Home News Joki’s murder leaves Lesotho’s reputation in tatters

Joki’s murder leaves Lesotho’s reputation in tatters

by Lesotho Times
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  • as world condems  brutal slaying of journalist
  • unites in demanding justice for him
  • outspoken chief Tekho says Joki was killed for exposing corruption
  • gvt challenged to implement fundamental reforms to end the crime scourge

Staff Reporters

Journalistic organisations  around the world  have joined hands in condemning the brutal slaying of prominent journalist  Ralikonelo ‘Leqhashasha’ Joki, in an incident that has left Lesotho’s reputation in tatters and entrenched negative perceptions about the country as a crime infested hell-hole.

The murder of a journalist generally attracts negative headlines for any country as media practitioners across the world tend to cover each other.  But unfortunately for Lesotho, this is not the first time this is happening.  Lesotho Times editor Llyod Mutungamiri was shot and nearly killed in 2016. Though his attempted killers are languishing in remand prison, they are yet to be held fully accountable.

And unless the government takes drastic action to bring  Joki’s killers to book, and to end the spiralling crime levels, its efforts to sell Lesotho as a safe investment and tourism destination to boost employment will likely come to nought, analysts and other concerned citizens said.

Outspoken Thaba-Bosiu  principal chief Khoabane Theko said he believed Joki was murdered because he had been working on exposing  massive corruption involving the theft and sale of land by criminal syndicates across government departments.

Joki had during one of his programmes last week alluded to why criminal syndicates involved in the fraudulent acquisition and resale of plots of land continued to operate with impunity.

“This murder has tainted our image badly as a country. I have never seen anything like this in my entirety and I just hope that his death was not in vain as corrupt  people need to be exposed,” said Chief Theko.

World journalistic organisations under the banner of the New York based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have condemned the murder.  The CPJ represents and fights for journalists across the world.

The organisation’s programme director for Africa, Angela Quintal, has called upon the government to launch a credible probe into Joki’s murder and hold those responsible accountable.

Unknown gunmen sprayed Joki’s vehicle with bullets as he left the premises of his workplace Ts’enolo FM, after wrapping up his programme “Hlokoana-La-Tsela” (I heard it through the grapevine) on Sunday.

Joki had received at least three death threats from different Facebook accounts in March and April related to his work as a journalist, according to the CPJ and Ts’enolo FM’s station manager, Mshengu Tshabalala.

“Authorities in Lesotho must thoroughly investigate the killing of Ts’enolo FM host Ralikonelo ‘Leqhashasha’ Joki and ensure those responsible are brought to justice,” said Ms Quintal, in a statement from  New York.

Ms Quintal noted with concern that Joki’s killing had come after a similar attack on Lesotho Times editor Mutungamiri in 2016. Mutungamiri survived death by a whisker after he was waylaid and shot by gunmen as he arrived at his Upper Thamae home on 9 July 2016 after finishing duty. Several soldiers under the leadership of former army commander Tlali Kamoli had since  been arrested in connection with the shooting. But the CPJ is concerned that the matter has been dragging on with no end in sight.

Mutungamiri was shot in revenge to the Lesotho Times’ critical coverage of Kamoli and his reign of terror after he had been reinstated as army commander in 2015.

“An attempted murder trial after a similar attack on Lesotho Times editor Lloyd Mutungamiri in 2016 has dragged on for years. Authorities must send a clear signal to those who believe they can attack or kill journalists without consequence that, in Joki’s case at least, there will be swift accountability,” Ms Quintal said from the United States.

Joki’s killing follows the murder of at least 42 other Basotho in the last three weeks alone. This has prompted the government to impose an indefinite curfew in an attempt to contain the scourge of crime. But analysts and ordinary Basotho believe much more would have to be done to contain the ever escalating crime rate.

The Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS), which should be the first line of defence for citizens, has in many cases itself become an appendage for criminals. The police service is poorly led and poorly resourced.  Police guns have been stolen in police stations and sold to criminals.

Political analyst Lefu Thaela has  called upon the government to do more to protect journalists but more particularly to end rampant crime.

“It is the role of the state through its institutions such as the police or the army to give protection to any journalist (under threat). ….

“The killing of Joki has put a lot  of negative international spotlight on Lesotho and it’s up to the government to take measures to redeem the country’s reputation.” Mr Thaela said.

He said spiraling crime would worsen Lesotho’s safety rankings. The World Population Review has flagged Lesotho as number six in the world for homicides, a terrible ranking for a tiny country of two million people.

Mr Thaele said the government was clearly not doing enough to curb rampant crime.

The police lacked resources such as vehicles to combat crime.

Another major contributing factor to the rising crime rate was also the inefficient justice system that treated criminals with kids gloves.

Dangerous criminals were granted bail easily, “and in most cases, the cases drag in courts until the witnesses die…..Serial killers are given bail multiple times”.

“In Lesotho when a person wants to kill you, he says ‘ke tla u patalla bail ea M500’ (loosely meaning I will pay only M500 bail for your death). He knows that after killing you he is going to be given bail and it will be the end of it. In simple terms, our courts contribute to the high crime levels. At the same time, our penalties for the people found guilty of the unlawful possession of firearms are very low. I think the penalties should be very harsh on that aspect,” Mr Thaela said.

