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Panic as syndicate terrorises Maseru

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MASERU – A well-organised syndicate of robbers has been targeting affluent suburbs, retailers and filling stations in Maseru. Although crime is generally rife in Maseru, especially in the villages, robbers now appear to be also targeting rich suburbs and gated communities.

Hillsview, a suburb of the well-heeled along Pioneer Road, has borne the brunt of most of the robberies in recent months. Filling stations, retail shops and gated communities have also been targeted.

So have individuals depositing large sums of cash from businesses.

Security Unlimited, a security company, this week released a statement warning its clients to be vigilant.

The statement noted the increase in the number of robberies in Hillsview, an area with a huge concentration of Security Unlimited’s clients.

Hillsview is home to businesspeople and diplomats, making it a target for robberies and burglaries.

The spate of armed robberies in Maseru has exposed the police’s dire lack of resources. The police have been caught glaringly unprepared as criminals terrorise residents and businesses.

The wave of robberies started in May and has continued unabated since then, with the police fumbling for solutions. The police have been struggling to tame the tide due to a lack of money and resources to fight back.

Police spokesperson Mpiti Mopeli told thepost that the police have one patrol vehicle covering the 15 police stations in Maseru Urban.

That means there is only one police vehicle for Maseru’s nearly 350 000 residents.

“We are trying our best but the lack of vehicles is a major problem,” Mopeli said, adding that ideally, Maseru Urban should have at least 15 vehicles, one for each police station.

He said the police have not had enough vehicles since the government cancelled Avis’ fleet management services in 2016.

“We got some vehicles during the Bidvest contract. That helped but they were still not enough,” Mopeli said. “Since that contract ended the police have been struggling. We have not had a budget to buy new vehicles.”

Mopeli said the police believe that the recent robberies on filling stations and other affluent suburbs are the work of a well-organised syndicate.

“We are not sure yet but we believe there is a syndicate out there.”
He said the police have organised deployments in hotspots.

According to Security Unlimited’s update, eight of the 17 incidents happened between 5 and 6 in the evening. And sometimes the robbers hit several places in one night.

The wave started on May 19 when there was a break-in at a house in Hillsview. The group stole an undisclosed amount of cash.

On May 27 a group of more than ten men scaled a fence at Letsie Flats, along Kingsway Road.

They manhandled the guard, tied him up and invaded several houses where they held several families at gunpoint.

The group stole phones and cash. They disappeared just as the police and soldiers were arriving.

Sixteen days later there was another incident in Hillsview when a Chinese man was robbed of his jacket at gunpoint just as he opened his gate.

On the morning of June 18, a group of robbers waylaid a man as he was about to enter the Standard Lesotho Bank branch in the Maseru Industrial Area.

They took cash and got away in a car parked across the street from the bank.

The same group is suspected to have struck again on the same day when they broke into a house in Hillsview. They jumped over the fence, tied up the guard and stormed the house.

The group, reported to be made up of between seven and ten men, stole a mobile phone and a laptop.

On June 30, the group targeted Shoprite supermarket at the LNDC Centre and Freabel Estate, a gated community next to Avani Lesotho Hotel. They entered Shoprite at 6pm, emptied two tills, fired shots and disappeared.

While the police were rushing to Shoprite, seven men broke into one of the units at Freabel Estate.

They fired shots, tied up the guards before disappearing with money and phones.

One person was injured but it is not clear if he was assaulted or shot by the intruders.

There were seven incidents in July, beginning with a failed hijacking in Hillsview on the 18th.

The next day they attacked the Puma Filling Station in Ha- Foso and stole cash.

The attempted hijacking in Hillsview and the robbery in Ha-Foso happened within 15 minutes of each other. Two days later they hit the Puma Filling Station in Borokhoaneng and stole cash.

The next day, at 7pm, robbers struck at Pioneer Mall but they appear to have mistimed their attack.

They attacked two men in the parking area soon after they had deposited cash at Standard Lesotho Bank. The robbers grabbed the empty bag from the two men and demanded cash. The men surrendered the small change they had and the robbers fled in a blue Honda Fit.

