Army steps in, nabs four as murderous gang strikes again

. . . Manomoro gang murders former member, terrorises Maseru residents,

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. . . police found wanting, fearful residents seek LDF’s help.

Staff Writer

THE murderous Manomoro gang, which terrorised residents of various parts of Maseru and its environs earlier this year, is back to its criminal ways.

Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Public Affairs Officer, Captain Sakeng Lekola, this week said the army has been forced to intervene to save the residents from the marauding criminals.

Captain Sekola said four out of eight suspects have been arrested in connection with the criminal activities, including the murder of a former gang member, Leloko Lemaoane.

The eight suspects are Hassam Mahoumed, Rethabile Mokokoane, Sello Phakisi, Mokone Phakisi, one Mike, one Sarita, one Setinkolo and one Fusi.

Lemaoane was murdered a fortnight ago. This apparently as punishment for dumping the gang and undergoing an army-sponsored rehabilitation exercise along with 73 others earlier this year.

Besides murdering Lemaoane, the gang was again terrorising people in Matimposo, Koalabata and Naledi, Captain Lekola said.

“We have issued a public appeal to help us find the suspects who are wanted in connection of the murder of Lemaoane, a former Manomoro gang member” Captain Lekola said in an interview with the Lesotho Times this week.

“Lemaoane was part of the 74 juvenile gang members who successfully underwent rehabilitation at Makoanyane Barracks between April and June this year.

“He was a member of the same Manomoro gang before undergoing rehabilitation. The gang attacked and murdered him as punishment for leaving them. Gang members who were not rehabilitated are fighting those who underwent rehabilitation. They destroyed his (Lemaoane)’s home but did not take anything from the house.

“The gang also brutally assaulted Lemaoane’s 15-year-old younger brother and left him for dead. The younger brother was mercilessly attacked with stones, stabbed and beaten severely. Right now, the boy can’t even speak and he is communicating using sign language. Doctors’ reports indicate that he could have suffered some permanent damages as a result of the attack,” Captain Lekola said.

In April this year, the LDF was forced to step in and apprehend 74 people including the now deceased Lemaoane. They were mostly youths aged from 15 to 34. They were detained at Makoanyane Military Barracks for two months.

Code-named Operation Namola (intervene), the army operation was meant to capture the deviant youths who had caused residents to live in constant fear by committing murders and other violent crimes like rape, stabbings, housebreaking and theft.

The Manomoro gang is said to include hardened ex-convicts and even Famo musicians.

The army then organised a rehabilitation exercise which culminated in the juveniles being released and integrated back into their communities.

The LDF had intervened after the police had seemingly failed to perform their mandate of protecting the residents by arresting the criminals and having them prosecuted.

Last month, deputy army commander, Matela Matobakele, sharply criticised the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) for failing the nation.

Major General Matobakele said “Lesotho has no police force to speak about” due to the failure to discharge effective policing work.

He said the army had been forced to assume policing duties due to the incompetence of the LMPS. His comments did not sit well with Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro, who said he was out of line and had to apologise to Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli. Incidentally, Dr Majoro has refrained from criticising the police for its apparent failure to deal with violent crimes which have contributed in a big way to Lesotho’s dubious distinction of being the top ranked nation for homicides in Africa and sixth in the world on the World Population Review rankings released some three months ago.

It remains unclear if the deputy army chief has apologised for his remarks as per Dr Majoro’s instruction.

However, the premier is said to have agreed with Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu that the police boss must be dismissed for his incompetence which has allowed the criminals to flourish.

But given the persistence of the crimes, Captain Lekola this week said the army had again been forced to intervene and assume policing duties.

“Again, we had to intervene after receiving reports from residents who were being terrorised by the Manomoro gang. People are being killed and robbed in their homes.

“We have already captured four out of the eight suspects. We have since handed them over to the police. More people will be arrested because the suspects gave us more names as we were interrogating them,” Captain Lekola said.

He said their intervention did not mean that they had usurped policing duties. He said they were only acting in line with their mandate to maintain peace.

“The army cannot stand and fold its arms while residents’ lives are endangered. We know that we have the police whose primary mandate is to maintain internal peace but if need be, we can also step in to assist. This is why we have handed the suspects to the police. We are not taking over from the police, we are only assisting them.

“The law mandates us to protect the nation against violent crimes like murder and others like espionage, terrorism or sabotage which threatens national security,” Captain Lekola said.

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