I am not look­ing for re­venge: Moli­beli

Lesotho Times - - Big Interview -

PRIME Min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane last month ap­pointed former Le­sotho Po­lice Staff As­so­ci­a­tion ( LEPOSA) pres­i­dent, Holomo Moli­beli, as act­ing po­lice com­mis­sioner.

The pre­mier made the ap­point­ment af­ter send­ing Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Mo­lahlehi Let­soepa on an in­vol­un­tary 90-day leave in June this year.

Com­mis­sioner Let­soepa is cur­rently ne­go­ti­at­ing exit terms with the gov­ern­ment, with Act­ing Com­mis­sioner Moli­beli ex­pected to re­place the top cop on a per­ma­nent ba­sis.

Act­ing Com­mis­sioner Moli­beli — whose sub­stan­tive po­si­tion is that of As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice (ACP) head­ing the Crime In­ves­ti­ga­tion De­part­ment (CID) — is not new to the law en­force­ment agency’s hot seat. He tem­po­rar­ily held the reins when then po­lice com­mis­sioner Khothatso Tšooana and other se­cu­rity bosses were sent on a spe­cial leave in 2014 and 2015. The spe­cial leave was meant to al­low the restora­tion of peace be­tween the army and po­lice in line with the Maseru Se­cu­rity Ac­cord bro­kered by South African Vice-pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa. In this wide-rang­ing in­ter­view with Le­sotho Times (LT) Reporter Pas­cali­nah Kabi, Act­ing Com­mis­sioner Moli­beli ( pic­tured) talks about his new role and the chal­lenges he faces among other is­sues.

LT: Briefly tell us about yourself?

Moli­beli: Born on 23 Fe­bru­ary 1969, I grew up in Mabuthile vil­lage, Butha-buthe. I at­tended both my pri­mary and high ed­u­ca­tion in Butha-buthe. My par­ents had four male chil­dren and I am the last born, all of them have since died.

I joined the Le­sotho Mounted Po­lice Ser­vice (LMPS) on 10 May 1988. I now have 29 years serv­ing as a po­lice of­fi­cer. Grow­ing up, I wanted noth­ing else but to be­come a hot­shot lawyer, but fate had other ideas be­cause I had to quickly earn a liv­ing.

I had passed my Cam­bridge O Level School Cer­tifi­cate (COSC) well, but my father, who worked as a miner in South Africa, was al­ready strug­gling fi­nan­cially and only stayed in the coun­try to en­sure that I com­pleted my high school stud­ies. He re­tired when I was do­ing Form D and things got very tough, hence I sought em­ploy­ment in the po­lice ser­vice.

I was happy to be part of the ser­vice but I must point out that I was brought to this place by my fam­ily cir­cum­stances. What made it eas­ier for me to join the force was that I was a very good foot­baller. Within a short time, I was se­lected for the se­nior LMPS team, and I must con­fess that foot­ball made me for­get that I needed to go back to school at some stage.

I first started as a mid­fielder and scored so many goals that I was con­verted into a striker. Shortly be­fore I hung my boots, I be­came a right full­back who would over­lap and score goals. The num­ber of goals I scored when I was a right back are more than the ones I scored as a striker. I hung my boots in 1996 and es­tab­lished my own foot­ball team.

LT: You briefly left the po­lice ser­vice in 2016, what prompted the de­ci­sion to leave a ser­vice you sound so fond of?

Moli­beli: The en­vi­ron­ment within the po­lice ser­vice was no longer con­ducive for me to ex­ec­u­tive my du­ties as ACP head­ing CID. Or­ders came from the top, skipped me and re­port­ing would come from my ju­niors to the top, skip­ping me as ACP.

It was un­bear­able. The work­ing con­di­tions at that time were be­yond ex­pla­na­tion and the writ­ing was on the wall for me. I was not serv­ing any pur­pose. My pres­ence and ab­sence were not felt at all. I had no op­tion but to leave.

To be hon­est, I was not ready to leave the ser­vice, so it was heart-break­ing for me. I had started to lose weight due to cir­cum­stances within the ser­vice and I did not have any in­ner peace know­ing how much I loved the ser­vice yet I could not serve it well.

