59 murder suspects jailed in just nine days

. . . as homicides take root in Lesotho

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Staff Reporters

FIFTY-NINE murder suspects have been arrested and remanded in custody in a short period of just nine days, in a worrying indication of the escalating homicides in the country.

Thirty-five of the 59 suspects were jailed from 15 to 19 November 2021 while the other 24 were incarcerated in just four days from 20 November to yesterday, the Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) has said.

The development only serves to cement Lesotho’s dubious distinction of being Africa’s murder capital and the sixth most homicidal nation in the world as per the World Population Review rankings for murders. The rankings were released three months ago.

LCS spokesperson, Pheko Ntobane, this week said of the 74 people remanded in prison from 15 to 19 November 2021, thirty-five were murder-accused persons.

“Seventy-four people were received by the LCS and incarcerated over a week ago from 15 to 19 November 2021. Of these, a shocking 35 suspects are accused of murder and most of them are from Maseru,” Senior Cadet Officer Ntobane said.

“In the period up to 24 November 2021, another 24 suspects were remanded in custody on murder charges.

“Other suspects have been remanded in custody for various crimes like house-breaking and theft, sexual offences, armed robbery, assault, stock theft, unlawful possession of firearms and malicious damage to property. It is important to note that these have been remanded in custody while awaiting trial. However, there are 13 males who have been sentenced to serve jail terms for sexual offences and other crimes like house-breaking and theft.”

While various crimes appear to be on the rise, the country should be particularly worried about the high incidence of murders which continue to pile up with each passing week.

Despite the latest record high number of suspects remanded in custody for murder in the short period of nine days, many other murderers still remain at large as hundreds of citizens have lost their lives in homicides for which there have been no arrests and convictions.

Violent crime has taken root in Lesotho, resulting in the country earning the dubious distinction of being Africa’s murder capital and number six in the world’s rankings for homicides.

Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli, has nonetheless attempted to downplay the issue of the escalating homicides.

Last week, he accused the media of overplaying the World Population Review findings which placed Lesotho in first position for murders in Africa and sixth in the world.

He said although the report was published this year, it had made use of outdated 2016 data on Lesotho. The situation could have changed since then he said.

“I don’t know if you are aware of this but one of the things that offend us is that people can make issues out of non-issues. For example, there is this issue that Lesotho is a certain number in the world in terms of murder statistics. Those who conducted that study did so in 2017, using 2016 data and only published the study in 2021. I request that you closely interrogate these issues. We are too ready to admit negative things about our country. It is important to be philosophical when dealing with issues and we should not be too ready to accept (negative things about Lesotho),” Commissioner Molibeli said.

But in the aftermath of his belittling the World Population Review’s report, the LCS confirmed receiving a record 59 murder suspects into its custody in the small space of just nine days.  Even if the police can be credited with the arrests, particularly if these result in actual convictions, such a high figure of murder suspects arrests only serves to confirm the gravity of the situation in terms of the escalating homicides, a factor Commissioner Molibeli appears oblivious to.  Still many more murderers remain unaccounted for.

Even as he was downplaying the murder rankings, other homicides were being committed in various parts of the country including the gruesome murder of French Pastor, Francois Snyman, who was gunned down in Semonkong in front of his wife and children. Pastor Snyman’s killers are yet to be apprehended.

His is the latest in a series of ghastly murders that have also seen seven police officers being killed in a short space of just three months between June and August 2021.  Several women have been murdered with their body parts being harvested, presumably for ritual purposes.

So bad is the situation that the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) has been forced to step in and launch an operation to arrest murderous gangsters who have been terrorising residents in Maseru and outlying areas. The LDF says it cannot fold its hands and watch people’s lives being endangered. It says it is not usurping police functions but it has had to come in to assist them to protect the nation.

Deputy army commander, Matela Matobakele, recently slammed the police for incompetence saying Lesotho did not have any police force worth talking about. Major General Matobakele said the army’s involvement in policing issues was therefore justified.

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