Famo turf war claims five lives
“Until people lose their wives and children or have whole families wiped off from the face of the earth, they will continue to mercilessly gun down innocent bystanders like these two young boys who were killed in Maseru yesterday,” said popular famo musician Mosotho Chakela.
Chakela made the grim statement on Tuesday—a day after two teenagers aged 19 and 16 —were gunned down in Sea-Point between 7-8pm.
It is suspected the teenagers were victims of a famo turf war which has claimed over 20 lives since 2009.
The two Sehlabeng-sa-Thuoathe teens, alongside famo artistes Lepelesana and Botlenyana, died instantly after unknown gunmen opened fire during a brief meeting near Memorial Hall.
The deceased 19-year-old is son to famo music-producer, Justice Mpitsa, who survived the shooting alongside another famo artist. The 16-year-old was a friend of Mpitsa’s son.
The Sea-Point shooting, which left the music industry shell-shocked, came hardly a day after a 35-year-old Thabana-Morena man was found dead with gunshot wounds in Thetsane on Sunday morning. It is suspected the Thetsane killing was also famo-related and could have taken place Saturday night.
Police spokesperson Clifford Molefe confirmed the killings but said it was too soon to conclude anything as investigations were underway.
“It is true four people were killed while two were injured during the Sea-Point shooting which took place on Monday between 7 and 8 pm,” Senior Inspector Molefe said.
“Police are still investigating the incident so at the moment, I cannot say whether or not the killings were linked to famo. No arrests have been made in connection with the incident.”
On the Thetsane killing, Senior Inspector Molefe said: “The police found a Thabana-Morena man dead in Thetsane. It is suspected he was shot after a famo music festival at AME Hall on Saturday night.”
Two Mafeteng famo gangs nicknamed Terene and Seakhi, have been at war over bragging-rights and their fighting has since become one of the most divisive topics in Lesotho due to its political undertones.
The rivals are identified by the colour of their blankets.
Narrating Monday night’s tragedy to the Lesotho Times, Mr Mpitsa said the meeting in Sea-Point was about his pending work-related trip to Johannesburg.
“I drove to Sea-Point, together with my son and his friend; we went there to collect a computer hard-drive I was going to use in Johannesburg. The hard-drive was with these artists,” Mpitsa said.
Minutes after their arrival at the hall, Mpitsa said unknown men arrived and opened fire on them.
“I was also shot but managed to survive alongside another artist, but my son died in the shooting, his friend, and two other artistes,” he said.
Seakhi leader, Bereng ‘Lekase’ Majoro, said he was very saddened by these latest developments.
“This all started when (famo musician) Rantšo was gunned down years ago as per the instructions of a certain prominent artist. This war will only end if this artist orders his supporters to ceasefire,” Lekase said on Tuesday. .
The killings, he added, could be an indication the industry is filled with unprogressive individuals.
“It is bad. I was really sad when I received a police call concerning this incident; it shouldn’t have happened,” Lekase said.
“We have informed the authorities on many occasions, who is responsible for this war but he seems untouchable.
“This artist must shoulder the blame for this war because he has failed to rein-in his supporters. “The same musician ordered the killing of two Seakhi artists two months into peace talks initiated by the previous government led by Ntate Thabane.
“So unless this untouchable individual orders a ceasefire, no amount of talks will end this war. People will continue to die until this individual comes to his senses and puts an end to what he started years ago.”
On his part, Terene leader, Mosotho Chakela, warned blood would continue to flow until artists become united.
“Until people lose their wives and children or have whole family members wiped off the face of the earth, they will continue to mercilessly gun down innocent bystanders like those two young boys,” Chakela warned.
He further said it would only be through the commitment of artists themselves that the fighting is going to stop.
“Most of these killings are carried out by supporters; the killings are influenced by messages contained in our songs. We might be viewing them as mere lyrics, but the fans take the messages very seriously, so we must be careful of what we say in our songs,” Chakela added.
However, he warned killing each other would only drag communities backwards.
“Spilling blood will never bring peace between Terene and Seakhi; it will only worsen the situation. I honestly believe bringing certain prominent Seakhi and Terene artists to the table will end this war.
“The reason why the past coalition government’s efforts to facilitate a peace deal between Seakhi and Terene didn’t work was simply lack of commitment from the artists.”
Meanwhile, the Lesotho Music Rights Association has condemned the killings.
The association’s public relations officer, Tšepang Nyaka-Nyaka Makakole, said the shootings had hit the music industry hard.
“The killings come at a time we are trying to work together as artists, and put an end to music piracy in Lesotho. Instead of pulling together, we kill each other so how do we expect the industry to grow?” Makakole said.
He warned government to tread cautiously when dealing with the famo war and be “neutral” when engaging the warring factions.
“Government must be neutral when dealing with this issue, and gang-leaders from both sides must be actively involved when a peace deal is being worked out.”