Min­is­ter de­cries po­lit­i­cal po­lar­i­sa­tion at LCS

Sunday Express - - Front Page - Tsitsi Matope

THE Min­is­ter of Jus­tice and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vice, Ma­hali Phamotse, is work­ing to root-out po­lit­i­cal po­lar­i­sa­tion in the Le­sotho Cor­rec­tional Ser­vice (LCS) which has since ex­tended to the in­mates.

Ac­cord­ing to Dr Phamotse, the sit­u­a­tion is a huge cause for con­cern such that cor­rec­tional ser­vice work­ers no longer trust one an­other and sus­pect foul play par­tic­u­larly when it comes to the se­cur­ing of cer­tain in­mates.

There are fears that in­mates be­long­ing to po­lit­i­cal par­ties that some LCS em­ploy­ees also sup­port could be al­lowed to escape from prison.

In fact, pol­i­tics had be­come the or­der of the day in the coun­try’s pris­ons, prompt­ing the min­is­ter to act.

Dr Phamotse told the Sun­day Ex­press that she had since or- dered all po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties in the cor­rec­tional ser­vice fa­cil­i­ties to stop and is­sued a stern warn­ing to all di­vi­sive el­e­ments at the in­sti­tu­tion.

The min­is­ter em­pha­sised it was un­pro­fes­sional for LCS staff to en­gage in po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties at work and out­side work. She said it was also un­eth­i­cal to rope in­mates into po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties.

“I un­der­stand the sit­u­a­tion took a nasty turn dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign, with re­ports that po­lit­i­cal ac­tivists of cer­tain po­lit­i­cal par­ties were tar­get­ing in­mates in their cam­paigns. Their strat­egy was to then work with cer­tain cor­rec­tional ser­vice em­ploy­ees to smug­gle to­bacco and other com­modi­ties for cer­tain in­mates to buy their votes,” Dr Phamotse said.

Re­li­able in­for­ma­tion re­vealed that, gifts, among them food, were also given with some des­per­ate po­lit­i­cal par­ties even promis­ing bet­ter prospects of an early re­lease from prison once they as­sumed power.

An es­ti­mated 2000 in­mates are ac­com­mo­dated in the coun­try’s cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties.

“We have quite a bad sit­u­a­tion right now and I am work­ing hard on this sit­u­a­tion as it is also a se­cu­rity threat. The of­fi­cers in­volved in this mis­con­duct should be held ac­count­able. Our laws are very clear, they do not al­low ac­tive po­lit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion by both in­mates and LCS staff be­cause of the di­vi­sive na­ture of pol­i­tics and propen­sity to some­times pro­mote vi­o­lence. LCS em­ploy­ees are not al­lowed to ac­tively par­tic­i­pate in pol­i­tics even be­yond the work­place,” Dr Phamotse said.

Due to this po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in the LCS, the min­is­ter said some in­mates and of­fi­cers had since ex­pressed their loss of trust in the sys­tem.

Dr Phamotse fur­ther said she was work­ing with the LCS man­age­ment in a bid to man­age the sit­u­a­tion, which she noted was com­pro­mis­ing team work among em­ploy­ees.

“Ef­forts are un­der­way to im­ple­ment de­politi­ciza­tion mech­a­nisms, which ba­si­cally call on all cor­rec­tional ser­vice work­ers to go back to the draw­ing board and in­ter­nalise pro­fes­sion­al­ism for im­proved ser­vice- de­liv­ery.”

She said her min­istry will de­velop a clear pro­mo­tion and trans­fer pol­icy that will help em­ploy­ees to un­der­stand set pro­mo­tion pro­ce­dures and guide­lines.

“The ab­sence of clar­ity on the is­sue of pro­mo­tions is also con­tribut­ing to the po­lar­i­sa­tion be­cause some em­ploy­ees think they stand a bet­ter chance of be­ing pro­moted when they are af­fil­i­ated to cer­tain po­lit­i­cal par­ties or when they know the min­is­ter, which is not the case be­cause pro­mo­tions are done on merit. We need to strengthen pro­mo­tion and man­age­ment sys­tems in or­der to pro­fes­sion­alise the LCS,” Dr Ma­hali said.

She said she ex­pected all LCS em­ploy­ees to ex­e­cute the du­ties they were trained to pro­vide when they joined the in­sti­tu­tion.

“As a min­istry, we will not hes­i­tate to root-out all prac­tices as­so­ci­ated with the po­lit­i­cal ac­tivism in our pris­ons or any other acts of mis­con­duct,” Dr Phamotse said, adding ef­forts to re­build the spirit of work­man­ship and co­op­er­a­tion were a top pri­or­ity to help re­store some san­ity in the cor­rec­tional ser­vice fa­cil­i­ties.

The min­is­ter also ex­plained the need for the govern­ment to take de­ci­sive cor­rec­tive mea­sures that could help de­politi­cise the whole civil ser­vice and pro­mote pro­fes­sion­al­ism for im­proved ser­vicede­liv­ery.

This de­politi­ci­sa­tion process, she em­pha­sised, would help in strength­en­ing the ca­pac­ity and per­for­mance of all govern­ment in­sti­tu­tions.

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