At around 7pm, on July 27, a group of ten armed men robbed the Puma Filling Station at Katlehong. Khubetsoana Shopping Centre was hit at 5.30pm the next day, in what Security Unlimited described as “a well-planned” attack on several shops.

Security Unlimited said customers initially wanted to resist but complied after the robbers fired shots. Three days later a woman was robbed of M15 400 at gunpoint while in a queue at Standard Lesotho Bank in Maseru Industrial Area.

The robbers appeared to have tailed the victim because they went straight at her, grabbed her bag and sped off.

On Monday this week, an employee of a local fast-food outlet was robbed as he was about to enter a bank at Pioneer Mall. The victim raised an alarm and one guard tried to close the boom gate to block the robbers’ car. One of the robbers who was near the boom gate shot the guard.

The guard died at a local hospital a few hours later.

These incidents are only a few of the several that have happened over the past three months.

Every week the police are dealing with burglaries and murders in the villages and across the country.

Most of the cases reported by Security Unlimited are linked to their clients or their catchment areas.

  • Maseru Industrial Area, Moshoeshoe Road – Standard Lesotho Bank

18th June 2020 (10:00hrs) Maseru Industrial Area, Moshoeshoe Road, Standard Lesotho Bank- A client parked his vehicle in a parking area next to the bank. Armed men approached him when he was already out of the car. This person was robbed of an undisclosed amount of money. The robbers got away in a getaway vehicle that was parked opposite the bank, on the other side of the main road.
30th July 2022 (09:00hrs) Maseru Industrial Area, Moshoeshoe Road, SLB- A lady who was in the queue to the ATM, was at gun point held and robbed of about M15,400.00 according to a witness. The robbers came from across the road, straight to the victim and took her bag and got away in a silver car without a number plate.

  • Shoprite LNDC

30th June 2022 (18:00hrs) Shoprite, LNDC Centre- Armed robbers entered the shop and cleared two cashier tills and ran off. Shots were fired but no injuries were reported.

  • Pioneer Mall

2th July 2022 (19:00hrs) Pioneer Mall- two men used the SLB bulk teller to deposit money. After completion of the transaction they walked back to the parking area 1 (the small parking where the Spur used to be). When they arrived at their vehicle, they were held-up by two armed men. The robbers grabbed the empty bag and demanded money. The victims gave them some change they had on them. One shot was fired by the robbers in the parking area and fled in a blue Honda 4+1 car.
1st August 2022 (10:15hrs) Pioneer Mall.-An employee of a fast food outlet was about to enter the Pioneer Mall with the intent to deposit money at a bank. A person, pushing a trolley, approached him and robbed him of the money. The robber ran out of the mall and got in an escape vehicle. The victim shouted to alert the security guards of what had just happened. The Pioneer Mall guards tried to act fast and one guard tried to close the boom gate in an attempt to stop the getaway vehicle but was shot. The robbers managed to escape. An amount of money reported to have been stolen was M100,000.00. It is also very sad to report that the guard shot during the incident later died.

  • Ha Tsolo

18th June 2022 (02:00hrs) Ha-Tsolo, opposite the new U-Save building. A man was shot next to the road when leaving a shebeen.

  • Katlehong Puma Garage

27th July 2022 (during hthe night) Katlehong, New Puma Filling Station- Another armed robbery occurred. However, no details of the incident were provided.

  • Hills View

19th May 2022 (around midnight) Hillsview- A break-in at a residential property. Undisclosed amount of money was stolen by the intruders.
12th June 2022 (10:20hrs) Hillsview – A Chinese man was robbed of his jacket at gunpoint while waiting in the driveway of Ground Water. The person was waiting for the gate to open. No injuries were reported.
18th June 2022 (18:30 hrs) Hillsview – Break-in at a residential property. Seven to ten armed intruders jumped over a neighbour’s fence. The guard was tied up in a VIP toilet and the intruders broke into the house. Mobile phones and a laptop was stolen. No injuries were reported.
18th July 2022 (18:30hrs) Hillsview, Khali Junction- A businessman returning home was almost hijacked. A suspicious vehicle passed his car and stopped in front of him and two armed men got out of the stopped vehicle. This man managed to drive passed this car and escaped the situation.
21st July 2022 (earlier in the day) Hillsview, Close to the Black Swan Guesthouse- Two suspects were shot by Law Enforcement agencies. Suspects were chased from the Thetsane area and were involved in a possible kidnapping incident.

