Justice For Makutoane

(MENAFN- the post) it has been slightly over a year since kopano makutoane, a 27-year-old student at the national university of lesotho (nul), was gunned down by the roma police during protests that turned rowdy.
makutoane was shot and killed on june 16 last year, a significant date in student politics in southern africa.
a year after his death, his family is still waiting for answers as to what happened. they are also still waiting for justice for their son.

what is causing them more pain is what appears to be lack of contrition by the police and the apparent cover-up by the state.
the state has so far failed to prosecute the 12 police officers who were involved in the killing.

what makes the story sad is the fact that the police officer who pulled the trigger and fired the fatal shot is known by the authorities but he has not been arrested nor charged for the crime. that in itself is a travesty of justice.

makutoane's case perhaps captures the plight of hundreds other basotho who have been gunned down by the police over the years.
in pressing for justice it is not always that these families are looking for some kind of financial compensation for their loss. sometimes all they want is a sense of closure. all they want is for the killers to own up.

a simple apology would go a long way in contributing towards their healing.

but with the police playing hide-and-seek with the families of the deceased, that is likely to add to their trauma and frustration.

what makes the makutoane case really sad is that it continues a pattern of impunity that dates back a couple of decades.

the new administration led by prime minister sam matakane had promised to uproot this culture and ensure basotho who have been brutalised by the police receive justice.

but a year after matekane's government was sworn in, we have seen very little in terms of the new government's plans to restructure the police so that it is put on a new trajectory where respect of human rights takes precedence over the use of brute force.

that has been a big disappointment for us.

the architecture of torture remains very much alive at the police headquarters. the culture of impunity has continued unabated, with grave implications on the rule of law and respect for the people's basic rights.

the fault, of course, does not lie with police commissioner holomo molibeli. it is an institutional issue that will need to be dealt with holistically. chucking out molibeli alone will not resolve the problems that bedevil the police.

what has compounded matters is that the police complaints authority is largely an ineffective body that has proven over the years that it is not fit for purpose. the truth of the matter is that it lacks teeth.

the ombudsman's office also lacks the necessary bite. its recommendations are often ignored.

emasculated of his power, the ombudsman can only bark, without biting. and without the power to bite, the ombudsman can only shout from the rooftop.

what this means is that victims of police brutality are on their own; they have nowhere to run to. that makes the whole issue extremely sad.

suing the police has also proved an extremely taxing arrangement; the case can be bogged down in the courts for years.

unless rogue police officers are personally hit in the pocket and successfully prosecuted, we will continue to have these cases of human rights abuses in lesotho.
the government must not shield errant officers from censure. they must face justice.


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