Angry chief stops burials at gunpoint

MASERU — A Mafeteng principal chief is alleged to have blocked the burial of two people at gunpoint last week saying they did not have letters of transfer from their original home.

Sekere Motaketsane told the Lesotho Times that Chief Lerotholi Seeiso and his court officials stopped mourners who were digging graves and confiscated their
picks at gunpoint.

They also allegedly threatened to shoot anyone who resisted their order to stop the digging.

A bereaved Motaketsane, who was preparing to bury his wife and sister, also claimed Chief Lerotholi was in a foul mood and no one dared to argue with him.

The two bodies were meanwhile lying in the family’s home waiting to be buried.

The family said they had collected the bodies from the mortuary on Friday in preparation for burial the following day.

Motaketsane said he was now planning to bury the deceased in his own yard after efforts to resolve the dispute failed.

He said he was shocked when Chief Lerotholi told him he could not bury his wife and sister in Mafeteng because he did not have a transfer letter from his former chief in Mohale’s Hoek.

Motaketsane’s original home was under  the chief of Taung in Mohale’s Hoek.

Motaketsane said his problems with the chief began on November 20 last year when his sister Nthabeleng Motaketsane died.

He said the chief refused to stamp a letter confirming that she had died.

He said he wanted to use the letter to access funds from the deceased’s insurance policy to enable him to bury his sister.

But while he was struggling to bury his sister, his wife, ’Matlotliso, also died.

The cause of death was not disclosed.

Motaketsane said when he approached the chief for assistance the chief also allegedly rejected his request.

“I approached the district administrator but he also said he could not help me because I did not have a stamped letter from the principal chief,” Motaketsane said.

He insisted that he gave his transfer letter to Chief Lerotholi’s predecessor and that it should not be his problem that they failed to keep the documents in a safe place.

“I then proceeded to make arrangements to bury my sister and my wife and on Friday the men were digging the graves when Chief Lerotholi expelled them from the graveyard and threatened to shoot them,” he said.

Motaketsane said he rushed to the local government council in Mafeteng seeking intervention but the council officials failed to help him.

He said he also went to the police to report the attack.

But he said the police told him “they had no powers to intervene in land disputes”.

Motaketsane said he then approached Home Affairs Minister and MP for Mafeteng constituency, Lesao Lehohla.

“I was hopeful that Ntate Lehohla would order the police to protect me as I bury my wife and my sister at the community graveyard but he told me that he had no powers to intervene,” he said.

“The situation with my family is unbearable,” Motaketsane said. “The children are weeping and I am unable to bury my dead.”

He however insisted this week that he was going to bury his loved ones within his yard, an act that would be in violation of the Local Government Act.

“I have decided to bury them in my own yard and I challenge the local government ministry to sue me after that,” he said.

“The local government ministry will have to exhume the bodies itself and it should not expect me to do that.”

Lehohla confirmed that Motaketsane had approached him following the dispute but said he could not involve himself in issues of land disputes because they were out of his jurisdiction.

“I only advised the family to file an urgent application in court to deal with the matter,” Lehohla said.

“They should find a lawyer immediately and apply to the court. My intervention would only make matters worse because the chief would argue that I do not have the necessary powers.”

He added: “The courts can solve this problem once and for all.”

Efforts to contact Chief Lerotholi were not successful.

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