Armed to the teeth

Armed to the teeth

…Controversial teacher takes gun to class…

MASERU – LIVESTOCK theft allegations, gun controversies, absenteeism and even handcuffed in school premises by the police: School teacher Matsoai Koneshe often finds himself in more trouble than the naughty students he teaches.

At school, Koneshe’s relations with his principal are strained over his “wayward” behaviour. The police are often after him and, in class he allegedly places a gun on the table while conducting lessons, leaving students in a state of shock.
Such a legend he is that his name made it all the way from a small village in Thaba-Tseka district to Parliament, where the Education Minister Professor Ntoi Rapapa announced the teacher had been sacked.
Matsoai Koneshe is not your everyday teacher. His life story – and the allegations against him – sound like the work of a village thug. Yet, he takes it all in his stride.

“I am entitled to self-defence,” he said assertively when thepost asked him about the allegations that he has been dismissed because he carried a gun in class.
Koneshe said he carried the gun to protect himself after he was attacked by a sword-wielding villager last year (See related story below).
Asked why he took the gun to school, Koneshe said he felt unsafe because he reported his attempted murder by a villager to the police, the village chief and the district’s department of education “but no action was taken”.
While Koneshe was in hospital, the villager’s family was attacked by yet to be identified assailants resulting in the death of his father and brother.

On his part, Koneshe’s dismissal is one angle to a life of trouble.
Earlier he was beaten up by a mob and later by the police on suspicion that he had stolen some sheep and cattle. It was later established there was no evidence linking him to the theft – at least according to Koneshe.
“They searched among my flock of sheep and they could not find even a single stolen sheep. Even those that I had slaughtered were inspected and all of them bore my marks,” he said.
The complainant for the stolen cattle was the constituency MP, Moakhi Nto.

Another accusation then was that the teacher possessed an unlicensed gun. He said he did not possess any gun at the time and the case was part of a plot to taint him.
The police allegedly tortured him until one officer advised him, when they were alone, to confess and call someone in his village with a gun to surrender the firearm to the village chief on the pretext that it belonged to Koneshe.
The local chief would later hand the gun to the police.
“I did this only because the police officer told me it was a matter of life and death. When the gun was handed in it could not be used against me because the owner of the gun was known and that the same gun was not found in my possession,” he said.

“I was released that same day but under a lot of pain,” he said.
“I learned later that the plan to call police on me was the principal’s plan to have me charged so that I could have a criminal record, which would make it easy to fire me.”
The principal, Makhaola, dismissed the allegations. Makhaola said Konashe claimed his life was in danger and should be allowed to carry his licensed gun to school.
“He was then given a blessing by the chief to do so,” Makhaola said.

Makhaola said Koneshe indeed came with a gun to school on a daily basis but only stopped after a teachers’ strike that took place earlier this year.
He said in 2016 police were investigating Koneshe on suspicions of stealing livestock.
“On several occasions he was handcuffed in the school yard.”
Makhaola said it is false that he was conspiring to kill Koneshe.
“The owner of the flock’s son ambushed him on his way from school and he sustained severe injuries,” said Makhaola.
But Koneshe insisted the headmaster was after him.

“I identified him (the attacker) and realised it was the same person who was at the principal’s office earlier that day. He had gone to fetch the sword that every staff member knew belonged to the principal as it was always in his office,” Koneshe said.
“I identified the sword and the attacker,” Koneshe said. “It is the sword that used to be in the principal’s office,” he told thepost.

Makhaola dismissed the claims by Koneshe that the weapon originated from his office.
He said Koneshe’s attacker had earlier visited the principal’s office to drop off some money for his sister.
“I suspect he came to inspect if Koneshe was at school or not that day. After he gave me that M100 he left,” he said.
Makhaola said the school board would not allow Koneshe to keep a weapon in his office.
He said because of Koneshe’s “criminal activities” they ended up with conflicts after he tried to talk the teacher into changing his lifestyle.

“He does not like the fact that I condemn his mistakes. Relations are ruined between us,” he said.
’Mamphutlane Lebina, a parent and a board member at the school, said relations between the principal and teachers “are generally not good”.
Lebina said Koneshe and Makhaola’s relations have been strained “for quite some time”.
“Their relationship has affected the running of the school tremendously. The school results are at their worst right now because there is an internal fight that doesn’t seem to end,” Lebina said.
Lebina said she knows of the gun that Koneshe carries.

She said the principal reported that Koneshe carried a gun to school and that he has been missing school a lot.
Lebina said students were shocked when Koneshe brought his gun to school.
“They told us that he sometimes places it on his desk while teaching,” she said.
Chairman of the school board, Ntja Molatuoa, said he was told that Koneshe was carrying the weapon to school to protect himself.

“I was told the gun is even licensed but I didn’t know he puts it on the table sometimes,” Molatuoa said.
He said Koneshe’s frequent run-ins with the police are tarnishing the image of the school.
However, Koneshe has his own sympathisers, not least the local chief.
The village chief, Machabe Lintlhokoane, said Koneshe had told him his life was at stake.
Chief Lintlhokoane said Koneshe was attacked with a sword and therefore should be allowed to go to school with his firearm.

“He said he reported to both the police and Ministry of Education about the issue,” the Chief said.
Chief Lintlhokoane confirmed that Koneshe has been on the police radar.
He said he also heard that teachers have seen the sword in Makhaola’s office.
Professor Rapapa told Parliament last week that he was aware of the misconduct by Koneshe and the ministry, together with the police and school management, tried to normalise the situation at the school.
Professor Rapapa addressed the issue after an MP asked him how soon the situation at the school would be brought back to normal.

“It is not acceptable that during board sittings a teacher places a gun on the table,” Professor Rapapa said.
“The police were also involved together with the board and the teacher was dismissed,” he said.
Yet, even in the so-called dismissal, Koneshe remains controversial.
While the minister says Koneshe has been dismissed, school board members and the principal insist he is still at work saying they had not been informed of the dismissal.

Rose Moremoholo & Nkheli Liphoto

 

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