Police under the spotlight

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By Neo Mathibe

The recent #BachaShutDown which saw the youth come together to voice their concerns to the government of Lesotho, resulted in a number of youths incurring an assortment of injuries from the beatings and rubber bullet shots the police used to disperse them.

Current reports and videos of the day continue to show how police officials used force to handle a crowd of unarmed people fighting for their rights.  

With the minister of police responding by condemning the youth for holding the protest march with a permit from the police, a statement that has been interpreted as basically condoning the actions of the police, the events have once again put the competence of the police to control crowds under the spotlight.

theReporter approached police spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli to get to cast some light on the professionalism and nature of the training cops receive.

After initially ducking and diving, Mopeli boldly declared: “Yes, police are trained in crowd control.”

However, we put it to him that judging by the recent actions of the police officers of brutally abusing Basotho youth in a protest last week, suggested otherwise.

His response was: “I do not get the point. What is your question based upon?”

And when told it was based on hard evidence that the youth were violated, he harangued: “Who was abused. Who did that happen to? There is no record of any abused, injured or shot at victims from the protest in our records. I advise anyone who was injured or shot to go to the police station and file in their statement. Only then will we be able to talk.

“The police will work in accordance with the terms and conditions of a protest anywhere. Whether it was right or wrong of them to act the way they did, will be confirmed once investigations are done.

“You are the one saying talking about abuse. I do not know that. This is why I’m saying you want to put me in your shoes as if I was there at the scene, as if I know what you are talking about whereas I don’t know.

 “Human rights are safeguarded by the constitution, in black and white, and the police know them just as all Basotho know them. However, they do not go into too much detail, there are limitations to them too. Which means that there can still be an overriding of such rights based on what is happening,” Mopeli said.

As recently as August this year Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu said the cabinet was considering setting up a commission of inquiry to investigate widespread allegations of police brutality.

Mokhothu said the cabinet had already ordered ministers in charge of the security agencies to investigate the allegations and their findings will determine if a commission of inquiry is necessary.

The two ministers who have been tasked with probing the issue and reporting to cabinet are ‘Mamoipone Senauoane (Police and Public Safety) and Prince Maliehe (Defence and National Security).

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