How low can we sink?

How low can we sink?

MASERU – THE late Mokalekale Khetheng will finally receive a decent burial in his home village in Mokhotlong on August 26.
Khetheng’s decomposing body was exhumed at Botšabelo’s paupers’ burial site where he was buried together with 40 other people whose relatives could not be found last Friday.
The exhumation came over 470 days after he mysteriously went missing from a police station in Hlotse.
A sombre atmosphere engulfed the exhumation, which was attended by his family and top government and police officials.
Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s wife ’MaIsaiah covered her face in horror as the coffin was opened.
The Prime Minister was by her side.

Cabinet ministers, including Police Minister ’Mampho Mokhele, were also present.
The coffin carrying Khetheng’s body was only tagged with a number, but his relatives immediately identified him despite the advanced decomposition state. They also recognised his running shoes and clothes.
There was palpable tension, curiosity and fear as onlookers in facial masks watched while exhumers dug through two coffins to reach Khetheng’s body.
This was on the 474th day since Khetheng was found dead in Ha-Setho in Rothe on March 27 last year.
He had gone missing from the Hlotse police station where he had been arrested two days earlier.

Khetheng could not receive a proper burial then because no one could identify him or his relatives when Ha-Setho villagers discovered his body near the village.
The local chief called the police who immediately took the then unidentified body to the nearest Lesotho Funeral Services mortuary.
Two months later, the corpse was taken to Maseru mortuary for a pauper’s burial.

Then last Thursday — two days after the arrest of four police officers in connection with the cop’s disappearance — the police went to Botšabelo cemetery to exhume Khetheng’s body.
His father Thabo Khetheng, who was not at the exhumation, seemed to finally find a bit of closure amid the grief.
The senior Khetheng described the circumstances surrounding his son’s death as “unacceptable” but said the discovery of the remains means his son’s “bones will be buried in dignity”.
It had been more than a year of trauma for the family as efforts to locate Khetheng all seemed in vain.

The father knocked on the doors of senior police commanders, the courts and anyone he thought could help with no success until last Thursday.
Touched by the family’s plight, police boss Holomo Molibeli said he ordered a thorough investigation after the Khetheng family told him about their struggle.
“I then started investigations which led to the arrest of some suspects and now we are about to establish if this man we are exhuming is Constable Khetheng,” Molibeli said as the exhumation process was about to start.

DNA tests to establish beyond reasonable doubt that the exhumed body indeed belongs to Khetheng were still not out at the time of going to print.
Molibeli said he heard how the Khetheng family had lost confidence in the police after they were sent from pillar to post by some uncooperative officers in the search for the missing soon.
“I want to humble myself in front the Basotho nation for every wrong thing the Lesotho Mounted Police Service did,” said Molibeli, who was appointed to his post recently.
“This is not the way to handle things,” he said.

He expressed surprise at how the police were defensive when the family filed a habeas corpus application.
A habeas corpus application is filed in court to force authorities to bring a person before a court or judge.
It is usually filed in the case of missing or forcibly disappeared persons.

The question is why we were so defensive? So I told the (police) lawyer to stop (defending) immediately because that is not the direction we want to take,” he said.
Molibeli said every Mosotho should join hands with Khetheng’s family.
Khetheng was arrested in March 2016 in Sebothoane in Leribe.

Opposing the habeas corpus case, the police denied any knowledge of the arrest. This was despite that the police had earlier told Parliament that Khetheng had disappeared from a police station in Hlotse, where he had been arrested. It therefore came as a shock to many in November last year when Senior Inspector Mabitle Matona told High Court judge Justice ’Maseshophe Hlajoane that he was unaware that Khetheng had been arrested and was missing.

However, a police officer who testified on behalf of the Khetheng family in the case insisted that Matona was one of the senior officers involved in Khetheng’s arrest.
Matona, who was one of the four officers arrested in connection with the case, denied any role in the saga. The officers appeared before the Chief Magistrate in Maseru on Tuesday charged with Khetheng’s murder.

Rose Moremoholo & Nkheli Liphoto

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