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The smell of death



MASERU – FIVE men armed with firearms are in police custody after they were nabbed at a roadblock in Thota-ea-Likhang en route to Mafeteng district.

The men, aged between 29 and 34, were arrested by the Morija police on Monday afternoon. They were driving in a black Golf belonging to one of the suspects.

Police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli said the first suspect, who is from Roma Ha-Kholoko, had a 9mm pistol and six bullets.

Two suspects, from Matelile, had a 0.38 pistol and six bullets each.

The third, who is from Ha-Lenono, was armed with a 0.38 and 11 bullets.

The 5th suspect, from Taung Ha-Moletsane, was armed with a 9mm pistol with 14 bullets.

S/Supt Mopeli said one of the suspects was wanted in connection with four murder cases while the other suspect is out on bail after he allegedly killed a person in Matelile.

“The suspects will appear in court once the police investigations are complete,” S/Supt Mopeli said.

Last Thursday soldiers picked up nine men in Maseru and handed them over to the police after an armed robbery at a supermarket.

They had three 9mm pistols and a 0.38 pistol.

They are yet to appear before the Maseru magistrate’s court.

On Friday, Ikhetheleng Matabane, a prominent Chartered Accountant and chief financial officer of Naledi Funeral Planners, was shot dead by two gunmen at a local restaurant.

Naledi’s finance manager ’Maserema ‘Makong who was in a meeting with Matabane at the restaurant was also killed.

The three incidents are not connected but they have some things in common: illegal guns, crime and death.

Illegal guns are connected to the spike in killings that have earned Lesotho the dubious distinction as one of the top murder capitals in the world.

Illegal guns are also the main cause of the increase in armed robberies and other violent crimes.

Although the police are trying to contain the crisis, there is little evidence that they are winning the battle. The police, already starved of resources, are dealing with an avalanche of illegal firearms that have led to bloodletting in the country.

Its officers too have died by the gun.

The killings have piled pressure on Prime Minister Sam Matekane who promised to keep every Mosotho safe during his campaign.

The murders on Friday triggered a public response from Matekane and his government.

Speaking in a national address on Lesotho TV, Matekane said he was deeply concerned by the spate of killings.

He said the government has formed a joint team with the army, police, National Security Service (NSS) and the Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) to deal with the killings and other crimes.

“We are devoted to destroying and preventing crimes so that we could live in peace, comfort and security,” Matekane said.

He said Lesotho should not be one of the countries that lack peace and stability in Africa.

He said they want to restore the dignity of the state.

Matekane said a robust response to crime will restore the trust of development partners in Lesotho and help revive the economy.

He said he has already ordered security bosses to immediately get a grip on the crisis.

The security agents, he said, are ready for the battle against crime.

Matekane said the army will go into service and work according to the constitution.

The chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Law and Public Safety, Everest Ramakatsa, said the killings and illegal guns are likely to be one of the areas of focus this year.

He said it appears that the lack of prosecution could be linked to the impunity with which murders are committed.

The Tšenola MP for the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) said because of the crisis the granting of bail should be reconsidered.

There have been cases in which murder suspects have been granted bail of as little as M1000 and then abscond.

Others have continued their killing and crime spree while on bail.

He said the police work tirelessly to arraign the perpetrators before the courts of law “but unfortunately the perpetrators are granted bail and walk away”.

“We need to gang up against crime. We need to have a collaborative approach to crime,” Ramakatsa said.

“These crimes are premeditated.”

He said sometimes it appears that some people have information on crimes when they are reluctant to report to the police.

“The high levels of murders are worrying and equally unacceptable,” he said.

“More must be done to prevent and to respond to these crimes that are often carried out publicly in a violent manner.”

The leader of the opposition in Parliament, Mathibeli Mokhothu, said the government should declare a state of emergency regarding the killings in the country.

He said all authorities in the country – chiefs, councillors and the public should help police to curb the crimes.

Timeline of gun violence

 February 10: Two people were fatally shot last Friday at a restaurant in Maseru. The deceased were auditors preparing the financial reports of Naledi Funeral Planners. Both Ikhetheleng Francis Matabane and ’Mamorema ’Makong died at the scene of the crime. No arrests have been made at this stage and police investigations are still continuing.

