MASERU — The grisly details of how 25-year-old Lebohang Pitso of Qacha’s Nek harvested body parts from two elderly women makes one’s hairs to stand on end.
Pitso murdered his victims before removing some of their organs. While he buried some of the parts, he was found in possession of others.
He briefly appeared before the Qacha’s Nek Magistrate Court for murdering and harvesting body parts of an 85-year-old woman. Her nine-year-old grandson was also murdered.
The woman’s body was found without part of her facial skin and the scalp.
He is also accused of killing an 87-year-old woman.
The woman was found without her head and arm.
“Pitso took police to Carletonville is South Africa where he had hidden the facial skin of the 85-year-old woman. The man had hidden the parts in a shack he was renting,” says police spokesperson, Inspector Thato Ramarikhoane.
“One of the residents recognised him asking why is being chased by police. He was asked to join in so that he can witness when he reveals the parts,” Ramarikhoane says.
In that room police also found a knife that is suspected to have been used during the murder.
Pitso appeared in Qacha’s Nek magistrate court on Monday. He was remanded in custody and he will appear again on October 28.
Assistant Commissioner of Police, Masupha Masupha says they are concerned about the hiking ritual murder cases.
Masupha says this year alone about eight cases of ritual murder have been reported. Five people have been arrested in connection with some of the cases. Four are awaiting trial in custody.
“The ritual murders were common in the past. There were lots of cases in the past 25 years. This year only we have had eight ritual murder cases reported,” Masupha says.
The incidents occurred in Butha-Buthe, Berea, Mapoteng and Qacha’s Nek.
It is suspected that killers take body parts to their “traditional doctors” to be used as some powerful muti.
He however says the local traditional healers condemn the ritual murderers because they say in their muti they never use human parts.
He adds that traditional healers have released a report confirming that they never use human body parts in their muti.
“What we have established is that they target people who stay alone. We encourage people to have neighbourhood watch committees,” he says.
Incidents of ritual killings shook people last year when two young males were murdered in what was believed to be cases of ritual murders in Koalabata.
In January 2012 Moholobela Seetsa, then 13 years old was murdered and his body parts were found in a donga near the village.
Hardly six months later, 20-year-old Kamohelo Mohata’s mutilated body was found in a car belonging to Lehlohonolo Scott.
Scott and his mother, ‘Melehlohonolo, were arrested and are facing charges of ritual murder.
Scott escaped prison while his mother was later released on bail awaiting trial.
In another incident in Mapoteng a man’s body was found without the genitals.
In May a human skull was found in Butha-Buthe. Police believe it is a case of ritual murder.
The Ficksburg High Court is still indicting six men for the murders of two Lesotho women for ritual purposes.
The dismembered body of the late Malintle Qothela, of Peka in Lesotho, was discovered during a maize harvest in August in 2011.
In March 2012 a team of investigators exhumed the second body of Alice Nthati Mothokho at the Meqheleng cemetery. Her eyes had been gouged out, while her tongue, genitals, armpits and nails had been ripped out.
Reverend Monaheng Sekese says ritual killings are perpetrated by people’s greed and love for money.
Sekese says people who commit ritual murder are of the belief that they will gain supernatural powers and therefore be rich.
He says other perpetrators are influenced by beliefs that human body parts will give some powers.
“People who worship Satan are made to believe that if they kill people and get certain body parts they will gain some powers,” Sekese says.
He adds that a lot of people are hungry for wealth and would do anything dirty that they believe will help them.
“People have love for money. The Bible is not against people working hard and therefore reaping the fruit of their toil. But the Word of God is against people who engage in evil practices to gain wealth,” he says.
He says young people were seen to be more easily drawn into the practices.
“We have a huge problem of young people, most of whom go to middle class schools, who abuse substances. They are easily lured into the ill-practices when they are high on drugs. It is associated with being “cool.”
Malefetsane Liau, chairperson of the Council of Traditional Healers, says the ritual murders are associated with satanic beliefs.
“We as Basotho traditional healers do not use human parts as part of our muti. People who practice ritual killings are devil worshippers,” Liau says.
“If a traditional healer is caught practicing ritual killings he should be charged and we will withdraw his membership from our council,” he said.
He said practices are common with foreign doctors.
Medicine Murder in Colonial Lesotho: The Anatomy of a Moral Crisis, a book by Colin Murray narrates the history medicine murder in Lesotho how human body parts were believed to give people power.
“Medicine murder involved the cutting of body parts from victims, usually while they were still alive. These parts were then used in medicines intended to enhance the power of the murderers,” says a small summary of the book.
A startling increase in cases of medicine murder apparently took place in Basutoland (now Lesotho), in the late 1940s and the early 1950s, the summary says.
So the question is: Are we back to the 1940s and ‘50s? If so why?