People beaten by cops in Lesotho for defying lockdown regulations

One analyst says SA would do well to try to be a better example to its smaller neighbour.

In one of the worst forms of human rights abuses – with neither men nor women spared by Lesotho police from public flogging – South Africa’s neighbouring country has taken security force abuse of citizens during lockdown a step further.

Brutal scenes of Lesotho police administering intense public whipping of citizens several times with a rod for failure to abide with that country’s 21-day lockdown regulations have become the norm.

In one of the many shocking incidents, not even the wailing of a woman being severely punished along a busy main road – recorded on a video seen by The Citizen – garnered any sympathy from a Lesotho policeman, seen callously beating up his helpless victim.

Not amused by incidents of police abuse during the Lesotho lockdown, political analyst Ralph Mathekga called on South African authorities to intervene, blaming South Africa for “not being exemplary to Lesotho”.

“I think South Africa should engage Lesotho in ensuring social stability in that country, instead of stirring tensions,” said Mathekga.

“In raising human rights abuses of this nature with Lesotho authorities, the South African government should be exemplary itself and show respect for its own citizens’ human rights during lockdown.

“Incidents of South African security forces who have subjected people to doing physical exercises and beating up those said to have disobeyed lockdown regulations, instead of arresting them, do not put South Africa in a good light as a model constitutional democracy.”

Mathekga said non-governmental organisations in both countries should be engaged by the citizenry “to advise governments to respect human rights during difficult moments like this”.

Department of international relations and cooperation spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele did not want to be drawn on incidents of police brutality in Lesotho, except to say it was “a police matter”.

Uniformed police officers in Lesotho over the weekend continued to viciously punish citizens, despite appeals by national police commissioner Holomo Molibeli, who has called on security forces to refrain from acts of brutality during the nationwide lockdown.

Following the declaration last Wednesday by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, the Lesotho lockdown has seen the movement of people – except those working in essential services – being curtailed.

Molibeli said security forces should enforce the lockdown without resorting to torture by executing their mandate “with respect and kindness”.

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