February 3: Two men from Taung in Mohale’s Hoek district were fatally shot by unknown gunmen who are still at large. Their motionless bodies riddled with bullets were found lying 15 metres apart.

February 7: Tumisang Phororo, 27, allegedly shot and killed a man in Ha-Jobo village in Mohale’s Hoek. Phororo appeared before the Mohale’s Hoek Magistrate’s Court on Friday. Police said Phororo phoned the deceased on Tuesday at around 8pm asking him to meet along the way. The following day he was found dead. Phororo was arrested and found in possession of a 9 mm pistol that he allegedly used to kill the man. He was also found with the deceased’s phone.

January 27: ’Maretšepile Mabote, the wife of Tsikoane MP, was gunned down by a hitman allegedly in the company of her husband’s lover. She was at her home when her attackers killed her. The husband’s lover and driver were arrested on the same day.

January 7: Three men were shot dead in Matelile Ha-Tebelo when men from a nearby of Ha-Kanono raided the village during an initiation school graduation ceremony. The fight was triggered by a former police officer who presented a graduating boy with a gun.

December 27, 2022: Dr Retšelisitsoe Nko, the director of the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC), shot and injured one Thulo Mothepu in Hillsview in Maseru. Dr Nko is also accused of attempted murder of Sethole Mothepu and shooting at the walls of Moliko Mothepu. Dr Nko also allegedly shot himself accidentally during a scuffle to wrestle the gun from him.

December 31, 2022: A 26-year-old soldier was shot dead in Quthing as he tried to disarm a man who was randomly firing a gun at an initiation school graduation ceremony. The police said trouble started when Bolae Maqoabikane, 36, fired several shots into the air and the soldier, who was in plain clothes, asked Maqoabikane to show him the gun’s licence. Maqoabikane then allegedly got furious and shot the soldier who was rushed to Maqokho Clinic where he was later pronounced dead. Maqoabikane also shot and injured the village chief who had also demanded to see his gun licence.

December 31, 2022: A 31-year-old taxi driver, Monaheng Bohloko, from Ha-Sekhonyana, Mount Moroosi, in Quthing district, was arrested for killing a police officer, Khotso Lelimo, and injuring one Tšeliso Matela at ’Nelese bus stop.

Earlier in December last year, a 94-year-old granny was riddled with bullets by his own son, aged 76 who is a former police officer. Then he handed his 9mm pistol to the police.  Nthuseng Monyatsi, the suspect, is alleged to have been infuriated by his mother’s request for food. Police said Monyatsi said he killed his mother because he wanted to save her from the misery of old age and poverty.

Majara Molupe & Tšepang Mapola

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Lawyer in trouble



A local lawyer, Advocate Molefi Makase, is in soup after he flew into a rage, insulting his wife and smashing her phone at a police station.

It was not possible to establish why Adv Makase was so mad at his wife. He is now expected to appear before the Tšifa-li-Mali Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.

Earlier on Tuesday, he was released from custody on free bail on condition that he attends remands.

Magistrate Mpotla Koaesa granted Advocate Makase bail after his lawyer, Advocate Kefuoe Machaile, pleaded that he had to appear for his clients in the Court of Appeal.

Advocate Makase is facing two charges of breaching peace and malicious damage to property.

According to the charge sheet, on October 5, 2023, within the precincts of the Leribe Police Station, Advocate Makase allegedly used obscene, threatening, or insulting language or behaviour, or acted with an intent to incite a breach of the peace.

The prosecution alleges that the lawyer shouted at his wife, ’Mamahao Makase, and damaged her Huawei Y5P cell phone “with an intention to cause harm” right at police station.

During his initial appearance before Magistrate Koaesa, Advocate Makase expressed remorse for his actions and sought the court’s leniency, pleading for bail due to an impending appearance in the Court of Appeal.

His lawyer, Advocate Machaile, informed the court that an arrangement had been made with the police to secure his release the following day, as he had spent a night in detention.

Advocate Machaile recounted his efforts to persuade the police to release him on the day of his arrest.

He noted that the police had assured them of his release the following day, which indeed came to fruition.

Following his release, he was instructed to present himself before the court, which he dutifully complied with.

Advocate Machaile underscored Advocate Makase’s standing as a recognised legal practitioner in the court.