Political analyst Moeketsi Kali said the police were ill equipped to fight crime.  The senior management of police were also compromised and released resources for police to attend to cases in which they had  interest in while neglecting other crimes.

“It is a systemic problem….Maybe journalists with investigative skills should seriously consider coming in to help with  investigating crimes so that evidence is not suppressed…..,” Dr Kali said, noting that investigations could no longer be entrusted in the police only.

“Journalists will have to use their investigative skills to help adduce evidence in these murder cases…We can’t leave it at the level of police while cases go unsolved…”said  Dr Kali.

National Editors Forum of Lesotho President, Molefi Khatebe, condemned Joki’s killing.

“And it should dawn on the minds of those in the echelons of power that every act of violence committed against a journalist that goes un-investigated, and unpunished, is an open invitation for further violence…,” he said.

Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Lesotho Chapter  president Kananelo Boloetse, also lamented the fact  that former Lesotho Times editor Mutungamiri had been shot way back  in 2016 but  his case was still dragging in the courts.

If cases involving journalists were not resolved swiftly, Mr Boloetse noted, it sent out the devastating message that shooting journalists to silence them had few repercussions for those responsible.

“The killing of Leqhashasha is alarming and paints a frightening picture of our country. Attacks on journalists are attacks on all civil society and the killing of Joki could have serious international consequences for Lesotho,” he said in sentiments shared by the CPJ from New York.

THABA-BOSIU principal chief  Theko said Joki could have been slain for his work in unearthing some rot and racketeering by the criminal syndicates operating within government’s land administration departments.

Chief Theko said he was deeply pained by Joki’s death as “he always strived for the truth and asked the least asked questions that touched a nerve, risking his safety for his people’s sake”.

Chief Theko alleged Joki had unearthed the existence of some bank accounts used by members of corrupt syndicates involved in the illegal  acquisition and sale  of land within the land administration authorities in the country.

The Lesotho Times has since established that the syndicates that Joki had referenced in some of his reporting shortly before he was murdered  deprive legitimate heirs or beneficiaries of their plots by  getting  fraudulent duplicate leases issued at the Land Administration Authority (LAA).  They then re-allocate and sale these plots illegally to others.  Some of the land allegedly stolen and allocated illegally over the years belonged to the government.

Prime Minister Sam  Matekane has since announced an audit of all states assets.

Law Society

The law Society of Lesotho has called for concrete action by the government to end the scourge of killings of innocent citizens.

“Our nation, known for its tranquillity and the warmth of its people, now finds itself among the top six most murderous countries in the world…,” the law society’s vice president Lintle Tuke, said.

“This is a reality we cannot, and should not, accept. Each life lost to violence is a life too many. Each act of violence is a blow to the fabric of our society and the principles of peace, justice, and respect for human life that we hold dear,” Adv Tuke said.

“In reaction to these recent killings, the government took a drastic step through the Commissioner of Police by imposing a curfew in Lesotho from 10 pm to 4 am indefinitely. While we understand the urgency and the need for decisive action, the Law Society of Lesotho believes that this is not the way to go. A curfew may address the symptoms of the problem, but it does not address the root causes.

“It may bring temporary relief, but it does not bring lasting peace. The Law Society of Lesotho condemns, in the strongest terms, this surge in violent crime. We mourn with the families who have lost their loved ones and stand in solidarity with communities living under the shadow of fear. But mourning and solidarity are not enough. We must act.”

Adv Tuke called on government to step up its efforts to address the crisis, saying that security forces, particularly the police, were the first line of defence against crime and that as a result, they needed to be adequately resourced to execute their mandate effectively.

Lesotho’s security services, Adv Tuke said, needed tools, training, and support to protect communities, investigate crimes, and bring perpetrators to justice.

“But resourcing our security forces is only part of the solution. We also need to address the root causes of violence in our society. This includes tackling poverty, inequality, and social exclusion, which often fuel crime. It includes investing in education, job creation, and social services to provide our youth with alternatives to crime. And it includes promoting a culture of respect for the law, human rights, and peaceful conflict resolution,” Adv Tuke said.

Similar sentiments were shared by Democratic Congress boss and  Official Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Mathibeli Mokhothu, who said that “government is fighting a losing battle with crime”.

“These senseless and heinous deaths which are robbing the country of its people are also destabilising the country and shaking its peace, while leaving kids orphaned. Imposing a curfew on its own is not enough and this means that they have to rethink their strategies as  government,” Mr Mokhothu said.

Basotho National Party (BNP) leader Machesetsa Mofomobe said Mr Matekane’s government seemed to have lost the battle against crime.

“It is obvious that this government has no clear strategies to deal with crime…Crime cannot be combatted by soldiers brandishing their guns in the streets,” Mr Mofomobe said.

Mr Mofomobe said he saw no value in imposing a curfew as people were getting killed in broad day light.  The curfew was thus an ill-advised move that would cripple the economy.

For his part, Mr Remaketse Sehlabaka of Mpulule Political Summit (MPS) said “the curfew was a bad idea which was going to do more harm than good in the absence of clear strategies to combat crime.”

Former Law and Constitutional Affairs minister and Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) leader Lekheto Rakuoane urged the government to invest in community policing as it was practically impossible for law enforcement officers to be present at every crime scene around the country.

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