Cattle rustler beaten to death

Cattle rustler beaten to death

HA-TOLOANE-HE was a factory worker in Maseru during the day and a cattle raider at night.
This is how villagers describe Mokhethi Keketsi, a Toloane Ha-Lekhooa man in his mid-20s, who was murdered last Thursday.

Villagers do not say how Keketsi met his fate but the police say his body “was full of bruises” which they suspect were caused by wooden sticks (melamu) which were used to assault him.
However, the villagers say they were unaware that he was a stock thief until his killing.

Keketsi, it is suspected, could have been murdered by herdmen who found him driving Brahman cattle to a nearby Free State farm.
This is a route through which many cattle stolen in Mafeteng, some parts of Maseru and Mohale’s Hoek end up in South Africa where they are sold to butcheries, according to police sources.

“We have discovered that it is easier to sell stolen cattle in South Africa than here because there are a lot of abattoirs there,” a police source said.
“Corrupt farm owners in South Africa hide these cattle and when the dust settles, they sell them to slaughterhouses,” he said.
“This is a well organised syndicate. Some abattoirs, we suspect, know that they are buying stolen cattle.”

The owner of the Brahmans recovered from Keketsi, Moahloli Mosehle, told thepost that his herd boy woke him up around 6am to inform him about the missing cattle.
“I immediately went to report to my village chief and then proceeded to the Morija police station,” Mosehle said.
“My grandfather called me on Friday informing me that the cattle were found in Hobhouse,” he said.

“We went to the police with my relatives and drove there with them.”
He said they found Keketsi lying down dead and some herdboys from Tša-Kholo, in Mafeteng district, stood near his body.
Mosehle said he immediately identified Keketsi’s body.
They took the body to a mortuary.
“I am angry because he left us with so many unanswered questions,” he said.

“If the police were not there, I would have left him there because I am still angry considering that we are from the same village.”
Mosehle said he wished Keketsi had lived so that he would be interrogated until he revealed the names of his accomplices.
“I believe he didn’t work alone. Brahmans are not that docile to be stolen by one man.”

He said Keketsi’s death should come as a lesson to other thieves.
“Killing them could help put an end to stealing,” he said.
The Toloane area chief, Chieftainess ’Mamohasoa Toloane, said Morija police called her asking her to inform the cattle owners to report to the law enforcement agents.
“On their return, they said they found him dead as he was severely beaten,” Chieftainess Toloane said.

She said she was surprised to learn of the incident even though Keketsi used to stay in Maseru where he was a factory worker.
“I didn’t know him as a thief even though he was said to have confessed when cuffed. It is said he confessed that he stole a cow that went missing a few days back,” she said.

She said villagers had re-established a policing forum that had been dissolved years back.
“We hope this will help us curb theft.”
Police spokesman Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli confirmed the case, adding that the cattle owner along with his two relatives went to Hobhouse and found the animals.
“Even though they denied beating him, the deceased had bruises,” Superintendent Mopeli said.

He said livestock theft is on the increase countrywide.
“It is difficult to catch cross border thieves as they connive with their partners in the neighbouring country,” he said.
This happens at a time when two Lesotho soldiers are fighting for bail in the Matatiele Magistrate’s Court, a South African farming town bordering Qacha’s Nek on the south-eastern border.

The soldiers were arrested after they allegedly entered South Africa illegally two months ago while pursuing Basotho livestock that had been driven by thieves to that country.
Reports say the thieves took 57 sheep and 39 goats in Qacha’s Nek. The thieves fled and when the South African soldiers arrived, they arrested the Lesotho soldiers.

The Basotho are now facing, among others, charges of illegal crossing into South Africa, illegal possession of guns, stock theft and violating Covid-19 regulations.
Cross border stock theft is rampant along the border, both in Lesotho and South Africa.

The chairman of Qacha’s Nek Farmers Association, Lereng Hlapi, told thepost last month that many farmers have lost oxen to thieves across the border.
Hlapi said many of them relied on oxen to plough their land and they are now unable to till the land, especially in areas hard reached by tractors.
“To make matters worse, there are only four tractors in the district,” Hlapi said, adding that without government assistance, many poor farmers will not be able to plough this year.

A paper titled “Cross-Border Raiding and Community Conflict in the Lesotho-South African Border Zone” authored by Jonathan Crush, Gary Kynoch and Theresa Ulicki in 2016, noted that stock-theft became more widespread, organised and violent in the 1990s.

The paper says 71 percent of Basotho stockowners reported losing livestock to thieves, many of them more than once.
It says over 40 percent of people say they have no livestock because of thieves.

“Since 1990, 85 percent of stockowners in the border villages have lost animals to thieves as compared with 49 percent from non-border villages,” the paper reads.

Mapule Motsopa

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