Unresolved crimes turn Lesotho into a criminal haven

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Staff Reporter

THE 13 June 2020 near-fatal shooting of Movement for Economic Change (MEC) legislator, Thabo Ramatla, by unknown gunmen is one of many such unsolved shootings which have plagued the nation in recent years.

Mr Ramatla escaped death by a whisker when unknown gunmen pulled up at his business premises in Mafeteng and repeatedly shot at him on 13 June 2020. He was hospitalised with gunshot wounds to the head.

Even though he was shot in broad daylight, the culprits are yet to be caught and no arrests have been made so far. Last week, a tearful Mr Ramatla made an emotional return to the National Assembly where he bemoaned the apparent police laxity in investigating his shooting.

“I was shot in broad daylight between 9 and 10am,” Mr Ramatla told fellow MPs in parliament.

“I would like to tell the Minister of Police (Ms Senauoane) that nothing has been done for me, Mahapu Thabo Ramatla, by the police. If justice is not served in this country, it will be served by God,” said Mr Ramatla.

Police and Public Safety Minister ‘Mamoipone Senauoane who was in parliament at the time Mr Ramatla made his address, immediately replied saying she had ordered Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli to expedite investigations into the near-fatal shooting.

Yesterday, Ms Senauoane told the Lesotho Times that she and Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro had since visited Mr Ramatla who is convalescing at home.

She expressed concern over the high rates of crimes especially shootings, adding that the police would have to do more to prevent such incidents and bring the culprits to book.

“We promised him that police investigations were underway and that the culprits would soon be brought to book,” Ms Senauoane said.

However, Mr Ramatla should not be overly optimistic because the police have failed to investigate or even arrest known perpetrators of many crimes over the years.

There appears to be a shocking laxity in investigating and arresting suspects and this has turned Lesotho into a criminals’ paradise.

In this report, the Lesotho Times looks back at some of the unresolved killings and other serious crimes over the years. These represent a tiny sample of crimes that have gone unpunished and uninvestigated.

June 2020, couple shot in cold blood in Ha-Tsolo, Maseru

The community of Ha-Tsolo in Maseru was dumbfounded a fortnight ago when a young couple was shot dead in the middle of the night in the presence of their children. The names of the couple have been withheld to protect the minor children.

Villagers who spoke at the funeral of the late husband and wife on Saturday, 27 June 2020, relived the experience of how they heard gunshots at the couple’s house and when they went out to investigate, they found the couple already dead.

The villagers told the police that the assassins had been hired by some jealous people who were not happy that they had just moved into their newly built home.

Police Spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli confirmed the incident and said police investigations were underway in to bring the culprits to book. He urged members of the community who might have information that could help the police trace the suspects to come forward.

June 2020, Maseru, Lerotholi student raped and brutally murdered

A female student at Lerotholi Polytechnic, Manyai Theoha, was gang-raped and murdered in Thabong, Maseru, on 5 June 2020.

Enraged by the horrific incident, the villagers took the law into their own hands the next day and killed two of the men suspected of raping and murdering the student.

Supt Mopeli, confirmed the senseless killing of Ms Theoha. 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 the police received a report that the body of a young woman had been discovered in Thabong, they went to the scene of the crime. When they got there, the police managed to rescue the first suspect from a mob which was in the process of meting out instant justice through beating.

Supt Mopeli said two other suspects were later apprehended by the mob and 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. A third suspect was beaten to pulp and was handed to the police.

Shooting of Nkopane Mokhesi and four others, Maseru October 2019.

Last October, the 69-year-old Mr Mokhesi and his four grandchildren were gunned down by unknown gunmen in Ha Molungoa, Maseru.

Supt Mopeli, confirmed the murders which occurred in the night of 24 October 2019. He said the bodies were only discovered by neighbours the following morning. Supt Mopeli said the killers were still at large but up to now no arrests have been made.

He said neighbours heard gunshots at around 10 pm on the fateful night but did not go out to see where the gunshots came from as they feared for their lives. He said it was not known whether the killings could be linked to the famo music gang rivalries where different famo factions often attacked each other and spawned revenge killings targeting innocent family members.

Murder of ex-police officer, Makoae Moshoeshoe, Maseru 2019

The well-known former policeman was also gunned down in cold blood in Mantšebo, Maseru by unknown gunmen on 29 September 2019.

The gunmen were said to be after two men working in the illegal mines in South Africa known as the Zama-Zama. According to Moshoeshoe’s widow, ’Maretšelisitsoe Moshoeshoe, the bullets that ended her husband’s life should have been for the two men who were given a lift along with him. She said the two men were targeted by the killers as part of the wars fought by illegal Basotho miners who operate in South Africa. The illegal miners often fight with fellow illegal miners from other countries and among themselves for whatever gold and other minerals they extract from their illicit activities.  The killings often extend into Lesotho and target families as retribution.

Ms Moshoeshoe said the two men knew they were being hunted and probably felt safe around her husband because he had a reputation as a good policeman who was against the Zama-Zama killings.

July 2019, five women gunned down in Rothe, Maseru

Five women were gunned down in the middle of the night by some unknown gunmen at Ha-Mokaoli village in Rothe, Maseru district. It was reported that the gunmen moved from house-to-house, mowing down all they met in the night. By the following morning, at least five women had been shot dead, with another woman sustaining serious injuries.

The police said they had launched a manhunt for the gunmen but no arrests have been made to date.

January 2018, Khubetsoana businesswoman killed by lover

Prominent Khubetsoana businesswoman ‘Mathabang Radiile (53) was bludgeoned to death by her live-in partner, Lebohang Nkuebe (41).  The police did nothing despite that Nkuebe confessed to the crime.  The only contribution of the police was the effort by its investigating officer, one Kubutu Kubutu, to corruptly facilitate bail for Nkuebe. Kubutu then dumped the file with no further investigations. Nkuebe is moving on with his life and has even started a bar. He is reported to have committed another heinous crime of rape and gotten away with it.  Of course, why shouldn’t he when the police themselves encourage criminals by virtue of their inaction even in cases where there is overwhelming evidence.

  • There are many more killings and other violent crimes which have remained unresolved by the police.

Asked to explain the apparent police laxity in solving these and other cases, Police spokesperson, Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli yesterday told the Lesotho Times yesterday that they were doing everything in their power to bring the culprits to book.

“This is not to say that we are not doing anything. We have a lot of cases where such criminals have been arrested and brough to the courts. Some are already serving their prison sentences,” Supt Mopeli said.

He said they had even engaged the army and intelligence to assist them.

He said it was particularly difficult to trace some of the suspects because they often fled to South Africa through the two countries’ porous borders to evade arrest.

But it is clear that util the police become more effective, many people will continue losing their loved ones to brutal killers.

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