The killing fields of Malumeng

The killing fields of Malumeng

…the place where death doesn’t shock anymore

MASERU – VISIT any village in Malumeng wearing a lavish Pointer leather jacket, Brentwood pair of trousers, Florsheim or Crocket & Jones shoes, Stetson Hatteras or Fedora hat and chances are one may lose their life.
Based on that type of dressing alone, chances are that one will be attacked or even killed on assumption of being a gang member spying on local members of rival gangs.

Worse if one is driving an expensive vehicle like a BMW or a Mercedes Benz or a car trusted for speeding such as a Honda Fit.
Gangsters in the famo music, especially those working with illegal mining cartels in South Africa, are widely associated with such lavish opulent dressing and opulent lifestyle in the otherwise impoverished Lesotho’s rural side.

With trust among gangs diminishing, attacks and killings become rampant.
Distrust among the communities is so rife that it even features in the famo songs, most of which glorify violence and are laden with salacious insults.
Take the song by the famous local singer Lesiba in which he complains about spying and killings.

“Ba ea li nka ba ea li isa (they gather information and take it away),” goes the lyrics to the song by Lesiba, whose real name is Teboho Posholi.
Lesiba, the police say, escaped death earlier this year when two men targeted him for elimination. The men were killed in a shootout with the police.
Another singer from the area, Morena Seoa who was killed while sleeping in his home nine years ago, had complained in a song that “ha ke batle batho ba khoaetseng libetsa moketeng oa ka (I don’t want spies coming to my feast hiding weapons)”.

Just last Sunday midnight, two men from Maseru and Mohale’s Hoek visited Malumeng driving a BMW.
Sources say the men had just dropped a colleague they work with in South Africa’s disused mines before getting into a bar for some drinks.
Suspicious of strangers, some people in the bar attacked the two men and killed them.
“One was shot dead while another was clobbered to death with dangerous weapons,” a source said.

Police spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli said no arrests have been made in connection with the incident. He said investigations are still underway.
Such incidents of gory violence are so common in Malumeng that villagers are not shocked.

Nearly every week they hear of such killings and some have witnessed them.
Others tell harrowing stories of how they survived after being caught up in the crossfire of gun battles between gangs.
Malumeng is nestled on the gorges, ridges and white crests on the far outskirts of Mafeteng town on the southern part of the country.

It is located in Thabana-Morena Constituency, which has the second largest population after Abia constituency, according to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) statistics.
Abia constituency has 15 460 registered voters while Thabana-Morena has 13 795.
It is home to many prominent characters, but the area is more known for killings.
Locals say they are fed up with the killings.

Chieftainess of the area, ’Matheko Posholi, is a victim of the murderous acts of gangs. She was widowed nine years ago when her husband was gunned down.
“I am sick and worried about the killings of people rocking my place,” she says.

Chieftainess Posholi says dozens of people have been killed since she took over from her late husband, Chief Ntja Posholi, in 2010.
Her husband was killed shortly after announcing at a funeral of a victim of gang violence that he was aware that his name was part of a hit list of people to be killed in the area.
He was shot dead in January 2010 in broad-day light and the suspects have not yet been brought before courts of law.

Chieftainess Posholi believes the criminal justice system is letting her down.
“A suspect in the murder of my husband disappeared from the area for some time but later appeared before the police with a lawyer,” the chieftainess says.
“The police’s Criminal Investigation Division has since promised to give us a day to appear in court.” “The killings here are just many and debilitating.”
Chieftainess Posholi says “a considerable number” of artistes claim in their songs to be from Thabana- Morena.
“Thabana- Morena is just a constituency not the area where these artistes come from.”

Most supporters of Seakhi, a famo gang group, come from this place.
Chieftainess Posholi says the famo artistes sometimes killed each other either in Malumemg or in South Africa and returned home as dead bodies.
Often, revenge killings instituted by affected families follow.
And so the vicious cycle of killings continues unabated.
“The priests have prayed for this area but we have not seen any positive results. The army and the police have also come here but still we have failed to see any change.”

In March this year, two men from Taung Ha-Ratolo died during an exchange of gunfire with the police. Police suspect the two, who are brothers, had gone to attack Teboho Posholi, a renowned famo artiste known as Lesiba in the music industry, at his home in Malumeng.

The brothers opened fire when the police ordered them to surrender.
The police returned fire, instantly killing one of the brothers while the other was confirmed dead upon arrival at a hospital.
Selibe Mochoboroane, MP for Thabana-Morena, says the community should unite to fight the dangerous criminals to end the killings.
He says they have to go back to their old ways of stopping strangers and asking for identity cards to screen people suspected of being criminals.

During his days as the deputy Minister of Local Government, Mochoboroane worked hard to ensure that the area had accessible roads to enable police to patrol and swiftly attend to cases.
Mochoboroane also once deployed the army and the police to camp in the area in a bid to fight crime.
The kills abated for a few months but spiked again when the when the police and the army left the place.

In mid-December, the gang members will start trooping back to Malumeng for the festive season.
And judging by the recent history, there will be an upsurge in the number of gang related gun fights and murders. Old scores will be settled by spilling more blood.
The police say they are trying their best to stop the murders, but perhaps it’s time they change the tactics.
Until then, the people of Malumeng will continue to see more dead bodies.

Majara Molupe

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