The surging Police brutality continues to be a worrying concern in Lesotho as cases of people who get tortured in the hands of the police keep piling up.
This follows the case of a 70-year-old man ‘Matli Makhele who is said to have been severely subjected to torture by the Semonkong police station post last week.
Reports of police officers brutally assaulting suspects in their custody have been order of the day in this country for time in memorial with reports of victims dying at the hands of police under the notion of ‘succumbing to questions’.
Makhele could have been saved from making the sad statistics if it had not been of his wife, who on the spur of the moment sought legal intervention to have his spouse released from detention.
According to an application filed by his wife, ‘Matšita Makhele, called on the Officer commanding the police station, Inspector Moeketsi, Commissioner of police, Holomo Molibeli and Attorney General, Rapelang Motsieloa to show cause why they had detained her husband unlawfully as the lawful period for pre-trial detention had already lapsed.
She told the court that Makhele was arrested upon his arrival at the police station where he had gone to renew a license for his gun of a make of Bolto P/A, Serial Number of G05881410 when the police argued that the latter was in possession of an unlicensed gun.
“My husband was continuously subjected to torture and assault in the hands of the first respondent (police) so badly that he needed medical attention on urgent basis as his life was at stake and could be relinquished in jail indefinitely,” she says in the court papers seen by this publication.
She further narrated in her founding affidavit that Makhele had successfully apply for a licensed firearm in order to protect his livestock a long time ago.
She said in 2013, Makhele was informed to acquire a receipt from the Semonkong Police Post before he could go to Maseru Central Charge Office for the renewal of a license of his firearm and he has never been arrested, detained or tortured by any of second respondent’s officers.
“I wish to aver that on or about March 31, 2022 my husband went to Semonkong Police Station as usual with an intention to acquire the said receipt for the renewal of his firearm license.
“On or around 16.00 hours on the same day, I noticed one Sekake Makhele coming with my husband’s horse and tell me that upon my husband’s arrival at Semonkong Police Station, the first respondent himself arrested him and put him in a police cell on grounds that he is in possession of an illegal firearm whose serial number was removed.
“I wish to take the court into my confidence that my husband who is 70 years of age is still detained by the first respondent and it is his fourth day in the police cell.
“I went to the Semonkong Police station on the following day whereby I noticed that my husband’s life has deteriorated as he was unable to talk properly and he informed me that the first respondent himself tortured and assaulted him the whole night with stick (koto or knobkerrie) on his back,” she said.
She continued, “I requested the first respondent to release him so that I could take him to hospital but he refused as he accused my husband for not telling me the truth.
“On or about the second day, my daughter Mpho Makhele went to the first respondent Police station for delivery of his food and upon her arrival, the first respondent started voicing abusive utterances with insults to my daughter and violently tossed a bucket of water on her body causing her clothing to be soaked and further denied her a request to see her father,” she said.
She prayed that it is necessary to be afforded the relief sought failing which Makhele could continuously suffer irreparable harm as his life was deteriorating.
Attempts to talk to Makhele about the matter drew a blank as his lawyer Advocate Khotsofalang Tanki would not permit the meeting saying they are going to use his story in court.
However, an interim court order made by Justice Molefi Makara directed that “…the rule nisi be and hereby issue calling upon the respondents herein to show cause if any on the 22 of April 2022 at 09:30 in the forenoon or so on thereafter as the matter may be heard why.
“The ordinary period of notice and modes of service be and are hereby dispensed-with due to the urgency of this matter. That the first and second respondent and or officers subordinate to first and second respondents shall be and are hereby ordered and directed to release to applicant and or her lawful agent, ‘Matli Makhele held in the first and second respondent’s custody with immediate effect pending finalisation of this application,” he said in the order.
Meanwhile, speaking to this publication, Advocate Napo Mafaesa who himself had tasted the same fate at the wake of the New Year in January when he was allegedly abducted and severely tortured by members of the police Special Operations Unit (SOU) at Mabote police station, indicate that the police are not law themselves but custodians of the law.
“Theirs is to take you to court if they believe they have a case against you, then the court will listen to the evidence and make a judgement following the law too. Even if the gun was unregistered, what justifies that he had to be tortured?” he asked.
“They can’t be guardians of the law and come back to break the law that they have been trained to keep and protect. The police are trained and should know better. When one does a wrong thing he knows it is wrong no matter what,” he said.
Asked to comment if the police training is sufficient enough to probe cases without beating the truth out of suspects, he said that is obvious from their conduct.
“Although we don’t know about their training and what they are taught, we can only infer from their conduct when it comes to discipline and how they do things that they lack proper training.
“If they were able to detect that the gun is unregistered what more were they looking for when they torture the suspect instead of taking them to court?” he asked.
According to Section 8 of the Constitution of Lesotho, no person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading punishment or other treatment.
Meanwhile, on behalf of the police, Inspector ‘Mareabetsoe Mofoka said according to reports received by her office, Makhele had failed to explain the difference of his gun’s serial number and one on the license. She said the gun is alleged to have been involved in robbery in Morija.
She said Makhele went to the police station in Semonkong on Thursday to renew the gun’s license, but as is procedure and practice, the latter had to present the papers of the gun at the police station for inspection and evaluation before going to Flight One where he was supposed to pay for the gun.
“As the gun was inspected, there was a difference of a serial number on the gun which appeared to have been tampered with.
“When the gun was further inspected, the police found that the firearm had a case number involved in a robbery in Morija. The police station in Morija was contacted where they explained that the gun was indeed connected to a robbery where the security officers of a certain company had been disarmed by criminals and that being one of the guns,” she said.
On the issue of torture, Mofoka said she was not aware of any such claims, adding however, that police officers have no right to torture suspects in their custody.