Fear grips Matsieng villages

Fear grips Matsieng villages

… as gunmen mow down five in retaliatory attacks…

MASERU – FAMO-RELATED killings are nothing new in parts of Lesotho. But some are now worried that, like a veld fire, they are spreading to areas that did not witness such violence in the past.
Most regrettably, the violence is affecting innocent souls who have nothing to do with the differences in the famo industry.
These famo-related killings were rife in Mafeteng district but are now spreading to other districts in the country.
In the wee hours of last Wednesday, a group of belligerent gun-toting men stormed Mahloenyeng Ha-Petje, in Matsieng constituency targeting the related families of Petje and Letšoaea.
The men mowed everything in their way and left the families with nothing but five motionless bodies to count.
The MP for Matsieng constituency Matšepo Ramakoae said the assailants were on an offensive to eliminate entire families.
She says they fatally shot everyone in the house before starting a fire to set the family members alight.

One family member sustained serious injuries during the attack and succumbed to his injuries at Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital a few days after being admitted. This was a 13-year-old girl who had escaped and was rushed to hospital but later died from the bullet wounds.
A few family belongings were seen scattered around the torched homes.
Fear and tension have gripped the community following the fatal incident.
With teary eyes and a muffled voice, Ramakoae said when gun shots subsided, neighbours came out from hiding in a last ditch effort to save the embattled families.
She said the neighbours only met the mangled bullet-riddled bodies on the ground while homes were gutted by fire.

Ramakoae said Morija police were informed and sought back up from Maseru Rural Police.
“The assailants had mowed everything they came across,” she said, adding that they fled the scene and hid in the trenches on top of Matsieng plateau.
It is estimated that about 20 gun-wielding men attacked Mahloenyeng residents and wreaked havoc.
Ramakoae said the police tried to trace the perpetrators using a helicopter without success.
“Police have promised they would eventually succeed in their search for the assailants and make them face the wrath of the law,” Ramakoae said.
The killings were linked to famo gangs, she said.
She said a person related to the famo gangs is being buried in the area almost every weekend.

Public meetings to try and resolve the issue have not yielded much in terms of results, she said, appealing to the government to establish a satellite police post in the area because Morija police are overstretched.
She says perpetrators usually go and hide in Maseru before returning to inflict more violence.
“This is really heart-wrenching,” the MP said, adding that the latest killings appear to be retaliatory attacks between the families following some killings in Peka recently.
Police confirmed that five people were shot dead last Sunday in Peka while a car was torched.

Ramakoae said all the relevant stakeholders should muster the political will to end the killings, which often spill over from South Africa where Basotho work at some gold mines.
She says there are five people in her constituency who were killed in the mines of South Africa and are yet to be buried.
People who commit crimes in Lesotho can easily flee to South Africa taking advantage of lax border controls.
The traditional leader of Mahloenyeng, ‘Mantšepase Lehloenya, said it is unclear how the people killed in the latest violence would be buried because they did not have relatives in the area.
Following the ghastly crime that has not only stunned her people but has also sent a chilling message country-wide, Chief Lehloenya said her subjects are living in great fear.

Meanwhile, three people were also shot dead on Matsieng plateau.
Police sources said these incidents are linked.
The shootings happened between 10 and 11pm last Tuesday.
Major players in the killings are known but they are still at large, a police source said.

Police spokesman Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli said police are already investigating all the cases, although no arrests have been made.
He says they suspect that the killings are part of a vicious cycle of retaliation amongst the affected families.
Montoeli Masoetsa who has dealt with migrant labour issues for years said people who work in the disused mines in South Africa lived a life of lawlessness.
He said various groups from different countries often fight over turf there.
“They are mostly from Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa,” he said.

Majara Molupe


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