The Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) has recruited an arson and attempted murder convict, Lebatsang Rotheli, in contravention of its own policy.
Mr Rotheli is currently undergoing training to become a police officer after former Police and Public Safety Minister and Thaba-Tseka member of parliament (MP), ‘Mamoipone Senauoane, allegedly ordered his recruitment.
The Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA) is now demanding that Mr Rotheli be ejected from police training.
According to sources, Mr Rotheli was arrested and taken to court facing charges of arson after torching a neighbour’s house and attempted murder for stabbing a female villager with a spear. He was convicted of the two crimes in September 2019 by a Thaba-Tseka magistrate who sentenced him to four years in prison with the option of paying a M4000 fine.
The magistrate then suspended half of the sentence and Mr Rotheli paid a M2000 fine.
A few months after his release, he was allegedly involved in yet another crime and the police launched an investigation into allegations of attempted murder.
Police sources this week said the new charges stem from his alleged involvement in a scuffle that broke out between him and two associates on one hand and Masaleng villagers on the other. The fight broke out after the trio were ordered not to herd their animals on preserved pastures a few months after his September 2019 conviction.
Instead of obeying the order, Mr Rotheli and his associates pointed guns at the villagers but were eventually overpowered. Mr Rotheli fled the scene while his accomplices were apprehended and handed over to the police.
Investigations into his whereabouts eventually revealed that Mr Rotheli was in fact at the Police Training College (PTC) in Maseru after he was allegedly recruited into the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) on the instruction of Ms Senauoane.
“Investigations into Rotheli’s whereabouts and taking the two other suspects to court were constantly frustrated by senior officers in Thaba-Tseka for no particular reason. It was later discovered that former Minister Senauoana had given instructions that the two who were arrested should not be taken to court,” a source said.
Mr Rotheli’s name appears 13th on a list of successful police recruits the police published in February this year.
Several attempts to obtain a comment from the police were unsuccessful as spokesperson Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli did not answer his phone.
However, LEPOSA has threatened to sue the police force if it does not eject Mr Rotheli from the PTC. In February this year, LEPOSA expressed its displeasure over what it described as a flawed recruitment exercise riddled by bias, nepotism and corruption including the failure to do background checks on the recruits to ensure they were fit for purpose.
LEPOSA bemoaned the police command’s alleged failure to ensure that the recruits were not only certified as medically fit for training but did not also have criminal records.
This is the latest scandal to come out of the PTC after the death of four recruits in February. The deaths of four was blamed on poor recruitment choices.
On her part, Ms Senauoane said allegations that she was involved in the recruitment of police officers were false.
“This is a lie. I don’t know that child. I feel he is a child and I don’t even know his relatives. I made inquiries on his parents’ residential place and I am told that it is in Bobete. Unfortunately, I don’t even have relatives in Bobete. Listening to Mofokeng’s audio, it is said that he (Mr Rotheli) was recruited from Mokhotlong and I honestly know nothing about it,” she said referring to an audio clip of LEPOSA spokesman, Police Constable (PC) Motlatsi Mofokeng, circulating on social media, in which he accuses Ms Senauoane of being responsible for the recruitment.
Mr Mofokeng, said the recruitment of Mr Rotheli had vindicated LEPOSA’s position that the LMPS’s recruitment processes were corrupt and sometimes bogus. Some of the successful recruits had either not even written the recruitment tests or had failed them.
“Now that a convicted criminal and wanted suspect is in the police service, Thaba-Tseka people have been denied justice … . The lives of these very same people who are complaints in the attempted murder case against Lebatsang (Rotheli) are now at risk because he would want to revenge.
“We now want the Commissioner of Police to do the right thing by handing over this suspect to Thaba-Tseka police for him to be charged and that he immediately expels him from PTC. If this fails, we will petition the court to compel him to do the honourable thing of handing Lebatsang (Rotheli) to the police and expelling him from PTC,” PC Mofokeng said.