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Crackdown on drugs

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MASERU – POLICE have embarked on a crackdown to raid streets of drug peddlers in an operation that has netted more than two dozen people so far.
Many of the targeted dealers sell drugs such as marijuana and cocaine on the streets alongside regular items such as corn chips, fruits and vegetables.

So far 24 street vendors have been arrested and 22 of them appeared before the Maseru Magistrates’ Court last week charged with illegal possession of drugs after allegedly being found with stocks of marijuana.
The other two were found in possession of suspected cocaine.
Police say they have taken the substance to a lab for testing.

The latest crackdown was triggered by a tip-off to the police that some street vendors were dealing in drugs while pretending to be selling regular goodies such as food items.
For example, a vendor arrested along Kingsway Road and another at the Moshoeshoe I Statue Park openly displayed fruits for sale on their tables. They had allegedly stashed the drugs under their tables.

Police sources say some beauty and hair salons could also be selling drugs, with the hair business just being a front.
“There are many such businesses and we have discovered that some are serious distributors of drugs,” one of the police sources said.
“Our investigations have revealed that drugs are bought from the street vendors who sell the drugs in small quantities,” deputy police spokesperson Sub-Inspector ’Mareabetsoe Mofoka said.

Sub-Insp Mofoka said more work needs to be done to unearth people who supply the street vendors with the drugs.
“Dagga is packed in small packages called jointers wrapped in paper,” she said.
Youths are the major clients, said Sub-Inspector ’Mareabetsoe Mofoka.
Apart from the raids, police have also embarked on a massive awareness campaign to sensitise youths about the dangers of substance abuse. The awareness campaigns include visiting schools and talking to students, she said.

“It is unfortunate that youths use their pocket money to buy drugs instead of their schooling materials,” said Sub-Inspector ’Mareabetsoe Mofoka.
She said after taking the drugs, the youths usually go on to commit “heinous crimes” such as murder.
Sub-Inspector Mofoka said police are also moving into villages adjacent to the city in search of drug peddlers and growers.

Sources say almost all the youths called Manomoro (a general name for gangsters who classify themselves according to their tattooed numbers) held by the army at the Makoanyane Barracks are known to abuse drugs.
So far the army has held 65 youths, including two girls aged between 15 and 34 at the barracks for terrorising residents in Koalabata, Naleli, Khubetsoana, Qoaling and other areas in Maseru.

A source said there is now a tendency by the youths to mix a cough syrup called DPH with fizzy drinks to concoct a drug that leaves one high for long periods of time.
“This drug is easy to make but keeps the youths high,” the source said.
“It is mostly used by school-going children who sip it using energy drink bottles while putting on their uniforms,” he said.
Police say they have also noticed that some now have illegal plantations of dagga in the backyards of their homes.

The manager of the Diamonds and Drugs Unit at the police headquarters, Superintendent Retšelisitsoe Bokopane, said they were worried by the widespread abuse of drugs amongst youths.
Supt Bokopane said some of the children arrested by police disclosed that they commit crimes under influence of drugs.

“They told us that they get courage to even kill a person when under the influence of drugs. It’s going out of hand,” Supt Bokopane said.
“Crime is becoming worrisome…as the police we need to roll up our sleeves to fight it,” said Supt Bokopane.
He said the crackdown was already showing positive results, citing a decline in crime.

The maximum sentence that has been handed down to those convicted under the Drug Abuse Act during the ongoing crackdown is a M10 000 fine or five-year imprisonment, while the lowest sentence has been a M500 fine.
The Act stipulates a prison sentence of up to five years and/or a fine of not less than M20 000.

The Organised Crime Index 2020 states that Lesotho is still a small market for hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine.
This is due to the high price of cocaine and also because Lesotho is mainly a transit country for heroin intended for the more lucrative South African market.
However, it has warned of reports that the heroin market in Lesotho is growing.

Marijuana, the main substance grown and used in Lesotho is mainly grown by rural people who don’t view their activities as illegal. Instead, they see marijuana farming as a source of livelihood, according to a study published in the Journal of Political Ecology.

