MASERU — Two men aged 59 and 60 were beaten to death by members of a rogue community crime prevention committee in Phororong in Mapoteng in Berea.
Janki Rahae, 60, and Salahae Pakela, were beaten to death two weeks ago.
Rahae and Pakela were the leaders of the Mahokela crime prevention committee in Phororong.
They were locked in a bitter fight for control of the area with another rival group called Lingangele.
The village chief, Lejaha Lejaha, told the Lesotho Times on Tuesday that the two groups were not seeing eye-to-eye over security duties in the area.
“Members of the Lingangela group came to me some time back asking me to approve their group but I refused because there was another group that existed,” Lejaha said.
“If they wanted to provide security to the villagers they should have joined the existing group. The group (Lingangele) had among its members stock thieves and armed robbers.”
He added: “When I refused to bless their society they offered me M1 000 but I still refused to authorise their group.”
Lejaha said the problem started after his house was burned by unknown people three weeks ago.
“The house was set on fire three times in one night. After dousing the flames the people would come again to set my house on fire,” he said.
It was then that members of the Mahokela group decided to guard his house, he said.
A few days later a member of the Lingangele group was arrested for alleged stock-theft.
It was the beginning of more trouble for members of the Mahokela crime prevention committee.
The police said members of the Lingangele, armed with spears, guns and sticks approached Pakela who was working in his field.
They then attacked Pakela with spears and sticks until he died, according to the police.
A day later they went to Janki’s house tied him with ropes and seized him from his house.
His lifeless body was found abandoned at a pass in a neighbouring village. He had bruises all over his body and his head was smashed, the police said.
A villager who spoke to the Lesotho Times said they were now living in fear for their lives following the killings.
“The Lingangela group is very dangerous and we fear for our lives now that they are attacking people who we thought were protecting us,” he said.
“Those people are very dangerous because they kill and steal from us.”
Another villager who refused to be named said most of the Lingangele members had in their possession illegal guns which they were using to commit crimes.
“The group was formed without the consent of villagers. Their committee was supposed to be elected by the villagers,” he said.
Police spokesperson, Masupha Masupha, confirmed the incident.
“Two men aged between 59 and 60 were beaten to death by members of a community crime prevention committee in Phororong village,” Masupha.
Masupha said the two groups are fighting for control of the area.
He said at least nine suspects aged between 22 and 35 had handed themselves to the police in connection with the case.
Masupha said a 45-year-old man was killed in similar circumstances in Semonkong last week.
“A 45-year-old man was murdered by community crime prevention committee members,” he said.
He said 16 people had since handed themselves to the police.
Masupha said it was tragic that crime prevention committee members were no longer preventing crime but were instead being involved in criminal activities.