Robbed in their sleep

Robbed in their sleep

…Thieves ‘drug’ their victims as they sweep away house…

MASERU – A COUPLE waking up to find the bed it had been sleeping on stolen and the husband in his wife’s underwear. Worse, the wife was now wearing the husband’s underwear and the wife wearing her husband’s undergarments. Welcome to the stranger than fiction tales of victims of theft in Maseru with many now asking: Is juju at play?
The couple from Qoaling woke up to the horror of finding their house empty after all the furniture was stolen while they were fast asleep.
With the bed they were sleeping on also gone, the woman was on top of her husband.

The woman, who asked for anonymity out of embarrassment, says “it was surreal waking up to this ordeal”.
One minute they were resting for the next day’s duties and the next they could not explain the shame they woke up to. They told the area Chief ’Mataelo Matsoso and neighbours that they did not know what happened.
In another case, a prominent official living in the same village says she woke up to missing money, furniture, food, gadgets and a broken window.
The official too, asked for anonymity, because she too is embarrassed by the incident.

“I heard nothing, not the window breaking nor did I hear them step on to the bed and jump over me,” she says.
The thieves took what they wanted and fled.
She says she suspected her office assistant of committing the crime because she knew the official was in possession of the village burial stokvel’s money amounting to M25 000.
She says her traditional doctor told her that the thieves had burnt the fur of a hyena, which is believed to possess magical sleep-inducing powers.
“I believe this is true because the traditional doctors have confirmed it to me,” she says.

About five kilometres away, in Ha-Thetsane, prominent politician and former minister Motlohi Maliehe suffered the same fate in 2005.
Maliehe, a former All Basotho Convention (ABC) chairman, was robbed while sleeping in his house in Ha-Thetsane.
Maliehe says he was already in bed when his late son was studying in another room.

The son decided to go and wash dishes after reading and while doing the dishes he was suddenly attacked by a spell of an unusually heavy sleep.
He left the dishes half done to go to sleep.
Maliehe says they were woken up by heavy banging on the door by a neighbour.
“I have never slept so deep in my life. No one in the house was awake,” Maliehe says.

When he finally woke up, he found his neighbours outside the house and they told him he had just been robbed of his furniture.
He checked and found that it was only the bedroom that had not been broken into.
He says a day before the break in, one of his neighbours had his furniture wiped out by the robbers and “I jokingly laughed at him saying he was not man enough”.
The robbers had even cooked and ate in his house without him hearing anything.

“I laughed at him so much that I actually cried. I didn’t know that my turn would come too,” Maliehe says.
Luckily for Maliehe, one of the neighbours had seen a truck that was used to steal his furniture and they traced it to a rented house in the city. The robbers were arrested, but not before villagers beat them to a pulp.
They drove the thieves to an open yard by Maliehe’s house where they interrogated and assaulted them.

“Villagers clobbered them thin, when the police arrived we had already got all the answers we needed,” Maliehe says.
When the thieves were asked how they managed to make people sleep they showed the villages a small container with a liquid-like substance to which they utter incantations to make people fall deep into sleep.

According to Maliehe, his house was the 67th to be broken into in this way.
This shows the extent to which this kind of robbery through knockout drugs is rampant in Maseru.

Police say in the past two months, over 30 families have suffered such robberies in the southern part of Maseru that falls under the Lithoteng Police Station.
The Lithoteng Police Station jurisdiction covers Ha-Pita, Masowe 2 & 3, Ha-Abia, Lithabaneng, Masianokeng, Ha-Matala, Ha-’Nnelese.
Such cases are on the rise and have started worrying both community members and the police.
It is not clear how the thieves manage to drug their victims into sleep but most reports received from victims point to an unexplainable sense of overwhelming exhaustion.

They then go straight to bed before the robbers pounce.
When morning comes, they wake up to a house cleaned out of appliances and all electronic gadgets and groceries too.
Speculation is rife that the thieves use black magic.
There are other suggestions that the victims inhale the “devil’s breath”, a drug called scopolamine, made from the seeds of the borrachero tree.
The drug is said to be mainly produced in Colombia.
The Sun, a newspaper in the UK, describes the devil’s breath as a fine white powder which is blown into the victim’s face and renders people helpless within minutes.

It then disappears from the bloodstream within around four hours, meaning it often becomes untraceable before a victim has had time to be tested.
It is an ordourless and tasteless drug that can affect someone in moments.
It has a reputation for turning people into zombies, wiping victims’ memories and enforcing a lack of free will.
In high doses, it can be lethal.

The Sun says victims have reported feeling drowsy. Other symptoms include clouded vision, incoherent speech and even frightening hallucinations.
After recovery, they claim to have no memory of what happened.
The Maseru police have not had the chance or opportunity to prove any of these theories but to them it is clear that something is used to drug people.
“We cannot confirm what it is because there are no traces of ash or any evidence that can be used to affirm that some sort of drug was used,” senior

Inspector Mosito Mokhethi, who is in charge of Lithoteng Police station, says.
Mokhethi says this is not a new phenomenon as it has been happening over the past 15 years.
“But now cases are on the rise, we even have cases of police officers being robbed with their guns on the headstand,” Mokhethi says.

Ha-Thetsane, Ha-Tsolo, Lesia, Masowe 2 & 3, Likotsi, Lithoteng, Ha-Abia and Qoaling are said to be the most affected areas.
Mokhethi says it is difficult to track suspects because they leave little or no trace at all at the scene.
He says, however, they receive leads from whistle-blowers of people who are selling electronics without proof of receipt.
“The electronics or appliances obtained from such people are then held in the custody of the police until they are identified by the owner,” Mokhethi says.

Mokhethi says they have received information that plasma TVs are mostly targeted because apparently the powder in them is sold to drug dealers to be used in a drug cocktail.
Mokhethi says some TVs when found are in a dismantled state and the said powder retrieved.
According to IOL News, the powder is used in a cocktail to create nyaope, a mixture of antiretroviral drugs and other substances.
The chairman of Nasaret Against Drug Abuse (NADA), Morgan Bruiners, told a South African newspaper, The Observer, that “the powder is white powder resembling Tik, found just behind the TV’s glass screen”.
Mokhethi says the thieves “do not steal these plasma TVs to sell but to extract the powder”.

He says police are working tirelessly to find the syndicate in order to prove that indeed plasma TVs are used in a drug cartel.
Mokhethi says people should be cautious of their environment and up their security systems.
“Burglar proofs are no longer for decoration and for old fashioned houses. If it has proven to be so easy to pull out an aluminium window frame apart as a point of entry then people should rethink what it means being smart and safety.”

He also advises that neighbours should watch out for each other.
“We advise that people should police one another, we (police), as much as we would love to, cannot be in all places at all times,” he says.
Mokhethi says there is need for community members to invest in Crime Prevention Committees.
“It is not about being part of it, if you have airtime to give every member of the committee, blankets or cell phones please do so to keep them motivated and to ease their work,” he says.

Rose Moremoholo


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