Noth­ing ‘un­usual’ about army pres­ence at prisons

Lesotho Times - - News - Keiso Mohloboli

LE­SOTHO Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices (LCS) Act­ing Com­mis­sioner, ‘Matefo Makhalemele, says there is noth­ing un­usual about mem­bers of the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) pa­trolling any of the coun­try’s prisons.

Ms Makhalemele was re­act­ing to com­plaints by some LCS staff who told the Le­sotho Times that LDF mem­bers had taken over Maseru Cen­tral and Max­i­mum prisons on Tues­day morn­ing. The sol­diers had al­legedly chased away warders on duty and beefed up their num­bers yes­ter­day, the LCS staffers added.

“We were on duty early Tues­day morn­ing when the Deputy-of­fi­cerin-charge of Leribe Pri­son, Su­per­in­ten­dent Teboho Masenkane ap­proached the Of­fi­cer-in-charge of Maseru Cen­tral Pri­son, Se­nior Su­per­in­ten­dent Manaka (first name not given) and in­formed him that he had been trans­ferred to re­place him.

“But Su­per­in­ten­dent Manaka de­manded writ­ten proof of the trans­fer.

“Su­per­in­ten­dent Makhalemele went away for some time and then came back with a trans­fer let­ter signed by LCS Act­ing Com­mis­sioner, ‘Matefo Makhalemele.

“Then at around 9am, Su­per­in­ten­dent Masenkane de­manded all pri­son gate keys from the gate­keeper. Af­ter that, sol­diers drove into Maseru Cen­tral Pri­son and we, the LCS guards, were told to leave the premises and han­dover what­ever du­ties we had been do­ing to the sol­diers. We were never given an ex­pla­na­tion of what was go­ing on,” said the warders, who spoke to the Le­sotho Times as a group, yes­ter­day morn­ing.

“Those of us who were sup­posed to re­sume duty at 2pm and 7pm on Tues­day were not al­lowed onto the pri­son premises by sol­diers who were man­ning the main gate. We were sim­ply told that our du­ties had been taken over by the LDF, and we could see the sol­diers pa­trolling the com­plex.”

Ac­cord­ing to the warders, as of yes­ter­day, no cor­rec­tional of­fi­cer was be­ing al­lowed into the two com­plexes, save for Su­per­in­ten­dent Masenkane.

Con­tacted for com­ment, LCS spokesper­son, As­sis­tant Su­per­in­ten­dent Neo Mopeli, de­nied the guards’ claims that sol­diers had taken over the two prisons.

“First of all, ac­cord­ing to LCS reg­u­la­tions, there is no way that a Su­per­in­ten­dant can give or­ders to a Se­nior Su­per­in­ten­dent, the way your sources are claim­ing hap­pened,” Ass Sup Mopeli said.

“on the pres­ence of LDF mem­bers at cor­rec­tional ser­vice fa­cil­i­ties, LCS au­thor­i­ties can de­cide, at any given time, to seek as­sis­tance from the army or the po­lice, if nec­es­sary. There is noth­ing un­usual about this, and like I said, the LCS is al­lowed to ask for as­sis­tance from the army if need be and that is what is cur­rently hap­pen­ing at Maseru Cen­tral Pri­son,” he said.

on her part, LCS Act­ing Com­mis­sioner, Makhalemele re­it­er­ated that it was not true that the LDF had taken over the two prisons.

“LDF mem­bers as­sist LCS of­fi­cers with se­cu­rity mat­ters on a daily ba­sis, so it should not come as a sur­prise that sol­diers are at Maseru Cen­tral Pri­son be­cause they are al­ways there. I re­ally don’t know how the is­sue at­tracted public in­ter­est be­cause we work with sol­diers ev­ery day, like I men­tioned ear­lier on.

“I am not aware that there are some LCS of­fi­cers who have been pre­vented from do­ing their work, as you are say­ing, be­cause of the pres­ence of the sol­diers. I am at Maseru Cen­tral Pri­son as we speak, and I am with other se­nior LCS of­fi­cers work­ing hand-in-hand with the army. I can’t go deep into se­cu­rity is­sues that have made us seek as­sis­tance from the LDF, but I can as­sure you that op­er­a­tions at this pri­son are con­tin­u­ing as usual,” Act­ing Com­mis­sioner Makhalemele said.

Re­peated ef­forts to get a com­ment from the LDF were un­suc­cess­ful.

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