Family fights for dead sangoma’s hands

Family fights for dead sangoma’s hands

MASERU – A dead sangoma’s hands are at the centre of a dispute between a funeral parlour and a local family.
Family members insist ’Mankhethoa Maoela was buried without her hands. They now want Lesotho Funeral Society to hand over the remains.
The funeral parlour and the police insist Maoela hands were buried with him, albeit as a separate package.
Maoela was buried in her rural home of Qhuuku, Ha-Tlali, in Maseru on May 12.

“We want her hands. Lesotho Funeral Society must give us the hands,” Maoela’s niece, ’Marelebohile Lekaota, said.
Lesotho Funeral Society said “there were hands in the coffin”, wrapped in a black plastic bag. The family could pay for demanding the sangoma’s hands, the funeral parlour has warned.

“The family should be warned that we cannot afford to be defamed,” said company spokesperson, Sepinare Majara Masupha.
“We recommend the family to stop spreading lies about the mortuary or else unpleasant and drastic measures will be taken against them,” he said.
But the family is having none of it.

“I lifted up and turned the deceased but there were no hands in the coffin at all. If by mistake the mortuary forgot to put the hands in the coffin, we will gladly appreciate if they give them to us, we want them,” said Maoela’s niece, Lekaota, speaking on behalf of the family.
Maoela was strangled to death and had her hands cut off last month, allegedly by an apprentice sangoma Keketso Matsoso.
Motsoso is locked in Maseru Central Prison awaiting trial on murder charges.

Matsoso allegedly wanted the hands to make a strong muti that could keep the police away from him.  He was fleeing from the police after battering his wife.  Maoela had promised to make the muti for him but he ended up killing her, according to Maoela’s mentor and senior sangoma, Thabo Lepau Tšito. Matsoso was arrested with the help of Tšito, who set a trap for him.

Maoela’s relatives say they were “sure” that the police took her body together with the hands that were recovered from Matsoso to the Lesotho Funeral Society mortuary for safekeeping while investigations proceeded. They say they only realised on May 11 during a Basotho customary night vigil preceding the burial that the hands were missing.

Lekaota said they went with the police to Queen Elizabeth II Hospital for a post mortem and the hands were still available then.
Lekaota said when they left the hospital to the mortuary in Ha-’Mantšebo, some 35 kilometres south of Maseru, “we made sure that the hands were still there”.

“We left Maseru with the belief that everything was available,” Lekaota said. “We only realised on Friday, the night of the vigil that the hands were missing and we reported the matter to the police” Lekaota said. Lekaota was one of the relatives who fetched Maoela’s corpse for a post mortem in Maseru. The area chief Sekete Nkuebe Letsie said the case was reported to him.

Chief Letsie said it was not clear why the family allowed the burial to proceed without resolving the issue. Police spokesman Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli said the hands were wrapped in a plastic bag and put in the coffin. “We do not know but the implication we get is that one of the family members heard and definitely knows that they were informed of where the hands were in the coffin,” Mopeli said.
Mopeli further said the family can approach the courts and apply for the exhumation of the body.

Tokase Mphutlane

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