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Minister slams violence

by Lesotho Times

MASERU — Sports Minister ‘Mathabiso Lepono has condemned the violence that erupted during the Vodacom Premier League match between Matlama and Lioli and prematurely ended the encounter last Sunday.
One person was shot and wounded while several other spectators were injured in the commotion that ensued soon after Lehlohonolo Mokhele had scored 13 minutes from time to give Matlama a 3-0 lead.
The person who fired the gunshots is yet to be identified and no arrests have been made in connection with the violence, according to police spokesperson Masupha Masupha.
Pitso Ground was briefly turned into a mini-war zone as missiles — mainly beer bottles — flew between the fans of the rival teams.
The sports minister has slammed the culprits who caused the mayhem.
“I condemn the actions of those people who caused violence when others had gone to the ground to enjoy a game of football,” Lepono told the Lesotho Times on Monday.
Trouble started soon after Mokhele scored in the 77th minute to put his side 3-0 up against the defending champions.
As Matlama players and fans celebrated the goal on the nearside southern corner flag, all hell broke loose on the opposite side.
It is not clear who started the violence but there was mayhem after three gun shots were fired and spectators scurried for cover.
Tšepe Tšepe, a Lioli fan, was shot in the jaw and had to have his mouth wired.
He was discharged from Queen Elizabeth II Hospital on Monday
“I was running away when I was shot in the jaw,” Tšepe told the Lesotho Times.
“It all happened so fast. It’s hard to say which started first — the shooting or the bottle throwing.”
The start of the game had been delayed by 15 minutes by referee Mohau Sentšo because of the huge numbers of people who were still jostling to gain entrance into the ground through the sole entry point.
Even after the match kicked off at 3:15pm, people were still making their way into the ground and at half-time the gates were opened for fans to enter free of charge after tickets ran out.
Security at the stadium was apparently inadequate, with less than 15 police officers for a crowd estimated to be over 1 000.
The turnout was arguably the largest seen for a local match in recent years.
There are conflicting reports as to what sparked Sunday’s violence.
Some say it was Matlama fans who taunted Lioli fans and poured beer on them after Mokhele’s goal.
Others say it was Lioli fans, hurt by the third goal, who attacked their Matlama rivals and caused the fracas.
But many people suspect spectators who were outside the ground, peeping from the nearby taxi rank on the north side, were to blame. 
Pitso Ground has no wall around it.
It is surrounded by a makeshift wall of corrugated iron sheets which is at most two metres high and allows people to steal a look from outside.
By the time the violence subsided, a section of the makeshift wall had been ripped apart.
“When the goal was scored some people who were outside the walls of the stadium began throwing bottles,” a fan who was at the north stand of the ground said on Sunday.
“That is when Matlama fans thought they were being attacked by Lioli fans and retaliated.”
The fans of the two teams were only separated by a rope and although the mood was sporting before the fracas there were no plans in place for the worst.
The violence spilled onto the nearby streets as stones and bottles flew between Lioli and Matlama fans.
Lepono said measures should be taken to avoid such incidents in the future.
“It is bad because it will stop people from going to football matches,” she said.

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