Lesotho lockdown: Police, soldiers accused of rights violations

This despite Prime Minister Tom Thabane appealing to security forces not to violate people’s rights.

In this file photo taken on 31 May 2017 Lesotho political party All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Prime Minister Tom Thabane gives an interview to Agence France-Presse at his residence in Maseru. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG – Monday was the first day of a 21-day lockdown in Lesotho and images of police and soldiers making citizens roll on the ground and beating them up were already going viral.

This despite Prime Minister Tom Thabane appealing to security forces not to violate people’s rights.

Police said they would take action against officers who didn’t heed this call.

When Thabane gave the army orders to enforce the lockdown on Sunday night, he called on the army and police to only save lives. And police commissioner Holomo Molibeli made a commitment that no one would be harmed.

“We have tried to cover most of the places in the country to protect property and even in the villages, the rights of the people are not in danger,” Molibeli said at the time.

But a few hours into the lockdown ordinary Basotho were already sharing images of brutality.

Molibeli said he gave out numbers that could be called and action would be taken.

“We have made sure that we have senior officers who will ensure that the rights of the people are observed,” he said.

Lesotho had 10 suspected cases of COVID-19, some tested negative and others remained unconfirmed.

Meanwhile, Molibeli said his biggest concern during the country’s lockdown was people who would enter the country undetected due to porous borders.

Lesotho is completely surrounded by South Africa, which imposed a lockdown that restricted all movement.

But it is common knowledge that people move between the two countries without going through immigration even where there are fences and rivers. And this was Molibeli’s biggest concern.

“The area of concern is the border – it’s so porous in some places, so we are running the risk of coming in without being subjected to tests by our Department of Health,” he said.

Molibeli said Lesotho had maximum deployments on the borderline and would ensure that regulations were complied with.

He said other government departments had been roped in to ensure that the country succeeded in curbing the spread of coronavirus.

To track the latest developments around the coronavirus in South Africa, click on this live status report from the Department of Health.