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Matsoso’s monumental task

It is not hard to understand Prime Minister Sam Matekane’s rationale for appointing Borotho Matsoso as the police commissioner. He is a law graduate who had a long stint as a senior in the police and headed the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) for years. The prime minister was probably looking for an experienced lawman untainted by the current mess in the police force.

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So Matsoso has all the qualities to succeed.

Yet it would be naïve or overly optimistic to expect those qualities alone to help Matsoso sort out the chaos in the police and turn the tables on the violent criminals terrorising the people across the country.

Matsoso is taking over the police as the country is in the throes of vicious famo gang wars that have claimed hundreds of lives in recent years.

The rates of murder and rape have skyrocketed. Cattle rustling and burglaries are also on the rise.

Illegal firearms are being traded with impunity.

Basotho don’t feel free in their own homes. Nor do they trust the police to protect them from criminals.

Their confidence in the police is at rock bottom.

Much of what Matsoso will achieve in the first few months of his three-year tenure depends on the support of the government in terms of resources and political will.

For that to happen, the government should accept that our police need an urgent overhaul in terms of culture, investigative skills, and training.

There is no denying that the culture of the police has been rotten for years. It is a fact that their investigation skills need to be modernised for them to handle the sophisticated criminals of today. The training programme needs a shakeup.

Matsoso should be given the leeway to rid the police of rogue elements that have joined the violent famo gangs and are involved in other criminal activities.

Discipline should be restored as the foundation for restoring the public’s trust in the police. Politicians should keep their distance from the police.

Matsoso should drive the agenda to create a police force that respects the law and human rights.

He should put an end to the deplorable practice of using torture to force suspects to confess.

Officers who have been accused of crimes should be brought to book.

Disciplinary action against those who have violated internal regulations should be expedited.

While making all these changes. Matsoso should find ways to mend relations with the Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA). Although it is not a union in the true sense of the definition, Leposa has been known to be aggressive and disruptive. Matsoso should be fair in dealing with the association. Matsoso looks like a good choice for the job, but he will not achieve much if he doesn’t get the necessary support from the government.

He too should understand that the police he leads now is not the same one he left to join the DCEO decades ago. This one has morphed into an institution that is not only ineffective but also infested by bad elements.

Matsoso has a shot at changing that, but he needs a lot of support from the government, his subordinates, and other stakeholders.

Let him fail because of his actions, not a lack of support.

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