MASERU — Acting Police Commissioner Kizito Mhlakaza says he will deal with any police officer who will join a march to petition Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili on Tuesday.
The Lesotho Mounted Police Services Staff Association (PSA) is planning to petition Mosisili to intervene after Deputy Prime Minister Lesao Lehohla, who is also police minister, failed to deal with their grievances.
Junior police officers want better salaries and work conditions.
They also want the government to review their allowances, change the transfer policy and give them houses.
They are also unhappy about the proportion policy in the Lesotho Mounted Police Services (LMPS).
Several attempts to have Mhlakaza and Lehohla address their concerns for the past two years have hit a brick wall, PSA said.
Mhlakaza told a press conference yesterday he was not going to tolerate police officers joining a march to the prime minister’s office.
“The Police Staff Association does not have any right to question the powers of the Commissioner of Police or to challenge his decisions,” Mhlakaza said.
“Any police officer who will be spotted in that march will have stripped himself of his services with the police service.”
“Stern action will be taken against such officers,” he said.
Mhlakaza said the PSA has a right to represent the police and present their grievances to the police authorities “but there is nowhere the law says they should march as a crowd to voice their concerns”.
His said his order was meant to avoid a repeat of the 1994 police strike that resulted in the murders of senior officers at the Maseru Central Police Station.
The police boss said he had been in meetings with PSA over the matter since November last year and “therefore the association knows exactly well that their grievances are being attended to”.
Mhlakaza said the Maseru urban police commander rejected the association’s application to march to Mosisili’s office.
However, the PSA was not moved by Mhlakaza’s order yesterday and said the march would go ahead.
The association’s secretary general, Motsamai Kholumo told the Lesotho Times that “Mhlakaza is misleading himself”.
“The statement he made at the press conference was merely a power show off and it does not have an effect,” Kholumo said.
“We met the Deputy Prime Minister today (yesterday) and he said some of the issues were not brought to his attention,” he added.
“We are waiting to see what will happen after their caucus. As for us, we are expecting to see a change in our salaries on April 20.”
For the past two years the police have complained that they are underpaid and that their working conditions are appalling.
Negotiations between the PSA and the police authorities were temporarily suspended to prepare for the local government elections held on October 1 last year.
This was after the association’s delegates met Home Affairs Principal Secretary Retšelisitsoe Khetsi and Mhlakaza to discuss their grievances.
The police have been complaining of low salaries, too little risk allowance, uncomfortable working conditions and a transfer policy that is destructive to officers’ family life.
The officers have also complained of living in dilapidated houses in various posts in the country as well as working in office premises that are not “fit for humans”.
Kholumo told the Lesotho Times in an interview during a leadership capacity building workshop last year that the government had promised to consider some of their grievances in the 2012/2013 financial year but “no agreement has been signed as yet”.
Kholumo said even though government agreed that rank structures should be reviewed, salaries still lagged behind.
“Our salaries do not match the ranks and this is one of the major things we need to discuss with the police authorities,” Kholumo said.
“According to our agreement it is expected that by April next year when the new financial year starts the new salary structure will come into operation but no document has been signed as yet and no circular has been issued,” he said.
The PSA public relations officer, Thabiso Thaanyane yesterday said the situation has not changed.