One of the chiefs in Lesotho who was interviewed for the research readily admitted to asking the police to be lenient on cannabis farmers in the Mapoteng area, an area notorious for dagga farming.
The study, published 10 years ago, suggests that with large sections of the rural population dependent on income from marijuana, a tough stance against marijuana farming could lose votes for politicians.

Majara Molupe

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Doctor tampers with corpse

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THE Mokhotlong Government Hospital has agreed to pay M200 000 as compensation to the husband of a deceased patient after a doctor unlawfully tampered with the corpse.

There is a deed of settlement between the hospital and Jacob Palime, the deceased woman’s husband.

Jacob Palime rushed to the High Court in Tšifa-li-Mali last year after the hospital failed to explain why the doctor had tampered with his wife’s corpse at a private mortuary behind his back.

His wife’s body had been taken to the Lesotho Funeral Services.
Palime lives in Phahameng in Mokhotlong.

In his court papers, Palime was demanding M500 000 in compensation from the hospital “for unlawful invasion, intrusion and interference with” his rituals and rights over his dead wife.

He informed the court that his wife died in September 2020 at Mokhotlong Hospital.

“All requisite documentation pertaining to her release to Lesotho Funeral Services were effected and ultimately the deceased was accordingly transferred to the mortuary,” Palime said.

The court heard that Palime’s family was subsequently informed about the wife’s death.

The family however learnt that one doctor, acting in his professional capacity, went to the mortuary the next day and tampered with the corpse.

The doctor subsequently conducted certain tests on the corpse without the knowledge of family members.

Palime said their attempts to get an explanation from the hospital as to the purpose of the tests and the name of the doctor had failed to yield results.

“It remained questionable and therefore incomprehensible as to what actually was the purpose or rationale behind conducting such anonymous and secret tests,” he said.

Palime told the court that the whole thing left him “in an unsettled state of mind for a long time”.

He said his family, which has its traditions and culture rooted in the respect for their departed loved ones, regards and considers Mokhotlong Hospital’s conduct as an unlawful invasion, intrusion and interference with his rituals and rights over his deceased spouse.

“This is more-so because the hospital had all the opportunity to have conducted any or such alleged tests immediately upon demise of the deceased while still within its area of jurisdiction and not after her release to the mortuary,” he said.

Palime said despite incessant demands, the hospital has failed, refused, ignored and neglected to cooperate with him “to amicably solve this unwarranted state of affairs”.

Palime told the court that there were no claims against the Lesotho Funeral Service as they had cooperated and compensated him for wrongly allowing the doctor to perform tests on the corpse without knowledge or presence of one of the family members.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Villagers whipped as police seize guns

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Dozens of villagers in Ha-Rammeleke in Khubelu, Mokhotlong, were on Monday night rounded up and beaten with sticks and whips by the police during an operation to seize illegal guns.

The villagers told thepost that they heard one man crying out for help saying his wife was sick. And when they rushed to his house, they found the police waiting for them.

The police had stormed the man’s house and ordered him to “cry for help” to lure men from the village.

The men and women were then frog-marched outside the village where the police assaulted the men with sticks, whips, and kicked them.

One man said when he arrived at the house, he found other villagers who were now surrounded by armed police.

“At first I thought they were soldiers but later picked up that they were SOU (Special Operations Unit) members,” he said.

He said they were subjected to severe torture.

“They beat us with sticks at the same time demanding guns from us,” he said.

The police and soldiers also raided other nearby villages in Khubelu area but in Ha-Rammeleke villagers say they identified only police from the Special Operations Unit (SOU).

Several villagers who spoke to thepost asked for anonymity for fear of retribution.

This was the second time within a month that the security forces have raided the villages in search of illegal guns after a spate of gory murders in the areas.

The murders are perpetrated by famo music gangs who are fighting over illegal gold mining in South Africa.

The first raid was on Wednesday preceding Good Friday.

Villagers say a group of armed soldiers stormed the place in the wee hours collecting almost every one to the chief’s place.

“We were woken-up by young soldiers who drove us to the chief’s place,” one resident of Ha-Rammeleke said.