It was also heart-break­ing to see that even the peo­ple I had known in all my pro­fes­sional life and trusted had turned against me. It seemed as if we never knew each for rea­sons un­be­knownst to me.

I oc­cu­pied the po­si­tion of act­ing com­mis­sioner of po­lice in 2015 when this coun­try was pre­par­ing for elec­tions. We worked re­ally well and even re­ceived com­men­da­tions from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. So in May 2015, I re­turned to my sub­stan­tive po­si­tion and a year down the line th­ese peo­ple acted like they did not know me at all.

I was not new to them. I was their col­league and trusted them. Sud­denly things changed and peo­ple were not free around me. So I de­cided that stay­ing at the po­lice ser­vice was not ben­e­fi­cial to me and I left.

The sit­u­a­tion had de­te­ri­o­rated to the ex­tent that my wife would call me ev­ery sin­gle day ask­ing “how are things to­day?” and I would pre­tend like things were okay. Know­ing me, she would see right through me when I got home and it would be dif­fi­cult for me to open up.

LT: You en­dured this treat­ment for al­most a year, when and why did you de­cide that it was time to say good­bye?

Moli­beli: Hon­estly speak­ing, I took that de­ci­sion af­ter dis­cov­er­ing that there was a plot to oust me. I had stom­ached all this bad treat­ment like a real man but af­ter I dis­cov­ered that there was a plan to oust me, so that I would go home empty handed, I handed in my res­ig­na­tion let­ter that very same day.

I started my leave on 18th April pend­ing early re­tire­ment. As we speak, to­day (Au­gust 8) was go­ing to be my first day of­fi­cially as a re­tired po­lice of­fi­cer be­cause my leave per­tain­ing re­tire­ment would have ended yes­ter­day (Au­gust 7).

The plan to oust me was ba­si­cally cen­tred on the is­sue which took place when I was LEPOSA pres­i­dent. It did not sit well with some peo­ple that I spoke against Ntate Mo­thetjoa Mets­ing (former deputy prime min­is­ter and Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy leader) and they were pur­su­ing this mat­ter, a mat­ter they did not pur­sue when I was still serv­ing as LEPOSA pres­i­dent.

(DCP Moli­beli had said he did not con­sider Mr Mets­ing the deputy pre­mier due to his lack of sup­port for the po­lice in their strug­gle for bet­ter salaries and work­ing con­di­tions.)

We are talk­ing about the state­ment which I ut­tered in Novem­ber 2014 and I was al­ways in the coun­try but they never pur­sued that mat­ter. Even af­ter the 2015 elec­tions, I was al­ways there but the is­sue only took a mo­men­tum af­ter the elec­tions. I was even aware that there was a docket opened against me for that mat­ter but it could not ma­te­ri­alise be­cause I did not com­mit any crim­i­nal act. This mat­ter had hit a brick wall even at the Direc­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions (DPP) of­fice be­cause there was no crime com­mit­ted.

I mean, I was just air­ing my views and it was a fair com­ment. I can main­tain that it was a fair com­ment and that is how I felt and I even made it clear that those were my per­sonal views. I was not rep­re­sent­ing any­body, I was rep­re­sent­ing my­self and no one can claim that I brought any or­gan­i­sa­tion into dis­re­pute. The only or­gan­i­sa­tion which would have com­plained was LEPOSA be­cause I was there as its pres­i­dent but LEPOSA felt noth­ing wrong about it, yet I was lam­basted by non-en­ti­ties.

LT: You are now back in the ser­vice close to your heart. Know­ing that you have been a vic­tim of cir­cum­stances and you would prob­a­bly be rep­re­sent­ing many other vic­tims, what are you hop­ing to achieve in this of­fice as a top boss and how are you go­ing to achieve that?

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As we speak to­day, I know peo­ple who were pur­su­ing the case against me but I do not re­ally care about them. They were do­ing their job, even though I strongly feel that it was not in a pro­fes­sional way. I am not here to hunt them down. I am here to work with them, to show them broth­erly love for the sake of this coun­try

Moli­beli: I hope to bring about a united po­lice ser­vice. A po­lice ser­vice with in­tegrity, trusted by the na­tion and a ser­vice where po­lice of­fi­cers will be happy to be part of. I also hope to en­sure that LMPS be­comes a po­lice ser­vice where whis­tle-blow­ers will feel con­fi­dent enough to tip-off of­fi­cers with­out fears that they will be­come vic­tims.

