Orgy of violence rocks Kao again

Orgy of violence rocks Kao again

…………Police officers allegedly beat up villagers in Ha-Shishila………

MASERU – IT was a quarrel over a woman at a bar that triggered an orgy of violence that left one person dead in Ha-Shishila village in Butha-Buthe over the festive holidays.
Villagers who spoke to thepost this week said violence erupted after one man had a quarrel with a woman at a bar.
The two were at a local bar in Lihloahloeng when the man, later identified as Mabikoane Leoma, exchanged harsh words with the woman. He then slapped the woman.
The police officer reacted by manhandling Leoma in a bid to stop him from further assaulting the woman.

That however sparked a free-for-all as some men who were at the bar allegedly attacked the police officer with fighting sticks (mabetlela). The police officer was later taken to a hospital with serious wounds.

Police at a nearby satellite post rushed to the scene and arrested Leoma and locked him in their holding cells.
Some village men went to the police post and threatened to burn it down if their friend was not released.
Police spokesman, Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli, said the angry mob overpowered the police and released their friend by force.

“The police at the post realised that they were outnumbered and there was nothing they could do to stop the villagers from forcibly taking their friend away,” Mopeli said.
“The police were armed with guns but at the same time they had the responsibility to avoid bloodshed,” he said.
Mopeli said the police requested reinforcement from the district hence “the operation to re-arrest the forcibly released man together with these others who were obstructing justice” on the following day.

Villagers say two mini-buses and two 4×4 trucks filled with armed police officers had arrived at Ha-Shishila and Lihloahloeng where they broke doors and pulled men outside by force.
They took them to a nearby river where they were ordered to roll on the ground while at the same time they were being kicked and hit with mabetlela sticks and gun butts.
One of the villagers, Poshoane Moloi, who is a close relative of the village chief was severely beaten. He was rushed to ’Mamohau Hospital where he was declared dead.
The village chief, Chieftainess ’Malisebo Mokone, said the police attacked her subjects without her knowledge.

Chieftainess Mokone said it was between 3am and 4am when she heard cries of women in the village and she woke up to investigate what was going on.
At that time one woman stormed into her house running, reporting that a band of police officers were assaulting her husband and son.
“When I got out of the house, I saw a group of police offers who were armed, while surprised, I saw men and women scattering away, running away from the police fearing for their lives,” Chieftainess Mokone said.

“I saw as the police forced some of them into their minibus and some were taken by the police entering the police Quantum and into their van,” she said.
She said what surprised her was that no one came to her to explain what had happened or why her subjects were being beaten up.
She said she could only relate the scene to the one that one of her subjects had told her. She said the subject had told her that he had beaten up a police officer at a local bar.
Mokone explained that on Christmas Day Leoma arrived at her house explaining that he had hit the police officer and was arrested.
He said he was however later released by villagers.

Chieftainess Mokone said Leoma admitted that he slapped a woman, which led to the policeman trying to arrest him.
“I am mourning because the police have killed my nephew. I am also hurt because my people have been maltreated and beaten, many of them were not even involved in these things,” she said.
One of the severely beaten village men is Boraoneng Nchabeng, who was believed to be dead until a local human rights group, Transformation Resource Centre (TRC), tracked him down and found that he was still alive.

Nchabeng’s body is bruised and full of black spots like he was electrocuted.
This is the second time that the Butha-Buthe police, who had been called to reinforce the satellite post, have killed a villager in Ha-Shishila.
At the beginning of last year, the police did the same thing.

“We do not know what to do anymore because it seems like the police are here to finish this community,” Chieftainess Mokone said.
TRC Human Rights and Democracy director, Advocate Lepeli Moeketsi, said what the police did was totally unacceptable.
He said no one has a right to kill a person, even if such a person has committed a crime because no one is above the law.

“Police officers are trained professionally, they had to arrest criminals not kill innocent people, what they did makes them turn into murderers not protectors,” Moeketsi said.
He said they as TRC will do whatever it takes to protect the rights of the people.

“We do not care what happened there, all we care about are the rights of the people, but we do not say what the community did to hit the police officer was good,” he said.
“They committed a crime and there was a better way of handling this other than torturing and killing the people.”

“We will not tolerate the human rights abuses. The police have to respect the community and the community should do the same,” he said.
Superintendent Mopeli said he was not aware that a man was killed in Kao and several others injured by the police.
“I do not have that report on my desk,” he said.

Meanwhile, Parliament’s portfolio committee on human rights yesterday summoned Police Minister ’Mampho Mokhele and Commissioner Holomo Molibeli to account following the violence in Kao.

The committee had also invited complainants from Kao’s villages of Ha-Shishila and Lihloahloeng to state what happened.
The meeting was however held in camera, with Parliament promising to brief the media on what was discussed and agreed upon today.

Parliament was reacting to the death of a villager and injury of several others after the police beat them during the Christmas holidays.
The police did this in reaction to the beating of a policeman by some villagers at a public bar.

Itumeleng Khoete

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