When they arrived at the chief’s home all hell broke loose.

A woman told thepost that they were split into two groups of women and men.

Later, women were further split into two groups of the elderly and younger ones.

She said the security officers assaulted the men while ordering the elderly women to ululate.

Young women were ordered to run around the place like they were exercising.

She said the men were pushed into a small hut where they were subjected to further torture.

A man who was among the victims said the army said they should produce the guns and help them identify the illegal miners.

He said this happened after one man in their village was fatally shot by five unknown men in broad daylight.

He said the men who killed the fellow villager had their faces covered with balaclavas and they could not see who they were.

 

The villagers chased them but they could not get close to them because they were armed with guns.

“We were armed with stones while those men were armed with guns,” he said.

“They fired a volley of bullets at us and we retreated,” he said.

The murdered man was later collected by the police.

The army spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Sakeng Lekola, confirmed that soldiers stormed Khubelu area in response to the rampant lawlessness of unlicensed guns.

Lt Col Lekola said their presence in the area followed two incidents of shootings where one man was fatally shot and a child sustained serious gunshot wounds.

“There were reports everywhere, even on the radios, that things were out of hand in Khubelu,” he said.

He said in just a day they managed to collect six guns that were in wrong hands together with more than 100 rounds (bullets) in an operation dubbed Deuteronomy 17.

These bullets included 23 rounds of Galil rifle.

Lt Col Lekola maintained that their operation was successful because they managed to collect guns from wrong hands.

He said they are doing this in line with the African Union principle of ‘silencing the guns’.

He said it is an undeniable fact that statistics of people killed with guns is disturbing.

“We appeal to these people to produce these unlicensed guns,” Lt Col Lekola said.

Lt Col Lekola said they could not just watch Basotho helplessly as they suffered.

He said some people are seen just flaunting their guns.

“They fear no one,” he said.

Police spokesman, Senior Superintendent Kabelo Halahala, said he was aware of the operation in Mokhotlong but did not have further details.

Majara Molupe

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Magistrate saves WILSA boss

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A Maseru magistrate, Nthabiseng Moopisa, this week stayed the criminal prosecution of Advocate ’Mamosa Mohlabula who is accused of tax evasion, money laundering and corruption.

In her application Advocate Mohlabula, who is the director of Women and Law in Southern Africa (WILSA), said the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) should not charge her pending finalisation of her tax evasion case.

Advocate Mohlabula is out on bail after she was formally charged with tax evasion in July last year.

She told Magistrate Moopisa that the DPP, Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane, was wrong to have agreed with the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) to bring charges against her.

“In my viewpoint, the DCEO cannot be heard to charge me in relation to matters already seized with this Honourable Court,” she said in an affidavit.

She also said there is a pending civil case in the High Court in which the DCEO’s abuse of power is referenced, saying the precise way the case is handled will depend “on the way an alleged offence comes to the light”.

“Before that pending case is finalised, DCEO has no jurisdiction to detail me to court over isolated phenomenon of tax evasion and or over grievances of former employees of WILSA,” she said.

Advocate Mohlabula was charged together with the WILSA’s chief accounting officer.

She argued that it was WILSA that was being investigated, not individuals, further saying that was “a significant safeguard that the DCEO was impartial from an objective viewpoint”.

“To exclude any legitimate doubt in this respect the DCEO returned the items it seized from WILSA,” she said.

“This was a realistic and practical step towards administering justice and to avoid premature embarrassment to the management of WILSA.”

She said the Board of Trustees of WILSA were sent briefing notes which in certain respects reflected that the DCEO returned the properties of WILSA without warning them that they were suspects.

“In any event, we proceeded to fashion our arguments before the High Court. There was, and could be, no evidence to back up the decision of the DCEO to apply for the search warrant,” she said.

Advocate Mohlabula said before they took the matter to the High Court, she cooperated with the DCEO and it conducted an inquiry into the alleged crimes.

“Now that the matter is pending before the High Court, there is no more reason for the DCEO to remand me before the pending cases are finalised,” she said.

Staff Reporter

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