THE national executive committee (NEC) of the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) is under fire from party stalwarts loyal to party leader and former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane who accuse it of connivance in a plot to protect Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli from dismissal.
The Thabane loyalists accuse Commissioner Molibeli of playing a central role in the premature departure of Mr Thabane who was ejected by his own party in favour of former Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro on 20 May 2020.
But they complain that despite all “obvious” evidence that Commissioner Molibeli is “not fit for purpose” with crime having taken hold under his tenure and with the Lesotho Mounted Police Service Staff Association (LEPOSA) raising numerous “credible” complaints against him, Dr Majoro’s government cannot fire Commissioner Molibeli because it owes its existence to him.
They say Dr Majoro only became premier after Commissioner Molibeli “fabricated” charges that Mr Thabane murdered his ex-wife, Lipolelo, forcing him to quit.
Commissioner Molibeli hotly denies helping to oust Mr Thabane. The ABC’s NEC also denies protecting the police boss. It says the nation must allow an inter-ministerial committee set up by Dr Majoro to complete its task of probing instability within the police force. Only then will a decision be made over the fate of Commissioner Molibeli.
But the Thabane loyalists insist that the government is protecting the police commissioner. Their allegations have been backed up by some disgruntled police officers as well as the opposition Lesotho Congress of Democracy (LCD).
For more than a year, Commissioner Molibeli has been underfire from his subordinates in LEPOSA. They want him fired by Prime Minister Majoro over a plethora of issues including his alleged incompetence and failure to address their grievances.
They accuse him of unprocedurally promoting his close allies like Deputy Police Commissioner (DCP) Paseka Mokete and Assistant Police Commissioner (ACP) Beleme Lebajoa.
They also accuse him of failing to address the issue of police brutality. They had initially asked then Prime Minister Thabane to fire him earlier this year but the latter was prevented from doing so by the courts.
LEPOSA renewed its bid to get him fired by Dr Majoro after the latter came to power on 20 May 2020. Instead of bowing to their pressue, Dr Majoro opted to establish an inter-ministerial committee which is currently probing the instability within the police force.
The committee includes Police and Public Safety Minister ‘Mamoipone Senauoane, fellow ministers Prince Maliehe (Defence and National Security), Kemiso Mosenene (Prime Minister’s Office) and Professor Nqosa Mahao (Law and Justice) who is its chairperson.
It has already interviewed Commissioner Molibeli and LEPOSA officials and is expected to present its findings and recommendations as soon as it completes its task.
However, Thabane loyalists want to see Commissioner Molibeli’s back sooner. They see the inter-ministerial committee as a mere ruse to protect Commissioner Molibeli.
“The appointment of the inter-ministerial committee is merely a smokescreen so that they (ABC’s NEC and ABC ministers) appear like they are doing something to probe the serious allegations that have been raised against Molibeli by LEPOSA,” one Thabane loyalist and former cabinet minister said.
“They are unwilling to act against Molibeli because he played a major role in bringing down Ntate Thabane by naming him as a suspect in the (14 June 2017) murder of his ex-wife, Lipolelo… ..”
Mr Thabane’s current wife, ‘Maesaiah, is also a murder suspect and is awaiting trial in the High Court. Mr Thabane is yet to be charged in court despite being named by Commissioner Molibeli as a suspect.
The Thabane loyalists say the police have no strong case against him despite accusing him of murder.
“Those allegations against the Thabane couple will not stick as shown by Judge Thamsanqa Nomngcongo’s statements when granting bail to Mme ‘Maesaiah. But the allegations were used to force Thabane to step down. Now they cannot fire Molibeli despite his shortcomings. It is payback time for his help in bringing down Thabane.”
Another Thabane ally said, “The ABC’s NEC had done all it could to force Ntate Thabane to step down but they had failed”.
“They then resorted to police allegations that Ntate Thabane murdered his ex-wife to get rid of him… Due to the allegations, SADC piled pressure on Ntate Thabane to resign. He eventually succumbed to pressure and resigned. Had it not been for the police accusations, it would have been very difficult for Thabane to leave. It is a known fact that the ABC’s NEC is indebted to Molibeli. Even if Majoro wanted to fire him, his hands are tied. The ABC’s NEC is protecting its ally,” another axe cabinet minister said, preferring anonymity for fear of being suspended by what he called the “vindictive” party NEC.