  • Freabel Estate, Next to Avani Lesotho Hotel

30th June 2022 Freabel Estate, Next to Avani Lesotho Hotel- A break-in into one of the units at the Estate. Money and mobile phones were stolen from the resident by seven intruders. Shots were fired by the intruders and one male person was wounded. The guards were tied up by the intruders.

  • Borokhoaneng Puma Garage

21st July 2022 (During the night) Borokhoaneng, Puma Filling Station-An armed robbery occurred and an undisclosed amount of money was taken from the shop.

  • Khubetsoana

28th July 2022 (17:30hrs) Khubetsoana, Shopping Centre- Khubetsoana Supermarket and other shops were robbed by more than ten armed men. According to available information it was a well-planned criminal activity. Some customers tried to refuse the robbers instructions until shots were fired and the people realising that live ammunition was used, started to obey instructions. The robbers managed to get away with a undisclosed amount of money.

  • Ha Foso Puma Garage

19th July 2022 (18:45hrs) Ha-Foso, Puma Filling Station. The shop of Filling Station were entered by armed men and robbed of an undisclosed amount of money.

Staff Reporter

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Government is broke

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… Borrows M500m to pay salaries
MASERU – THE government is so broke that it had to borrow a staggering M500 million to pay civil servants’ salaries.
thepost can reveal that the money was borrowed through Treasury Bills from the local market this week.
The borrowing spree comes as the government is battling to pay salaries and suppliers due to a massive drop in tax revenues.
It comes as Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro’s government is left with two weeks in office.
But those few days left on its tenure have not stopped the government from making plans to borrow more money from the local market.
Highly placed sources told this paper of plans to issue more Treasury Bills in the next two weeks to raise money to pay suppliers.
A source however said there is some reluctance from some technocrats in the Ministry of Finance who believe the government’s books and financial control systems are so shambolic that it doesn’t know exactly how much it owes the private sector.
The arrears fluctuate every day but this paper understands that the government owes between M800 million and M1 billion to the suppliers.
Although the government has been grappling with the financial crisis for the past few years the crunch began to bite this year.
Sources say this month has been particularly terrible for the government.
By last week, a source said, the government had only M150 million for salaries. The total public wage bill is around M600 million.
This explains why the government had to borrow half a billion this week through treasury bills issued by the Central Bank of Lesotho.
The money arrived in the government’s account yesterday afternoon according to sources privy to the transaction.
The government has options to pay the debt in three, six, nine or 12 months. But given its precarious financial position, the government is likely to opt for the 12 months.
This means the debt will be paid on September 21 next year at about 7.8 percent interest. That translates to an interest of M39 million which brings the amount to M539 million.
The latest borrowing pushes the government’s domestic debt to M4.3 billion.
The foreign debt is around M15.6 billion. Although the debt is moderate, the government might be forced to borrow more if revenues continue to drop.
That could spell disaster for the country.
As things stand the government has to cut expenditure or look for ways to generate more revenue.
But with the economy still smarting from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and companies shutting down, there doesn’t seem to be much wiggle room.
Donor fatigue and the drop in the Southern African Customs Union, once the anchor of Lesotho’s budget, have made things worse.
Cutting expenditure seems to be the only option but the government appears reluctant to bite the bullet.
Lesotho has consistently failed to implement the International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s recommendation to cut the wage bill.
Successive ministers have hinted at plans to retrench some government employees but have never implemented them because that has political implications.
There are signs that the chickens are eventually coming home to roost.
A few days ago Government Secretary Lerotholi Pheko issued a circular announcing a raft of measures to “contain expenditure and overdue payments for ministries, departments and agencies”.
Pheko said due to increasing expenditure pressures and a drop in revenue the government is implementing measures that will contain expenditure to levels that are aligned with available resources.
“The Ministry of Finance will continue to issue monthly warrants only for wages and salaries as well as essential and critical expenditures in line with the approved procurement and cash plans plus availability of funds,” Pheko said.
He ordered chief accounting officers to stop international travel, buying furniture, large maintenance, subsistence allowances, and hiring new staff.
Also, all vehicles other than VVIPS will not fuel more than once a week unless they are for essential services as authorised by the government.
All government vehicles other than for VVIPs and selected offices must be parked at their designated places by 5pm and shall be used only for authorised purposes, Pheko said.
Nkheli Liphoto

