Tšooana faces graft probe

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Keiso Mohloboli

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COM­MIS­SIONER Khothatso Tšooana faces an un­cer­e­mo­ni­ous exit from the Le­sotho Mounted Po­lice Ser­vice (LMPS) af­ter sources told the Le­sotho Times this week that he is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for pos­si­ble cor­rup­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to sources privy to the case, the com­mis­sioner is be­ing ac­cused of pro­mot­ing un­de­serv­ing of­fi­cers in ex­change for money and loy­alty, as well as get­ting more than the stip­u­lated al­lowances when he was on leaveof-ab­sence in Al­ge­ria and South Africa from 21 Novem­ber 2014 to 2 April 2015.

Com­mis­sioner Tšooana was sent on spe­cial leave along­side Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) Com­man­der Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Maa­parankoe Ma­hao, and his pre­de­ces­sor Lt Gen Tlali Kamoli, in line with the Maseru Se­cu­rity Ac­cord signed on 23 Oc­to­ber 2014 un­der the aus­pices of the South­ern African Devel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC).

The Ac­cord sought to en­sure peace­ful elec­tions on 28 Fe­bru­ary 2015 af­ter per­sis­tent squab­bling be­tween the three se­cu­rity heavy­weights in the run-up to the poll, was threat­en­ing to plunge Le­sotho into a civil war.

Lt Gen Kamoli re­turned home on 29 March while Com­mis­sioner Tšooana and Lt Gen Ma­hao came back on 2 April. How­ever, none of the trio has re­sumed duty, with Com­mis­sioner Tšooana and Lt Gen Ma­hao telling the Le­sotho Times that they had been ver­bally in­formed that they should con­tinue with their spe­cial leave “un­til fur­ther no­tice”.

Deputy Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice ( DCP) Keketso Mon­a­heng has since been ap­pointed Act­ing Po­lice Com­mis­sioner fol­low­ing his re­turn last week from a one-year sab­bat­i­cal he was forced to take due to the “many leave days” he had ac­cu­mu­lated.

Ac­cord­ing to the sources, Com­mis­sioner Tšooana is ac­cused of tak­ing ad­van­tage of the new po­lice struc­ture by “sell­ing” some of the new ranks hence the cor­rup­tion charge. On the is­sue of al­lowances, the sources told the Le­sotho Times that the com­mis­sioner is be­ing ac­cused of get­ting more than his two ex­iled col­leagues. The sources fur­ther said gov­ern­ment was determined to get rid of Com­mis­sioner Tšooana “by any means pos­si­ble” but was not pre­pared to pen­sion him off be­cause of the huge sums in­volved, hence the in­ves­ti­ga­tion which is hoped to find him guilty, which would then jus­tify his dis­missal.

How­ever, in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with the Le­sotho Times this week, Com­mis­sioner Tšooana said he had not been “of­fi­cially” told that he was be­ing in­ves­ti­gated but only heard about it through “ru­mour”.

Com­mis­sioner Tšooana — who as­sumed the LMPS top post in Jan­uary 2014 un­der the Thomas Tha­bane-led gov­ern­ment which re­lin­quished power af­ter fail­ing to win the re­quired out­right ma­jor­ity seats in the 28 Fe­bru­ary snap elec­tions — also said he did not know when he would be re­sum­ing duty and was hop­ing to meet “the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties” re­gard­ing the is­sue.

The po­lice chief also said he was be­com­ing in­creas­ingly frus­trated by the ex­tended leave and not be­ing in­formed of what was hap­pen­ing in the LMPS since he was still the com­mis­sioner.

Com­mis­sioner Tšooana, who said he had only met newly-ap­pointed Po­lice Min­is­ter Monyane Moleleki once since his re­turn from ex­ile two weeks ago, also said he had not been of­fi­cially told that DCP Mon­a­heng had re­placed DCP Holomo Moli­beli as act­ing com­mis­sioner de­spite be­ing head of the LMPS.

