Gen Kamoli is in custody awaiting trial over the murder of police Sub-Inspector Mokheseng Ramahloko who was fatally shot during the 30 August 2014 attempted coup against the first government of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.

A number of soldiers, under Lt-Gen Kamoli’s command, stormed various police stations and seized arms they claimed were to be used against civilians at a Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) rally that same weekend. However, Dr Thabane’s government charged that Lt-Gen Kamoli launched his coup attempt in reaction to his dismissal by the Prime Minister a day earlier.

Three other army officers namely, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane (38), Lance Corporal Motloheloa Ntsane (34) and Lance Corporal Leutsoa Motsieloa (31) are charged with Lt-Gen Kamoli with the murder of Sub-Inspector Ramahloko. The three are in detention with Lt-Gen Kamoli at the Maseru Maximum Prison.

In addition, Lt-Gen also faces 14 attempted murder charges stemming from the 27 January 2014 simultaneous bombings of the Moshoeshoe II homes of First Lady Maesiah Thabane, one ‘Mamoshoeshoe Moletsane, and the Ha Abia residence of former police commissioner Khothatso Tšooana.

The former army commander originally applied for bail on 20 October this year but his hopes of freedom were shattered last month when High Court judge Justice Teboho Moiloa ruled that his submission that he suffers from influenza had failed to demonstrate to the court that there were exceptional circumstances that warranted his release on bail as required by law.

Other high ranking officials who are also in custody are police officers, Senior Superintendent Thabo Tšukulu, Senior Inspector Mabitle Matona, Sub Inspector Haleokoe Taasoane and Inspector Mothibeli Mofolo. They also face charges in connection with the murder of Police Constable Mokalekale Khetheng.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Mothepu issued a stern warning to faceless people including one Facebook account holder, Liralitjamme, who was in the habit of posting on issues concerning the administration of the correctional services.

“No one is entitled to give any information pertaining to the administration of this institution and we shall do everything to ensure the safety of the inmates. Anyone who is found guilty shall face the consequences.”

Commissioner Mothepu also dismissed allegations that some of the correctional officers salute some of the inmates who used to serve in the LDF or were prominent in the society.

“This is not true and there is no way anyone who is in custody can be saluted because the minute they are admitted the veil of veneration falls off,” he said.

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