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We’ll gang up against RFP, says Rapapa

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MASERU – Lesotho’s biggest political parties have hatched a grand plan to throttle the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) led by Sam Matekane.
The plot was revealed by the All Basotho Convention (ABC) chairman Sam Rapapa at an election rally held in Mashai constituency last Friday.
He said even if the RFP makes it into parliament, they will make sure that it would not be part of the next government.
The plan, Rapapa said, is to “keep the RFP leader Sam Matekane at least as the leader of opposition, with no party to cobble up a coalition government”.
He said Matekane’s “dream of becoming a government alone is practically impossible because” the ABC, the Movement for Economic Change (MEC), the Democratic Congress (DC), and the Basotho Action Party (BAP) “will gang up to sabotage him”.
Rapapa spoke as he appealed to ABC members not to join the RFP which he said will not form a government or be in the next coalition government.
“These big parties will gang up against him (Matekane) and he will not be part of the government,” he said.
Rapapa wondered out loud why anyone would therefore want to leave the ABC to join the RFP.
“We will do everything to stop Matekane from getting into the government,” Rapapa said.
He urged Basotho to analyse critically which parties are likely to form the next government so they vote wisely on October 7.
“Both ABC and DC are likely to form a coalition government,” Rapapa said.
He said although he would in the past viciously attack the DC, he had since toned down after the two parties formed a coalition government in 2020.
In a lighthearted moment, Rapapa compared the political landscape in Lesotho to that of a child who runs away from his home to a neighbour’s house because the head of that house has arrived home with stolen wors.
Rapapa said people who are claiming they are leaving the ABC because it is engulfed in conflicts are lying.
Instead, he said the conflicts are in the RFP which has been battling numerous court battles as party members fight to represent the party in the general election.
“There is no peace in Moruo,” Rapapa said. “There is a fight that is going on in the RFP.”
Moruo, which means wealth, is the RFP’s slogan.
Rapapa urged the members to either vote for the DC or the ABC as there is peace and direction in those parties.
After the election, Rapapa said they will tell Maketane to stand in the corner with his people and a few constituencies.
He said Matekane is going to lead the opposition because they had discussed amongst themselves that he is a businessman and he should go back to business.
“We gave you a job to build roads, (but) you leave them with potholes and join politics,” Rapapa said.
He said Matekane is likely to only qualify as an MP and not a Prime Minister.
The ABC secretary general, Lebohang Hlaele, however distanced himself from Rapapa’s statement this week.
He said the party is busy campaigning to win next month’s election to form the next government and has not yet pronounced itself on any coalition deals.
“We have not planned to do anything about Matekane as the ABC National Executive Committee,” Hlaele said.
The ABC leader Nkaku Kabi told another rally in Thaba-Bosiu that “it is still premature as to which parties we would align ourselves with after the election”.
He said there are some parties that had been approaching the ABC to discuss coalition possibilities but they have not sat down to decide to cobble up any coalition agreements with any of them.
“Our committee has never met any party to discuss the formation of a coalition government after the election,” Kabi said.
Kabi said the matter should not trigger any ruckus in the party.
Nkheli Liphoto

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Stunning details of how Matela died