“First of all, I have not been of­fi­cially in- formed that I am be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for any­thing; I have only heard about it through ru­mour, so I can’t com­ment on some­thing that might not be true at all,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to Com­mis­sioner Tšooana, Mr Moleleki, Min­istry of Po­lice Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary Re­filoe Matekane, DCP Moli­beli and other se­nior po­lice of­fi­cers were at the Po­lice Head­quar­ters Board­room to re­ceive him when he re­turned to Le­sotho on 2 April 2015, and had hoped to re­sume his du­ties with im­me­di­ate ef­fect.

“I met Mr Moleleki, PS Matekane, Act­ing Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice Moli­beli and other se­nior of­fi­cers at Po­lice Head­quar­ters; even DCP Mon­a­heng was there but to this day, no­body has told me that he is now the Act­ing Com­mis­sioner. I only saw him on Le­sotho Tele­vi­sion on Fri­day last week in­tro­duc­ing him­self as the Act­ing Com­mis­sioner.

“Yet be­ing on leave doesn’t take away my pow­ers as Po­lice Com­mis­sioner, and if such ap­point­ments were to be made, and also if there were any in­ves­ti­ga­tions against me, I was sup­posed to be of­fi­cially in­formed.

“If the al­le­ga­tion that there is a team of de­tec­tives that has es­tab­lished to in­ves­ti­gate me is true, I don’t have any prob­lem about that; that team can go ahead and do its job. I am ready to be in­ves­ti­gated any­time be­cause I don’t have any­thing to hide.

“I am con­fi­dent that I didn’t sell any pro­mo­tions dur­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the new po­lice rank struc­ture and didn’t cal­cu­late or ap­prove my al­lowances while I was in Al­ge­ria on leave-of-ab­sence.

“Maybe the in­quiry, if in­deed it is go­ing on or is about to begin, is a way to force me to re­sign from the LMPS, which un­for­tu­nately, I won’t do. The truth will tri­umph over lies, and I will not be in­tim­i­dated by any in­ves­ti­ga­tion against me.

“If I am to leave the LMPS, I want it to be a fair sep­a­ra­tion. In fact, there are two op­tions here—ei­ther I re­turn to the LMPS as Com­mis­sioner or I am sent on early re­tire­ment, and paid ac­cord­ingly. I will def­i­nitely refuse to be re­de­ployed to an­other post. If the au­thor­i­ties have de­cided that I should leave, I will go but on the terms that I have said, which means com­pen­sa­tion. I want to live in peace in my home­land, and if I am to leave the LMPS, I also want to do so peace­fully.”

Asked what his leave-of-ab­sence had in­di­cated re­gard­ing when he should be back in of­fice, Com­mis­sioner Tšooana said it had been a “gen­tle­man’s agree­ment” which was not clear on the date of re­turn both to Le­sotho and work.

“When I met Mr Moleleki on my re­turn, he said I should con­tinue with the leave.

“He said this ver­bally, and in­sisted that I should only come back to the of­fice af­ter I have been told to do so. Mr Moleleki also told me that the Po­lice Act of 1998 was clear that my ap­point­ment was the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the Prime Min­is­ter, but to this day, I have never met the new pre­mier, (Demo­cratic Congress leader Pakalitha Mo­sisili, who was in­au­gu­rated on 17 March 2015).

“Be­cause I can’t con­tinue wait­ing for­ever to be called back to of­fice, I am con­sid­er­ing ap­proach­ing the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties about the is­sue. Now I want some­thing in writ­ing in­di­cat­ing that I am on spe­cial leave and why, be­cause ver­bal agree­ments can be bro­ken any­time.

“The other is­sue is that ac­cord­ing to the Maseru Se­cu­rity Ac­cord, our leave-of-ab­sence in­di­cated that we were sup­posed to be out­side the coun­try, but we have been back since 2 April and yet I don’t even know when I will be back at work, or what ex­actly is go­ing on in the LMPS. SADC which bro­kered the Ac­cord that sent us away has also not said any­thing about the is­sue. The other thing is there is noth­ing like leave-of-ab­sence in the Po­lice Act, and I only agreed to go on one to en­sure peace pre­vailed in my coun­try be­cause we all know what was hap­pen­ing at the time. That is the only rea­son why I de­cided to leave the coun­try — for the peace of my coun­try although I knew that I had done noth­ing wrong to war­rant that ex­ile,” Com­mis­sioner Tšooana said.