Notably, he was scheduled to appear in the Court of Appeal but had to reschedule his commitment later in the day to accommodate his court appearance.

Advocate Machaile asserted that Advocate Makase presented no flight risk, as he resides in Hlotse with his family and has no motive to evade his legal obligations.

He respectfully petitioned the court for his release on bail, emphasising that he had demonstrated his ability to adhere to the court’s conditions.

The Crown Counsel, Advocate Taelo Sello, expressed no objection to the bail application, acknowledging that the accused had a forthcoming matter in the Court of Appeal.

Consequently, the court granted Advocate Makase bail without any financial conditions, with the stipulation that he must not tamper with state witnesses and must fully participate in the trial process until its conclusion.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Trio in court for killing ‘witches’



THREE elderly women were all stabbed to death with a spear during a deadly night after they were accused of being witches.

Three suspects, all from Ha-Kholoko village in Roma, appeared in the High Court this week facing a charge of murder.
They are Jakobo Mofolo, Oele Poto, and Pakiso Lehoko.

They accused the elderly women of bewitching one of Poto’s relative who had died.

The stunning details of the murder was unravelled in court this week, thanks to Tlhaba Bochabela, 32, who is the crown witness.

Bochabela told High Court judge, Justice ’Mabatšoeneng Hlaele, last week that he had been invited to become part of the murder group but chickened out at the last minute.

Bochabela said in March 2020, he was invited by Rethabile Poto to come to his house in the evening.

He said when he went there, he found Mofolo, Poto, and Lehoko already at the house. There were two other men who he did not identify.

“I was told that the very same night we were going to do some task, we were going to kill some people,” Bochabela told Justice Hlaele.

He said he asked which people were going to be killed and was told that they were ’Malekhooa Maeka, ’Mathlokomelo Poto, ’Mampolokeng Masasa.

They said the three women had successfully bewitched Rethabile Poto’s uncle leading to his death.

Bochabela said after he was told of this plot, he agreed to implement it but requested that he be allowed to go to his house to fetch his weapon.

He said Lehoko was however suspicious that he was withdrawing from the plot and mockingly said “let this woman go and sleep, we can see that he is afraid and is running away”.

Bochabela said the only person he told the truth to, that he was indeed going to his home to sleep instead of going to murder the three elderly women was Mofolo who also told him that he was leaving too.

He said he told Mofolo that he felt uncomfortable with the murder plan.

Bochabela said he left and when he arrived at his place he told his wife all about the meeting and the plot to kill the women.

He said his wife commended him for his decision to pull out.

“I told my wife to lock the door and not respond to anyone that would come knocking looking for me,” Bochabela said.

He said later in the night, Rethabile Poto arrived at his place and called him out but they did not respond until he left.

Bochabela said in the morning they discovered that indeed the men had carried out their mission.

The village chief of Ha-Kholoko, Chief Thabang Lehoko, told Justice Hlaele that it was between 11 pm and 12 midnight when he received a phone call from one Pakiso Maseka who is a neighbour to one of the murdered women.

Chief Lehoko said Maseka told him to rush to ’Mampolokeng Masasa’s place to see what evil had been done to her.

“I rushed to Masasa’s place and on arrival I found Pakiso in the company of Moitheri Masasa,” Chief Lehoko said.

He said he found the old lady on the bed, naked with her legs spread wide.

“I was embarrassed by the sight of the old lady in that state, naked and covered in blood,” the chief said.

He said he went out and asked Maseka what had happened but Maseka referred him to Moitheri Masasa.

Chief Lehoko said Masasa told him that there were people with spears who had threatened to kill him if he came out of the house.

He said Maseka said he knew that Masasa’s neighbour, ’Malekhooa Maeka, was a light sleeper and she could have heard something.

The chief then sent one Patrick Lehoko to Maeka’s house to check if she had heard anything but Patrick came back saying Maeka was not at her house.

“I immediately stood up and went to ’Malekhooa’s place,” Chief Lehoko said.

He said when he arrived, he knocked at her door but there was no response so he kicked the door open, went in and called out ’Malekhooa Maeka by name.

Chief Lehoko said he then lit his phone and saw her lying in bed covered in blankets.

He said he then went closer to her and shook her but she was heavy.

