- one of the suspects burnt beyond recognition in retributive mob justice killings
A FEMALE student at Lerotholi Polytechnic was raped and murdered in Thabong, Maseru, last Friday.
Enraged by the horrific incident, Thabong villagers on Saturday morning took the law into their own hands and murdered two of the men suspected of raping and murdering the student. The name of the victim has been withheld by the police until her next of kin have been informed.
Police spokesperson, Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli, confirmed the rape and murder of the student. He also confirmed an angry mob had apprehended three suspects the following morning and savagely beat them before setting two of them alight.
He said after they received a report that the body of a 20-year-old woman had been discovered in Thabong, they went to the scene of the crime. He said they managed to rescue the first suspect from a mob which was in the process of meting out instant justice through beatings.
He said two other suspects were later apprehended by the mob, savagely beaten before being set on fire. One was burnt beyond recognition and died on the spot while the other later succumbed to his injuries in hospital.
“One of the suspects was burnt beyond recognition while another was saved from the fire and rushed to hospital where he later died,” Supt Mopeli said.
“A third suspect was beaten to pulp and remains in police custody.
While we condemn such barbaric deeds of rape and murder, we are also against mob justice and appeal to communities to report to the police instead of taking the law into their own hands. That does not solve anything,” he added.
A woman who lives near the late student, this week told the Lesotho Times that she was awoken by loud screams from the deceased’s lodgings late on Friday. She said she looked through his window and saw a man attempting to enter the now deceased woman’s house through the window. She could not help as she felt vulnerable herself.
“I saw a man attempting to enter the house though a window and I banged my window to make him aware that I was watching him but that did not deter him,” said ‘Malebohang Makoetla who lives with her two teenage granddaughters.
She said the now deceased woman bolted from her house into the night, screaming at the top of her voice for help but no one came to her rescue.
“After what I had witnessed, I couldn’t sleep. I kept wondering what had happened to the woman until the morning when I heard that there was a body of a young girl which had been discovered right next to where we stay,” Ms Makoetla said.
She said the murder had traumatised her and left her fearing for the safety of her two granddaughters.
She endorsed the mob justice, saying it would probably deter like-minded criminals from attacking vulnerable women.
“We live among young rebellious men who spend the day doing nothing and that gives them time to examine this small village and target their victims,” she said.
Her views on mob justice were not supported by the local chief, Khotsi Gwele, who said the police could have prevented the attacks and deaths of the suspects had they promptly attended to the crime scene.
“The police arrived much later even though we had called them at about 6am. If they had arrived earlier, they could have prevented the lynching of the suspects by the angry crowd.
“The wait for the police was too long. People were angry at what had happened and so they resorted to mob justice,” he said.
He said the police arrived much later to find a mob in the process of assaulting a suspect and rescued him. Before he was taken away by the police, the suspect named his two accomplices and the mob searched and found them after the police had already left. The suspects were beaten and set ablaze leading to their deaths.
The woman’s rape and murder is the latest in the long line of brutal rapes and killings of women and girls in the country.
Some of the suspects remain at large and those who are well known are not brought to trial, in a show of the flagrant incompetence of the police and the criminal justice system.