Home NewsLocal News Famo gang boss pleads for peace 

Famo gang boss pleads for peace 

by Lesotho Times
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  • as another Famo gangster, Qoqotho, is brutally murdered 
  • Qoqotho had been charged for one of the most heinous murders to rock Lesotho 
  • PM Matekane asked to broker peace among the Famo groups 

Mohalenyane Phakela 

TERENE ea Khosi Mokata leader, Tṧepiso “Mosotho” Radebe, has called on Prime Minister Sam Matekane to ensure the rooting out of national security members from Famo groups, accusing them of fomenting chaos in these infamous gangs behind ubiquitous murders across the country. 

Members of security agencies have been accused of stealing state weapons and selling them to the Famo gangs, thereby fomenting violence in the country.   

Mosotho spoke in the wake of the brutal murder of Mokomane “Qoqotho” Salemone who was shot dead around Lithabaneng in Maseru a fortnight ago. Qoqotho, who had joined Mosotho’s Terene ea Khosi Mokata group had been charged for one of the most savage murders to have gripped Lesotho in recent years. 

Qoqotho was charged in May 2023 for the 10 February 2023 heinous murder of Naleli Funeral Planners shareholder Ikhetheleng Matabane and accountant Tṧoana Molefe Khetheleng.  The murder shocked the nation as the two were gunned down in broad daylight while having lunch at The Deck restaurant in Maseru. They had been undertaking an audit into the alleged fraud at Naleli by the company’s founder and former managing director, Thabiso Madiba. Madiba was accused of having stolen more than M10 million from the company.  

Madiba is now on M2 000 bail for allegedly masterminding the murder of his two colleagues. It is not clear if Qoqotho’s murder could be linked to efforts to eliminate a potential witness. 

Many murder cases in Lesotho fall of the court roll after key perpetrators or potential witnesses get eliminated.  For instance, in dropping murder charges against former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and his young wife, Liabiloe, over charges that they plotted to kill the ex-premier’s older wife to pave way for the younger Liabiloe to become First Lady, the prosecution said one of its key witnesses, Famo gangster Rethabile “Chakela” Mokete, who had allegedly been recruited to lead the murder, had himself been killed. 

Mosotho pleaded with Mr Matekane’s government to arrange a meeting with the leaders and committees of different Famo groups as well as national security chiefs to try and broker peace and end long-drawn disputes between the Famo gangs that have resulted in numerous murders. 

He said the involvement and commitment of security chiefs would ensure the removal of members of the police force, army and the spy agency from the Famo groups. 

Mosotho made this call in an exclusive interview with the Lesotho Times this week. The Famo bosses and members rarely speak to the media. But the Lesotho Timeswas able to get hold of Mosotho to speak on record.  

He called for the formal recognition of the Famo groups as legitimate civic groups to ensure the regulation of their members and activities. That would make it easy to identify those engaging in criminal activities.  

Famo disputes have been ongoing for a very long time, with members of rival groups attacking and fatally shooting each other, in addition to working as “guns for hire” for others bent on committing violent crimes. 

The Famo gangs operate in different areas and are formed around the Famo music genre.  They vie for control in their areas of operation and become jealousy if any group’s music becomes more popular than the other’s in their respective turfs. But they are also generally viewed as groupings of criminals and “murderers for hire” behind the country’s massive surge in violent crime which has caused Lesotho to be ranked sixth in worldwide homicide scales.  A National Security Agency report has branded the Famo groups as “terrorists”. 

Mosotho said the violence instigated by the Famo groups had become unsustainable. It was more worrying now because Famo gang members were now killing women and children. 

“It has now become a game of jealousy whereby whoever achieves a decent means of living gets killed. If they cannot get you or fear you, they hurt you by going after your family, hence women and children are killed at a high rate,” Mosotho said. 

“It is no secret that most of these men hustle in the South African abandoned mines (Zama Zamas) then come home to start decent lives by building homes and starting business. However, some are killed in the process. Their brothers or those from their groups would also want to avenge and the other side would not give in without a fight as well.” 

He said the matters got worse when police officers, soldiers and NSS members started joining Famo groups. 

Some of the existing Famo groups are Terene ea Khosi Mokata (Mosotho’s group), Terene ea Khosi Chakela, the Seakhi group (which has been divided into about five subgroups each defining itself with the colour of the Letlama blanket donned by members), Phula Bobete, Fito, Thonatho, Khang Kholo, Poo ea Bohla Bochabela, Kobo le Molamu and Liala Mabatha among others. 

