Killed guard was severely tortured in custody — family

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  • as family threatens legal suite against the police
  • while Mokhothu promises to get to investigate cases of police brutality

’Marafaele Mohloboli

TŠELISO Sekonyela (28) died after being severely tortured in police custody, his family has said.

The family said it would soon launch a hefty legal suite against the police.

A postmortem report indicated that the deceased’s left leg was broken several times, his ribs where broken while his neck had strangle marks. The family said the report also indicated that the deceased suffered serious internal bleeding.

Although it is still unclear when he died, Mr Sekonyela’s mother, ‘Makabelo Ramahlele, last week said she suspected he was killed on 4 September 2021.

A BB Alert Company security officer, Mr Sekonyela, was arrested and detained at the Thetsane Police Station on 2 September 2021 after some alcohol had allegedly gone missing at an off-sale outlet he had been guarding.

Mr Sekonyela is the latest in a string of cases of police brutality that have seen dozens of suspects being killed or tortured in detention.

Ms Ramahlele narrated to our sister paper, the Sunday Express last weekend that her son had been told by the police officers at Thetsane Police Station that they intended to torture him when she visited him while he was in custody. His son had also begged her to secure a lawyer for him but she had failed.

She said she was subsequently denied access to him when she tried to visit him again.  On 4 September 2021, she was told by one police officer that her son had been taken to Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital. On arrival, she failed to find him in any of the wards but was later told by a receptionist that her son was in fact in the mortuary.

This week, the family said it was now making funeral and burial arrangements but the tension is palpable at his mother’s Qoaling home. Emotions are also running high with the family concerned that they are yet to hear a single word from the government.

Even his wife, ‘Mareitumetse Sekonyela, is also failing to come to terms with her loss. At 25, she is now a widow. She must now fend for her two-year-old daughter without the support of the love of her life.

As if the brutal killing itself is not enough, she is now being taken from pillar to post as she tries to access financial assistance from her husband’s employer. Since their marriage was customary, there is no marriage certificate on which she can stake a claim. For her to access any money, she must get letters from her village chief in Thaba Tseka, to prove that her husband had paid the pride price, another from her in-laws and another from the Qoaling chief, ‘Mataelo Matsoso.

She will then take her letters to the Thaba Bosiu principal chief, Khoabane Theko, to authenticate all these other letters. Chief Theko would then give her another letter to take to the district administrator (DA) in Maseru. It is only then that the DA can certify her as the rightful heir and therefore eligible to receive the proceeds from the employer.

Before fulfilling that bureaucratic process, she cannot bury her husband.

To add insult to injury, Ms Sekonyela’s employer in the Thetsane apparel factories also fired her yesterday for absenteeism.

“We are going to do all we can to get justice, we are not going to tire until justice has been served,” Ms Sekonyela said yesterday.

Ms Ramahlele this week said she was still confused by the manner in which her son died.

“According to the doctor’s report the deceased’s ribs were broken and one of his legs was broken many times,” Ms Ramahlele said.

“He had bruises from the neck downwards and he was also strangled. He suffered severe internal bleeding. Apparently, he was beaten using an iron rod.”

Ms Ramahlele said even if her son had — by some miracle survived the torture — he would have been paralysed. And she is wondering how it is that none of the police officers heard his cries for help.

“Given how much he was beaten, it is obvious that he cried for help. How then is it that no one herd his cries pleading for the beating to stop? They are all heartless and they deserve life sentences in jail. All that I want is justice for my son,” Ms Ramahlele said.

“We are definitely going to sue the police for the murder.”

Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu this week said investigations into the killing were already underway. He expressed regret at the manner in which Mr Sekonyela was killed but said the government would get to the bottom of the matter.

“We are aware of the sorry death of Mr Sekonyela and police are already investigating it. They are not just investigating his death but even those of many others who have died (in police custody) before him. This is a sad situation that is taking too long to be addressed. However, we are going to get to the bottom of it and everyone who has a case to answer shall be taken to task,” Mr Mokhothu said.

Arrangements were also underway to visit the bereaved family, he said.

“We are deeply sorry about this death and do convey our sincere condolences to the bereaved family. We are also working on arrangements to go and meet them,” he said.

Police and Public Safety Minister, Lepota Sekola, condemned the killing.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the killing. The public must know that this is not how the police is expected to operate. I am going to get to the bottom of these killings and investigations have already started. No one has a right to kill suspects,” Mr Sekola said.

On his part, national police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli also confirmed that investigations into the killing were already underway. He however, said he was not in a position to say whether or not the involved officers had already been arrested.

“Investigations have already been started but I am not sure if at all those alleged perpetrators have been arrested,” Snr Supt Mopeli said.

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