By: Thoboloko Ntšonyane

MASERU – In order to finish the testimonies the Commission investigating the torture of inmates and escape at the Maseru Corrections facility that happened last year, the Chairperson of the Commission Justice Realeboha Mathaba has sought a one month extension.

This the Chairperson said on Monday this week.

The commission was initially allocated two months as it was established through a gazette published on April 5th and the two months ended on June 5th.

The Legal Notice No.26 of 2024, the Commission of Inquiry (Escape of Inmates from Lesotho Correctional Service Facility) was established pursuant to section 3(1) of the Public Enquiries Act, 1994. According to the gazette, the time to the Commission may be extended by a month.

Judge Mathaba says they are yet to hear testimonies and they have not completed their work. The extension he says will afford the Commission time to wind up its investigations.

The Commission was set up by the Prime Minister to investigate the torture of inmates and escape at the Maseru Corrections facility last year and it will submit its report upon completion of their investigations to the latter.

The Commission is mandated with enquiring into and:

● Investigate, appraise and evaluate the circumstances that led to escape of inmates.

● Determine circumstances surrounding the escape of inmates.

● Examine, appraise and evaluate the security measures within LCS.

● Investigate the instances around operations undertaken by members of staff of LCS after the escape of inmates.

● Assist in the identification of officers over the search operations.

● Investigate and determine the circumstances as that led to the use of force during the search operation.

● Consider the report of the Ombudsman and of the Commissioner of LCS.

● Any other document relevant to the inquiry.

In response to reports of inmates torture at Maseru Central Correctional Institution on December 22, 2023, the Ombudsman launched “own initiative” investigations into what happened leading to excessive use by the Correction Officers.

In her report, the Ombudsman remarked that: “The assault carried out on by LCS Correctional officers over inmates are serious crimes which are not necessarily only against the inmates themselves, but against the justice system as a whole.”

The three-member Commission is made up of Judge Mathaba Chairperson, former Deputy Prime Minister Advocate Kelebone Maope KC, and the former Commissioner of the Lesotho Correctional Services (LCS) Mojalefa Thulo.

The Commission of Inquiry is expected to submit its report to the Prime Minister upon completing its investigations.

So far, the Commission has heard testimonies from the victims and the Corrections Officers including the Commissioner of the LCS Mating Nkakala. The Corrections Officers have denied torturing the inmates.