Sunday Express - - FRONT PAGE - Pas­cali­nah Kabi

THE Com­mis­sioner of Le­sotho Cor­rec­tional Ser­vice (LCS), Tha­bang Mothepu, could be hauled be­fore the courts to face crim­i­nal charges af­ter dis­re­gard­ing a sum­mons to ap­pear be­fore the om­buds­man.

Com­mis­sioner Mothepu al­legedly snubbed a sum­mons to ap­pear be­fore the om­buds­man, Ad­vo­cate Leshele Thoahlane KC, on Thurs­day and Fri­day.

He is al­leged to have ig­nored the sum­mons on the grounds that he was busy and this has not gone down well with Adv Thoahlane who is con­duct­ing hear­ings to as­cer­tain the cri­te­ria that was used by the lat­ter in pro­mot­ing 50 LCS of­fi­cers in May this year.

Adv Thoahlane ini­ti­ated the hear­ings in May 2018 in the af­ter­math of com­plaints by some LCS of­fi­cers that they had been over­looked for pro­mo­tions on po­lit­i­cal grounds.

Com­mis­sioner Mothepu’s no-show riled Adv Thoahlane who then told the Sun­day Express that “it is a crime to snub the Om­buds­man’s call”.

“He (Com­mis­sioner Mothepu) has there­fore com­mit­ted a crim­i­nal of­fence (by snub­bing the hear­ing) and should be charged. He will be re­ported to the po­lice. Our prepa­ra­tions to have him charged are at ad­vanced stage,” Adv Thoahlane said on Fri­day.

Ef­forts to ob­tain com­ment from Com­mis­sioner Mothepu were un­suc­cess­ful as his mo­bile phone rang unan­swered over the weekend.

How­ever, Adv Thoahlane ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment that his ef­forts to bring the LCS pro­mo­tions saga to fi­nal­ity had been frus­trated by the non-ap­pear­ance of Com­mis­sioner Mothepu who told the former through a phone call that he was “busy”.

“We were sup­posed to meet with Com­mis­sioner Mothepu on 12 and 13 July for ques­tion­ing but he didn’t show up. He said he was sup­posed to go some­where,” Adv Thoahlane said, ad­ding that the le­gal pro­ce­dure re­quired that any­one who had been sum­moned to ap­pear be­fore the om­buds­man should sub­mit a writ­ten apol­ogy in ad­vance to ex­plain why they would not be able to ap­pear.

Upon re­ceiv­ing the writ­ten apol­ogy, the om­buds­man is then re­quired to ap­ply his mind to the is­sue be­fore re­spond­ing.

Adv Thoahlane said he per­son­ally ad­vised Com­mis­sioner Mothepu to fol­low that le­gal pro­cure, ad­ding that in his case the apol­ogy let­ter should be writ­ten by the prin­ci­pal sec­re­tary in the Min­istry of Jus­tice and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vice, Le­bo­hang Mochaba.

Adv Thoahlane said his advice to Com­mis­sioner Mothepu fell on deaf ears the apol­ogy was never de­liv­ered to him.

“He (Com­mis­sioner Mothepu) just did not show up. The pro­ceed­ings did not take place. He kept quiet and even the prin­ci­pal sec­re­tary did not say any­thing and she was prob­a­bly not in­formed. He pur­posely ig­nored my advice just like that. He did not see it nec­es­sary to do so,” Adv Thoahlane said, ad­ding “but it is a crime to snub the om­buds­man’s call”.

The com­mis­sioner and the om­buds­man have had a frosty relationship since the lat­ter was first sum­moned to a hear­ing in May this year to ex­plain the cri­te­ria he used to ef­fect pro­mo­tions in the LCS.

On his first ap­pear­ance be­fore the om­buds­man in May, Com­mis­sioner Mothepu was ac­com­pa­nied by heav­ily armed body­guards who in­sisted on car­ry­ing their guns into the hall where the hear­ings were be­ing con­ducted.

The body­guards’ ac­tions were sup­pos­edly based on the com­mis­sioner’s “fears” that he could be at­tacked by the ju­nior LCS of­fi­cers who had com­plained to the om­buds­man that they had been over­looked for pro­mo­tions.

Dur­ing same ap­pear­ance, Com­mis­sioner Mothepu also torched a storm with his ap­par­ent hos­til­ity to­wards the om­buds­man. He re­fused to an­swer some of the om­buds­man’s ques­tions and was ac­cused of be­ing rude to Adv Thoahlane through­out the pro­ceed­ings. The po­lice had to be called in to bring his body­guards to or­der.

He told the Om­buds­man that, “I know that I have been say­ing this and I might be forced to say it another ten times. I have been called to an­swer for the pro­mo­tions and now you come from your of­fice and you im­pose your laws on me”.

“Lis­ten here so that we may be on the same wave­length. If the of­fice of the Om­buds­man has is­sues per­tain­ing to this mat­ter… I used the Le­sotho Cor­rec­tional Ser­vice Act of 2016 and my boss’s di­rec­tive to ef­fect those pro­mo­tions.

“I am telling you that your laws are yours and have noth­ing to do with those that govern the LCS. Yours is to make rec­om­men­da­tions that can be ef­fected else­where and not within the LCS so do not make your is­sues mine. So, whether you are right or wrong it is none of my busi­ness,” Com­mis­sioner Mothepu told the Om­buds­man’s panel.

Com­mis­sioner Mothepu’s be­hav­iour was sub­se­quently con­demned by the govern­ment. The govern­ment spokesper­son, Nthak­eng Selinyane, said in a state­ment the govern­ment had noted with dis­may the be­hav­iour of the LCS boss and the man­ner in which he had be­lit­tled the Om­buds­man.

“The govern­ment apol­o­gises to the em­bar­rassed public who were en­raged by such be­hav­iour.”

Mr Selinyane fur­ther said that the in­ci­dent was a throw-back to the “dark days” when sol­diers used to en­ter courts of law heav­ily armed and “walk­ing be­hind their chained col­leagues af­ter they were kid­napped and assaulted just be­cause they were fol­low­ing rule of law”.

This was in ref­er­ence to 2015 in­ci­dents when sol­diers who were ac­cused of mutiny against former army com­man­der, Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Tlali Kamoli, were de­tained at the Maseru Max­i­mum Se­cu­rity Prison.

“The govern­ment will not sit back and watch when the coun­try is taken back to times of can­ni­bal­ism. The govern­ment will not stand the shame and em­bar­rass­ment of state in­sti­tu­tions that turn the coun­try into a laugh­ing stock of other coun­tries.

“Ev­ery­one should abide by the law,” Mr Selinyane said.

Le­sotho Cor­rec­tional Ser­vice Com­mis­sioner Tha­bang Mothepu

OM­BUDS­MAN Adv Leshele Thoahlane KC. LCS Com­mis­sioner Tha­bang Mothepu.

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