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 MASERU – A witness has revealed shocking details of how ’Mahlompho Matela died.
Lekhooa Monaleli told the court that ’Mahlompho told her that she had been strangled.
Monaleli was testifying this week in the trial of Qamo Matela who is accused of the murder of his wife ’Mahlompho.
Monaleli was friends with the couple.
He was testifying before High Court judge, Justice Tšeliso Mokoko, last Thursday.
Monaleli said he went to the couple’s home after Qamo Matela had told him that his wife was not feeling well and he needed help to take her to hospital.
Monaleli said he found ’Mahlompho and Qamo on the bathroom floor. He said ’Mahlompho was sitting between Qamo’s thighs while their children were in the lounge.
Monaleli said Mahlompho looked “tired and helpless”.
“I helped the accused to lift (his wife) and carried her to the car,” Monaleli said.
He said Qamo had thrust a spoon into ‘Mahlompho’s mouth to stop her from biting her tongue.
“I noticed that something might have happened to the deceased (‘Mahlompho) apart from her being ill,” he said.
“What I picked from the deceased was that her eyes showed that she had been assaulted.”
“I kept quiet because this hit me hard,” Monaleli said.
They drove to Willies Hospital in Khubetsoana.
At the hospital, Qamo left them in the car as he went to fetch a wheelchair for ‘Mahlompho.
Monaleli said this gave him a chance to ask ’Mahlompho what happened.
Monaleli said ’Mahlompho told him that Qamo had assaulted and strangled her.
“I asked the deceased why she did not call for help when what happened. The response was that the accused was strangling her.”
Monaleli said ’Mahlompho told him that Qamo had strangled him for a long time.
The court heard that later on the same day, after helping the couple to the hospital and back, Monaleli sent Qamo a voice note on WhatsApp telling him that he had ruined his day.
Monaleli said he later went to the couple’s house with his wife but they could not see ’Mahlompho because they were told that she was still asleep after taking her medication.
Monaleli said seeing that his friend’s family needed help, he arranged for them to see a psychologist.
The crown’s second witness Rorisang Mofolo, ’Mahlompho’s sister, said she received a call on September 4 last year from Qamo telling her that ’Mahlompho had fainted four times.
Mofolo said Qamo told her that he suspect ’Mahlompho might have a heart problem but she was now feeling better after giving her some sugar.
“He also told me that they were waiting for a car to take them to Willies Hospital,” Mofolo said.
“After our conversation with the accused (Qamo) I called my nurse friend to ask about the temperature change issue, she said it might be Covid-19 so the deceased should get tested,” she said.
She said every time she tried to call ’Mahlompho the phone would be picked by Qamo who would speak on her behalf.
Mofolo said during a video call with ’Mahlompho, in Qamo’s absence, she noticed that she had bruises on her face.
She said ’Mahlompho told her she had fainted three times.
Mofolo said she was relieved after Qamo gave him the impression that ’Mahlompho was recovering but was shocked when Monaleli called and insisted that she goes to see her sister.
She said in their telephone conversation ’Mahlompho said she was “trapped in a hell of a marriage…this man is a psycho”.
Mofolo said ’Mahlompho told her that at one point Qamo had helped her pack her belongings and that of the children so they could leave but suddenly changed his mind and said she would not leave with the children.
She testified that ’Mahlompho said Qamo started assaulting and choking her, saying she refused to give his mother M20 yet she had M30 000 in her bank account.
Mofolo said ’Mahlompho was later taken to  Maseru hospital which quickly referred her to Bloemfontein where she died a few days later.
She said when a nurse at the Bloemfontein hospital called her to break the news of ’Mahlompho’s death she advised her to go to the police to open a murder case.
She reported the case at the Mabote police station.
She said when she arrived at the couple’s house she found Qamo crying in the bedroom.
Mofolo said Qamo said: “I am very sorry, please promise me that you will be there for me and the kids and that we will plan the funeral together”.
Mofolo said she did not reply but she went out.
Tholoana Lesenya

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