There is some­thing beau­ti­ful about be­ing a vic­tim be­cause all you want is to en­sure that oth­ers do not be­come vic­tims like you. I want to en­sure that my fel­low vic­tims do not vic­timise oth­ers be­cause it will be a vi­cious cir­cle if we al­low our­selves to tar­get each other and re­venge.

As we speak to­day, I know peo­ple who were pur­su­ing the case against me but I do not re­ally care about them. They were do­ing their job, even though I strongly feel that it was not in a pro­fes­sional way. I am not here to hunt them down. I am here to work with them, to show them broth­erly love for the sake of this coun­try. I al­ways tell po­lice of­fi­cers that this na­tion does not owe us any­thing but we owe them ser­vice de­liv­ery be­cause we get paid each and ev­ery month.

If we can have a united po­lice ser­vice hun­gry to de­liver ser­vices, I would re­tire happy.

I strongly feel that we can only achieve all of th­ese if I do not re­venge against one. Se­condly, I know deep within me that po­lice of­fi­cers dream of a day when the LMPS top man­age­ment will stop the in­fight­ing and work har­mo­niously to­gether and I hope to help this ser­vice achieve that.

Thirdly, there is noth­ing as grat­i­fy­ing for a po­lice of­fi­cer as be­ing given an as­sign­ment and that is what all po­lice of­fi­cers want. So it is im­por­tant that they are as­signed to du­ties and where pos­si­ble, help them with re­sources to ex­e­cute their du­ties.

I am also go­ing to in­tro­duce a strong sport­ing cul­ture in the ser­vice. The LMPS has so many good pub­lic re­la­tions of­fi­cers and I am go­ing to re­cruit one who will be as­signed to the sports desk. I am in­ter­ested in see­ing po­lice of­fi­cers re­cruit­ing and coach­ing chil­dren at the grass­roots level, train­ing coaches on the na­tional level and es­tab­lish­ing a recre­ational sport for the po­lice to en­sure that they know each other and re­main united.

LT: Why did you choose to shoul­der the blame for Po­lice Con­sta­ble Mokalekale Khetheng’s dis­ap­pear­ance and mur­der in­stead of let­ting those who came be­fore you to take re­spon­si­bil­ity?

Moli­beli: The sole rea­son is that the COMPOL of­fice does not op­er­ate in a vac­uum. The per­son who was the COMPOL be­fore me in­her­ited the con­se­quences of the de­ci­sions taken by those be­fore him and I also in­her­ited the con­se­quences of the bad and good choices the per­sons who came be­fore took.

It is, there­fore, im­por­tant for me to un­der­stand that and I don’t have any right to point fin­gers and I say I was not part of those de­ci­sions.

I may be in an act­ing ca­pac­ity, but I in­her­ited de­ci­sions of this of­fice and there­fore must apol­o­gise for those bad de­ci­sions taken by this of­fice. Of­ten­times we want to take credit for the good things and have some­one else shoul­der the blame for the bad ones.

Ac­cept­ing and tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for both the good and the bad is sim­ply be­ing a true leader.

LT: Will we see the po­lice giv­ing PC Khetheng an of­fi­cial send-off and as­sist fi­nan­cially given that he stopped pay­ing for in­sur­ance af­ter his salary was cut­off?

Moli­beli: With full-force. I may not say how at this time but we must do that. I met with his father on Sun­day and I am go­ing to meet with the fam­ily later to­day (Tues­day) be­cause they would want to have a ten­ta­tive date for burial.

I sus­pect we are go­ing to con­trib­ute im- mensely in that fu­neral be­cause even his dis­missal should be with­drawn be­cause proper pro­ce­dures were not fol­lowed when fir­ing him. Although I still need au­tho­ri­sa­tion from my bosses, I strongly sus­pect that we are go­ing to give him an of­fi­cial po­lice send-off.

LT: You are work­ing with former col­leagues in Po­lice and pub­lic Safety Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary Khothatso Tšooana and Min­is­ter ‘Mam­pho Mokhele at a time the coun­try has em­barked on se­cu­rity sec­tor re­forms. Have you started any dis­cus­sions on this mat­ter?