The Famo groups are alleged to be behind most of the violent crimes that have been gripping Lesotho. Their members are also known to be available for hire by anyone intending to commit murder. 

“We are asking the government and the security agencies to help us build lasting peace. We need a meeting with the security chiefs and possibly the civic society to help us build lasting peace. They need to help us remove the security agents from our groups because we believe they are the ones bringing problems into our groups. 

“There were meetings before but I believe the problem is that the leaders of these Famo groups never trusted each other. While others believed these would be genuine peace building efforts, others would just pretend they are part of the efforts then attack others when they would have let their guard down. 

“That should come to an end. We need to be sincere and forgive each other, start afresh. I believe it is important for the groups to bring their committees to the meeting because they can be able to discipline their members.” 

However, Mosotho was reluctant to state the kind of influence the security agents were bringing to the Famo groups. 

Nonetheless, security agents have been accused of supplying weapons to the Famo gangs. 

Two police Special Operations Unit (SOU) members were fired last year after they were found guilty of stealing two AK47 rifles at the police’s Robbery and Car Theft Squad offices in Maseru. The guns were allegedly going to be sold to Famo members. Furthermore, 75 firearms went missing from the armoury at the Mafefeng police station in 2021. They were allegedly stolen by police officers for sale to Famo gang members. 

“It should be clear that I am not attacking the security forces. I am simply calling for help. As matters stand, we cannot freely interact with the police, army or NSS people because we cannot trust them anymore. We often fear they would be coming from rival groups and would be out to eliminate us,” Mosotho said. 

He added: “Basotho can no longer buy Famo music or play it freely. This because, if a lay person like you is listening to a Famo song, you would be accused of associating with a certain group (and get killed) whereas you would not even know the composer belongs to that group. Our musicians are losing the market as they now have to rely on members of their groups only to buy their music. 

“We need Basotho to be united so we can all live freely and peacefully. The nation is celebrating 200 years of existence, and we should seize the opportunity and be part of the celebrations by uniting,” Mosotho said. 

 He said his Terene ea Khosi Mokata group had made great strides towards redeeming itself. He said they had internal disputes resolution mechanisms and disciplinary structures. 

“I am confident we are on the right track towards reforming our movement and have managed to build peace amongst ourselves. For instance, Qoqotho had killed Lehlanya’s (one of the leaders in Mosotho’s group) brother but that was before he joined my group. So we managed to build peace between them (Qoqotho and Lehlanya) when they all became part of us.” 

He was referring to Mokomane “Qoqotho” Salemone, who was shot dead around Lithabaneng in Maseru a fortnight ago. It is not clear which group Qoqotho belonged to before he joined Mosotho’s Terene ea Khosi Mokata group. No arrests have been made in Qoqotho’s murder case. 

It is also not clear how his “removal” will ultimately affect the murder case of Matabane and Khetheleng. 

Qoqotho had handed himself over to the police after he had been listed as a wanted person in that murder. Sarele “Lehlanya” Sello, is one of the Terene ea Khosi Mokata leaders whose brother (name not given) was murdered by Qoqotho.   

Mosotho said it was important for Famo groups to have structures to rein in their members. 

“We have (in our own group) a disciplinary committee which deals with the behaviour of our members. There are punishments in place such as whipping, a fine or expulsion from the movement. This depends on the offence one would have committed. 

“Say there is a dispute between members or one has hit the other with a fighting stick, we either whip the wrongdoer or fine him. If it’s a serious offence such as murder we then expel such a member and/or hand him over to the police. We do not condone murder. We also have paid up membership which helps us know and keep track of our members. 

“We assist the police in anyway we can when they would have informed us that they are searching for one of our members linked to a certain crime they would be investigating. 

“I believe all Famo groups should have this kind of structure. We should all be registered as societies with paid up membership so we can be able to know all our members. This will help in situations where our members are fingered in crimes and determine what action to take. We are often associated with crimes we know nothing about, and I believe it happens to other groups as well,” he said. 

Contacted for comment on the meeting proposal, Prime Minister’s Press Attache, Thapelo Mabote, urged Mosotho to approach Mr Matekane’s office directly. 

“I believe that can be arranged and the Prime Minister would not have a problem with it. I would advice for him to formally engage the Prime Minister either through a letter, and all shall follow suit,” he said.  

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