The dark gangs in Lesotho prisons

The dark gangs in Lesotho prisons

MASERU – A violent clash between two prison gangs at Maseru Central Correctional Service left one man dead, in an incident that highlights the scourge of gangsterism in Lesotho’s prisons.
Prison authorities say they suspect the fight which happened two weeks ago was over territory. ‘Territory’ in prison can mean a corner or a bench.
Lekiba Ramohanoe of St. Monica’s in Leribe died at Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital where he had been rushed after being stabbed.
Ramohanoe, who was awaiting trial for murder, was a member of 26th, one of the most dangerous gangs at the prison.

Correctional spokesman Superintendent, Neo Mopeli, said the fight was between two rival factions of the 26th gang. “It was around lunch when we arrived at the scene just after it happened. We then took the deceased to the hospital where he lost his life,” Mopeli said, adding that “gangs were prevalent at the prison”.
“Some (prisoners) tell us the gangs they belong to while others hide it,” he said.

He explained that although it is not an offence for a prisoner to belong to a gang their actions lead to crime in most cases. thepost has been told that 26th is the second most powerful gang at the prison after the 28th. There is also a gang of rapists who initiate new members by sodomising them. Chairman of the Association of Ex-inmates, Mothobi Mothobi, says gangsterism is one of the biggest problems in prison. Mothobi, who spent 16 years behind bars, says some inmates come with their gangster affiliations while others get recruited inside the prison.

“They then tattoo numbers on their bodies using rubber or tyre and needle,” he says. “Gangsters end up abiding by the rules of the gang leaders more than Lesotho Correctional Service warders.”
He says his association has always raised concern about the proliferation of gangs in prison. The gangs, Mothobi says, continue to exist despite the fact that groups of any nature are prohibited in prison.

The core purpose of all the gangs is criminal activity, he says, adding that initiations into the groups can come with violent crimes like murder. “Others have to escape prison in order to be members of certain gangs while others have to steal.” Mothobi says there are five gangs in the Maseru prison, the 26th, 28th, ruff 3, ruff 4 and Big Five.
“But the major gangs are 28th and 26th.”

According to Mothobi most prisoners join gangs for protection that prison warders cannot provide. The Association of Ex-inmates has tried to work with the LCS to overcome the problem but to no avail, he claims.  He alleges that what makes it difficult to root out gangsterism is that some warders are members of gangs. Mothobi says to stop gangs in prison the Lesotho Correctional Service “should keep prisoners busy all day so that they do not think of criminal activities”. “Teachers should be employed in prison so that they teach prisoners,” he added.

Nkheli Liphoto

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