ABC spokesperson Montoeli Masoetsa yesterday said it was unfortunate that the party was expected to pronounce itself on a governance issue which was being handled by an inter-ministerial committee.
“It is unfair for anyone to accuse us of protecting Commissioner Molibeli. There is a known problem in the police force and the government has established an inter-ministerial committee to deal with this serious matter. Therefore, the ABC cannot be expected to pronounce itself on the matter. It would be irregular of ABC to take sides in this matter.
“It is also not true that Ntate Holomo assisted us during our fight (with Thabane). You will remember that we went to court when the police refused to give us permits for our rallies. It was not Holomo who gave us permits but the courts. Holomo was not part of us and it is therefore unfortunate to suggest that Ntate Holomo fought in our corner,” Mr Masoetsa said.
The Thabane loyalists’ stance has found backing from the opposition LCD.
LCD spokesperson Apesi Ratšele last night said the new ABC-DC government owed its existence to Commissioner Molibeli.
“We are disappointed by the developments in the police service. There will be bloodshed if the government continues to adopt this casual approach to this matter (infighting in the police force).
“From the very first day he was appointed (in August 2017), the LCD questioned Ntate Holomo’s ability to lead the police force.
“He proved us right by promoting his friends and he is now untouchable because some people could not have been ministers without his help. We fought in the same corner with thelikes of Ntate (Lekhetho) Rakuoane and Ntate (Selibe) Mochoboroane but they are now quiet because they owe their ministerial positions to him.
“He has helped them become ministers. He (Molibeli) fought for the ABC’s NEC against Ntate Thabane. Ntate Majoro, Ntate Mahao and others benefited from Ntate Holomo’s actions. They cannot call him to order now. He is holding this government to ransom,” Mr Ratšele said.
Contacted for comment yesterday, Advocate Rakuoane said he cannot be “making noise” over the police infighting when the prime minister had already set up an inter-ministerial committee to probe the issue.
“The government has set up a committee to deal with police issues and we should all wait for the outcome of that committee’s inquiry. I cannot join in on the campaign by the opposition, that is not my role,” Adv Rakuoane said.
Ministers Mochoboroane (development planning) and Senauoane (police and public safety) were not reachable for comment last night.
Commissioner Molibeli denied helping the ABC’s NEC to oust Mr Thabane.
“It is not true that I helped this government to assume power,” he told the Lesotho Times last night.
“Those peddling those allegations don’t want to be identified because they know that they are not telling the truth. LEPOSA petitioned the prime minister a day after they met with police minister (Senauoane) to discuss their grievances. The minister was not given an opportunity to deal with their issues. They (LEPOSA) refused to meet with my delegation.
“The government has set-up a commission to probe the issues (infighting in the police force) but while the commission is seized with the matter, LEPOSA wants to stage a protest march to petition the prime minister. What is the meaning of that? Processes are underway to deal with their issues but they still want to go ahead with their march… .Why?” Commissioner Molibeli said.
Sign up for free AllAfrica Newsletters
Get the latest in African news delivered straight to your inbox
LEPOSA has also petitioned Law and Justice Minister Prof Mahao to stop Commissioner Molibeli from firing its members until after the inter-ministerial committee had submitted its findings on the infighting in the police force.
He did not respond to the LEPOSA letter. Prof Mahao, who is also the ABC deputy leader, said he had not responded to LEPOSA because the response would be contained in the inter-ministerial committee’s report.
“We will not be engaging LEPOSA through letters. Everything will be captured in our report. All we ask of the parties involved is for them to hold their horses and allow us to deal with their issues. We need to have a global understanding of the depth of the problem before we can have a way forward on the matter.
“We are fully aware that the temperatures are high on both sides. We will see what happens because they (LEPOSA) are planning to have a protest march,” Prof Mahao said.
He said although they had concluded the inquiry, they were taking time to write their report “because we don’t want our report to have gaps”.
“We need to close all gaps by asking for more information on issues that were raised verbally during our inquiry. We need to verify every single allegation made to us by each party in the matter. We are doing this by asking LEPOSA and the police management to give us documents to support their arguments. We want to produce a factual report whose facts have been verified by the committee,” Prof Mahao said.
But Mr Thabane’s loyalists, who blame Commissioner Molibeli for his demise, are having none of it. They want the commissioner dispensed with now. They have vowed to fight within the party’s structures to achieve their goal. They said they feared being quoted directly after one of them, Chalane Phori, was suspended from party activities for insubordination.