Chief Lehoko said he tried to shake her again one last time while still calling her out but he touched blood.

He said he immediately left and went back to tell others that Maeka seemed to be dead too.

“I decided to go and buy airtime from the nearest shop which I had passed through near ’Matlhokomelo Poto’s home.”

He said on his way he met one Sebata Poto who asked him who he was.

Chief Lehoko said he only replied by telling him that the two women, Masasa and Maeka, had been murdered.

He said Sebata Poto told him that “’Matlhokomelo has been stabbed with a spear too”.

Chief Lehoko said he rushed to ’Matlhokomelo Poto’s house where he found her seated in the middle of the house supported by her children with blood oozing from her chest, gasping for air.

“I stepped out and went to get airtime, but I found her dead when I returned from the shop,” the chief said.

The case continues.

Tholoana Lesenya

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Opposition fights back



THE opposition is launching a nasty fightback after Prime Minister Sam Matekane defanged their no-confidence motion by roping in new partners to firm up his government.

Matekane’s surprise deal with the Basotho Action Party (BAP) has trimmed the opposition’s support in parliament and thrown their motion into doubt.

But the opposition has now filed another motion that seeks to get Matekane and his MPs disqualified from parliament on account that they were elected when they had business interests with the government.

The motion is based on section 59 of the constitution which disqualifies a person from being sworn-in as an MP if they have “any such interest in any such government contract as may be so prescribed”.

Section 59 (6) describes a government contract as “any contract made with the Government of Lesotho or with a department of that Government or with an officer of that Government contracting as such”.

Prime Minister Matekane’s Matekane Group of Companies (MGC) has a history of winning road construction tenders. Other Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MPs, most of whom were in business, had had business dealings with the government.

It is however not clear if the MPs were still doing business with the government at the time of their swearing-in.
Matekane’s MGC Park is housing the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), which is a government institution established by the constitution, getting its funds from the consolidated funds.

The motion was brought by the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) leader Lekhetho Rakuoane who is a key figure in the opposition’s bid to topple Matekane.

The motion appears to be a long shot but should be taken in the context of a political game that has become nasty.
Advocate Rakuoane said the IEC’s tenancy at the MGC is one of their targets.

“The IEC is one of the government departments,” Rakuoane said.

“It is currently unethical that it has hired the prime minister’s building.”

“But after the motion, he will have to cut ties with the IEC or he will be kicked out of parliament.”

The Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, said although the IEC is an independent body, it can still be regarded as part of the government because it gets its funding from the consolidated fund.

The Basotho Covenant Movement (BCM)’s Reverend Tšepo Lipholo, who seconded the motion, said the Matekane-led government “is dominated by tenderpreneurs who have been doing business with the government since a long time ago”.

“Now they have joined politics, they must not do business with the government,” Lipholo said.

He said some of the MPs in the ruling parties are still doing business with the government despite their promises before the election to stop doing that.

“Those who will not abide by the law should be disqualified as MPs,” Lipholo said.

“Basotho’s small businesses are collapsing day-by-day, yet people who are in power continue to take tenders for themselves.”

He applauded the Abia constituency MP Thuso Makhalanyane, who was recently expelled from Matekane’s RFP for rebellion because he withdrew his car from government engagement after he was sworn in as an MP.

“He set a good example by withdrawing his vehicle where it was hired by the government,” Lipholo said.

Rakuoane said during the past 30 years after Lesotho’s return to democratic rule, section 59 of the constitution has not been attended to even when it was clear that some MPs had business dealings with the government.

“This section stops you from entering parliament when doing business with the government. Those who are already members will have to leave,” he said.

Rakuoane said they are waiting for Speaker Tlohang Sekhamane to sign the motion so that the parliament business committee can set a date for its debate.

“The law will also serve to assist ordinary Basotho businesses as they will not compete with the executive,” he said.

“There are many Basotho businesses in business these MPs are in. They must get those tenders instead.”

The new motion comes barely a week after a court application aimed at disqualifying Mokhothu.

The government-sponsored application sought the Constitutional Court to declare Mokhothu unfit to be prime minister because he was convicted of fraud in 2007.

Mokhothu has been suggested as Matekane’s replacement should the motion of no confidence pass in parliament.

Nkheli Liphoto

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