Moli­beli: You will have to ap­pre­ci­ate that the hon­ourable min­is­ter was ap­pointed at a time the Na­tional Bud­get was be­ing tabled and she had to con­cen­trate on that. Right af­ter that, she had to tour po­lice sta­tions coun­try­wide. As a re­sult, we have not dis­cussed this mat­ter.

How­ever, we are lucky to have Ntate Tšooana as our PS and ‘M’e Mamokhele as the min­is­ter be­cause when the two talk about the po­lice ser­vice, they do not have to read pa­pers. They know this ser­vice in and out.

While the three of us have not yet sat down and dis­cussed this, I strongly feel that the re­forms must in­cor­po­rate the Po­lice Psy­cho­log­i­cal Ser­vice. Our po­lice of­fi­cers des­per­ately need coun­selling ser­vices af­ter ex­pe­ri­enc­ing trauma and other work-re­lated chal­lenges.

Drink­ing at work and as­sault­ing peo­ple are top of the list for po­lice dis­missal yet we never tar­get the root cause. The na­ture of their work changes them yet we never, as a proac­tive mea­sure, sit down and talk to our po­lice of­fi­cers.

Re­forms must also look into po­lice train­ing. Le­sotho po­lice of­fi­cers go through mil­i­taris­tic train­ing, that mil­i­tarist ap­proach of polic­ing is ap­plied to civil­ians. The pub­lic see po­lice of­fi­cers, armed, in­struct­ing sus­pected civil­ians to roll down un­til they con­fess to a crime. I am ashamed be­cause it is not their fault, we should blame the kind of train­ing they went through at Po­lice Train­ing Col­lege.

When they see sus­pects, they see their own re­cruits and want to ap­ply the mil­i­tarist ap­proach they learnt dur­ing train­ing.

The world is now talk­ing about hu­man rights is­sues yet the LMPS is only talk­ing about it the­o­ret­i­cally. We need to change the train­ing ap­proach. On top of that, po­lice of­fi­cers only at­tend the six-month com­pul­sory train­ing, so we also need to have ac­cred­ited cour­ses for po­lice of­fi­cers.

On tech­ni­cal train­ing, re­forms must ad­dress the fact that we need to have highly rec­om­mended train­ers but we are al­ways los­ing them be­cause of poor re­mu­ner­a­tion.

Al­lowances must also be taken into se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion. Th­ese re­forms may also want to com­pare us with fel­low po­lice ser­vices in the re­gion. You know a po­lice of­fi­cer as­signed as an of­fi­cial driver, only gets M10 al­lowance per month yet if they are in­volved in an ac­ci­dent, they are sur­charged.

LT: Lastly, how are you hop­ing to win the fight against crime?

Moli­beli: I have iden­ti­fied that ex­pand­ing com­mu­nity polic­ing will help us win this fight. At the mo­ment, com­mu­nity polic­ing clamps com­mu­ni­ties to­gether just be­cause they are from the same area, for­get­ting other crit­i­cal fac­tors.

For in­stance, we have ne­glected the univer­sity com­mu­nity which has its own chal­lenges that are not sim­i­lar to that of the “com­mu­nity” they are sit­u­ated in. We need to have a po­lice in touch with the univer­sity com­mu­nity and this will help us deal with chal­lenges like strikes proac­tively.

This prob­lem is sim­i­lar in other ar­eas like Maseru West and Thet­sane. We are not in touch with th­ese com­mu­ni­ties. Their opin­ions are not even in­cor­po­rated in our an­nual plans, so is the busi­ness com­mu­nity. There are so many ne­glected com­mu­ni­ties like the me­dia – we only meet them dur­ing brief­ings.

The other ne­glected com­mu­nity is the po­lice ser­vice it­self. You will not be­lieve that the po­lice ser­vice com­mu­nity never sits down to dis­cuss is­sues of crime, their opin­ions are never in­cor­po­rated in the LMPS’S an­nual plans. I have al­ready ap­pointed an of­fi­cer to deal with com­mu­nity seg­re­ga­tion and I think iden­ti­fi­ca­tion is the right step to­wards win­ning this fight.

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