MASERU — Twenty-three people were murdered throughout the country on Christmas Day, up from 11 last year, police reported.
Police spokesperson Masupha Masupha told the Lesotho Times yesterday that they were shocked by this upsurge.
He said the majority of murders last year took place in Mafeteng district which was then plagued by rivalries between famo music gangs.
“Had it not been for famo gangsters who fought and killed each other with light arms during last year’s Christmas, we could have had few murders,” Masupha said.
“But this year’s Christmas murders have shocked us as the police especially because they happened countrywide and mostly in public bars.”
Masupha said reports received from police stations indicated that the murders took place in or outside public bars and involved knives or fighting sticks.
Masupha put the blame on bartenders who do not search their customers upon entering their premises to ensure that they do not possess weapons.
“It is a law requirement that bar owners search customers when they enter their businesses. They are given that power when they are given their operating licences,” he said.
“There is too much drunkenness in the country, no wonder so many deaths and injuries at drinking places and on our roads.”
However this year no reports of murder were reported from Mafeteng as a result of the intensified police crime prevention campaign codenamed “Operation Ema re u Seche” (Operation Stay Still So That We Can Search you).
He said the campaign had been successful in that many people opted to leave their weapons at home.
The campaign was launched early December following fears that famo gangsters would again kill each other like it had happened last year.
Masupha said the police were ready to deal with the hurly-burly of New Year celebrations on Sunday night.
He said they have banned the explosion of fire crackers until January 5 to prevent crimes which were common every year during the New Year celebration night.
“We have directed that people who want to explode firecrackers should ask for permission from the police first and then they will be given a place suitable for such activity,” Masupha said.
“We do not want to hear that some people were shot dead by criminals during New Year celebrations as some people take chances to commit crime at that time knowing well that gun reports are sometimes mistaken for sounds of firecrackers,” he said. Masupha noted that pets also run away from their homes due to noise from firecrackers.
“That is cruelty to animals,” he added.
Meanwhile police on Tuesday arrested five men aged between 20 and 40 years in connection with the murders of three women who were accused of witchcraft in Taung in Mohale’s Hoek.