Asked if he re­gret­ted agree­ing to go on the spe­cial leave, Com­mis­sioner Tšooana said: “No; I have no re­grets at all.

“This was an agree­ment made in good faith, and be­cause SADC was in­volved, as well as other rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers, I de­cided to go and never thought there could be any com­pli­ca­tions upon my re­turn. I ac­cepted to go be­cause it was for the sake of Le­sotho’s peace and sta­bil­ity, as well my fel­low po­lice of­fi­cers,” he said. Com­mis­sioner Tšooana said he did not have any prob­lem work­ing with the new gov­ern­ment be­cause he was a pro­fes­sional. He was el­e­vated to Com­mis­sioner by the Tha­bane-led gov­ern­ment, which col­lapsed last year due to in­fight­ing by the lead­er­ship.

“As a pro­fes­sional po­lice of­fi­cer, I am ready to serve the new gov­ern­ment with loy­alty,” he said. On how he would re­late to Mr Moleleki who has been the sub­ject of po­lice cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tions over re­cent years, Com­mis­sioner Tšooana said there were no “per­sonal is­sues” be­tween him and the DC deputy leader — and that he would have no prob­lems work­ing with the new min­is­ter.

“De­spite Mr Moleleki’s court cases, I am ready to work with him and ex­e­cute my du­ties as Po­lice Com­mis­sioner,” he added. Asked to com­ment on Mr Mon­a­heng’s state­ment to se­nior po­lice of­fi­cers on Fri­day last week, in which he said the LMPS had al­lowed it­self to be ma­nip­u­lated by politi­cians to the detri­ment of ser­vice-de­liv­ery, Com­mis­sioner Tšooana said the an­nounce­ment was an in­sult to po­lice of­fi­cers.

“As­so­ci­at­ing the po­lice with party pol­i­tics was an in­sult, and the fact that for­eign po­lice had to pro­vide se­cu­rity in Le­sotho dur­ing the elec­tions was con­fir­ma­tion that there was a huge prob­lem in this coun­try.

“Maybe there is some per­sonal agenda that he wants to push; the po­lice were raided and at­tacked by the army (on 30 Au­gust 2014). We even lost Sub-in­spec­tor Mokhe­seng Ramahloko dur­ing this attack and that had noth­ing to do with the po­lice en­gag­ing them­selves in pol­i­tics be­cause they were am­bushed on duty, in their po­lice sta­tions and not at po­lit­i­cal ral­lies,” he said.

On his part, Mr Mon­a­heng on Tues­day told the Le­sotho Times that he did not know of any po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tions against Com­mis­sioner Tšooana.

“It is my first time to hear that there is an in­ves­ti­ga­tion against Com­mis­sioner Tšooana. I am only act­ing in his po­si­tion and don’t know any­thing about it. Even if there was such an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, it would be an ad­min­is­tra­tive is­sue that I would not even know about,” Mr Mon­a­heng said.

He refuted al­le­ga­tions that he was an­gry with Com­mis­sioner Tšooana for send­ing him on spe­cial leave, hence the probe.

“I am not an­gry and have never said I am an­gry about it. I am a prin­ci­pled man of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and can’t be proud of ar­rest­ing my own boss. He is still a boss here and I am his ju­nior.”

Mean­while, re­peated at­tempts to get Mr Moleleki’s com­ment were fruit­less.

lea“If I am to ve the LMPS, I want it to be a fair sep­a­ra­tion. In fact, there are two op­tions here — ei­ther I re­turn to the LMPS as com­mis­sioner or I am sent on early re­tire­ment, and paid ac­cord­ingly. I will def­i­nitely refuse to be re­de­ployed to an­other post.

COM­MIS­SIONER of Po­lice Khothatso Tšooana.

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