…as criminals continue to run rampant
Koalabata in Berea, the scene of the gruesome 2012 ritual killings, witnessed more gruesome murders at the weekend.
This time the unknown killers gunned down four unarmed and defenceless women including an 87-year-old woman and her 60-year-old daughter.
The four slain women are ‘Malehlohonolo Tšiame (60), her mother ‘Makali Molibeli (87), ‘Matšooana Makepe (40) and ‘Maselone Lelakane (36).
They met their untimely deaths when unknown gunmen stormed Tšiame’s house on Saturday evening and opened fire on them.
A source who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity said he suspected the murders were revenge killings targeting Lelakane who he said had been accused of killing some people in Roma “a few years ago”. The source said the other victims were probably caught up in the crossfire aimed at Lelakane.
This could not be confirmed by the police who said they were still investigating the murders.
The killings came just days after two women were murdered by unknown killers in separate incidents in the Leribe district.
The gruesome murders are the latest in a long series of violence and killings of Basotho, particularly women and children, which have catapulted Lesotho to the nefarious distinction of being among the top ten countries with the highest levels of homicides in the world.
Ironically the killings occurred on 1 August 2020, the first day of women’s month.
Women’s month was originally aimed at commemorating South African women’s spirited fight against repressive apartheid laws in the 1950s.
Now women’s month commemorates women in general, including Basotho women’s fight for emancipation from violence, killings and socio-cultural and economic ills.
But the Saturday murders and others that preceded them have cast a pall on the Lesotho authorities’ failure to protect the womenfolk from blood-thirsty killers.
According to deputy police spokesperson Sub-Inspector ‘Makeabetsoe Mofoka, the four women were gunned down between 7 and 8 pm on Saturday.
“A man stormed the house and found a 11-year-old girl and a 30-year-old man in the kitchen washing dishes,” Sub-Insp Mofoka told the Lesotho Times this week.
“The man pointed a gun at the man and girl and ordered them to lie down. Shortly afterwards, gunshots were heard in the bedroom where the four now deceased women were seated. It is not clear how many gunmen were involved but we suspect there could have been two.
“Three of the women died instantly while Molibeli was rushed to hospital as she still had some vital signs. Unfortunately, she didn’t make it,” added Sub-Insp Mofoka.
This publication subsequently learnt that the house in which the killings occurred belonged to Tšiame. She was living with her octogenarian mother while the other two women were her cousins.
According to a source, Lelakane had been estranged from her husband, Malefetsane Lelakane, for more than a year.
“She (Lelakane) left her matrimonial home in Ha Thetsane, Maseru last July and the husband didn’t even know where she was staying.
“She left a day after her husband was arrested after she reported him to the police for being in possession of an illegal gun. He only spent a day in custody and upon his release, he found their two children, a 15-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son alone as their mother had left.
“Her husband later learnt that his wife (Lelakane) had got him arrested and she was in an extra-marital affair with a police officer who was behind his arrest.”
The source said Lelakane initially put up with her one of her brothers who also resided in Ha Thetsane. The duo was constantly on the run as they were being hunted by a man who wanted to kill them, accusing them of having “killed” his parents in Roma some years ago.
The source said almost two weeks ago on 23 July 2020, Lelakane had gone to her matrimonial home in the company of two men and pleaded with her husband to be allowed to return.
“The husband refused to entertain her and called one of his police officer friends to mediate between them. The two sides met on Saturday 25 July but they failed to bury their differences.
“They were then advised by the policeman to either seek professional help or divorce. Last Tuesday, the husband filed for divorce and the case had been set for 8 September 2020. But it will no be longer be heard after Lelakane was shot dead.
“Lelakane had only been at her cousin’s house for a few days when disaster struck. I think all the other slain victims were just caught up in the crossfire and this was a revenge killing intended to get her (Lelakane),” the source said.
Malefetsane said in an interview he had discovered that his slain wife had been having an affair with a police officer in the Special Operations Unit.
“I know for sure because after my wife had started behaving in a strange and suspicious way, I had followed her around until I confirmed my suspicions when I saw her with that man going into some rented apartment in Naleli,” Malefetsane said.
He said his wife’s life had been in danger as she and her brother were constantly being chased around by an unknown gunman.
He said sometime before she deserted their matrimonial home last year, the gunman attempted to shoot her dead but luckily for her the gun malfunctioned and she made good her escape.
He said a few months later, another attempt was made to kill her this time by a knife-wielding man who had stabbed her repeatedly.
He said she sustained some injuries from the incident. He said a gunman later succeeded in shooting her brother dead last year while she escaped unscathed.
“Someone was out to kill my wife but she was always lucky to escape. There was a time when she and her brother were being hunted by someone who accused them of killing his parents. Her brother was shot and killed while she went unscathed. She was being hunted,” said Malefetsane.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro visited the Tšiame family in Koalabata to pay his respects.
He was accompanied by Social Development Minister ‘Matebatso Doti, Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli and army commander Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela.
Police spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli said there were still no arrests as yet “but the police are busy with their investigations into the murders”.