THE burial of four people shot and killed by unknown assailants in Qeme last month ended in dramatic fashion yesterday as opposition supporters carried off their coffins during Police Minister Monyane Moleleki’s address.
Tšukulu Ramabusa, Tumello Kobile, Pali Kobile and Lebese Molemela were gunned down on 14 February 2016 in a bar located at Ha Mantšebo bus-stop in Qeme. The gunmen stormed the bar and opened fire, killing two people on the spot and injuring eight others. Mr Molemela died on the way to the hospital, while Mr Ramabusa died a day later.
The other six are still in a critical condition at Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital.
The police had said the motive for the shooting was still unknown, while the All Basotho Convention (ABC) claimed that all the victims were its supporters coming from a party rally in Qeme.
The burial ceremony was held in Ha Mantšebo and thronged by thousands of mourners who included family members, friends, opposition supporters and government officials among others.
Addressing the crowd, a representative of the deceased men’s families, Chalatse Kobile, said Mr Moleleki held the answer to the question of whether the shooting was politically motivated.
“There are some people who are asking if these children’s killings were politically motivated. Even though they are asking the right question, they are asking the wrong people and at the wrong platforms,” he said.
“Mr Mokola (as Moleleki is referred to in political circles) is the one who can give us answers because of his position as Police minister.
“He is in a position to give us statistics on the causes of shootings. He should also tell us why many others have also been killed.”
Mr Kobile also said it was “worrisome” that the police had, over the years, failed to bring culprits to book even in straightforward cases.
“For instance, I was shot 10 years ago, and to date the police have not done anything to ensure the suspects are prosecuted,” he said.
Ha Mantšebo Chief, Thaabe Letsie, chipped in saying it was the responsibility of law enforcement agencies to ensure perpetrators face justice.
“Intelligence agencies are part of government structures, and it is their duty to keep abreast of the happenings in this country. If they are not playing that role, then the government should rectify that anomaly,” Chief Letsie said.
“If all else fails, the Criminal Investigation Department and the army should come in to ensure the suspects are identified and arrested. After all, justice delayed is justice denied.”
He, however, commended the army for informing him ahead of time of their presence ahead of yesterday’s proceedings.
“Yesterday, members of the army came to my place to inform me of their presence ahead of this burial and I am glad they followed procedures by informing the chief of their intended stay,” said Chief Letsie.
However, the opposition supporters, who constituted the bulk of the crowd, made their presence felt by booing government representatives at every opportunity.
The jeering intensified as Mr Moleleki was given an opportunity to address the gathering. Before the minister could make his remarks, the opposition supporters ordered the public address system operator to switch off the microphones so that Mr Moleleki would not be audible.
However, after the public address system operator ignored their demands, the opposition supporters abruptly whisked off the four coffins to the cemetery which was 30 metres away from the football ground where the joint burial ceremony was being held.
Following the opposition’s stunt, Mr Moleleki was left with no choice but to return to his seat in the marquee reserved for government officials.
At the burial site, the opposition supporters left the families of the deceased to continue with proceedings, while the government officials remained in their tent.
Mr Kobile told the Sunday Express on the sidelines of the ceremony that they had no control over the opposition supporters’ behaviour.
“We didn’t ask them to do what they did, and there is no way we could have known that was their plan,” Mr Kobile said.
“I am sure even their members of parliament didn’t know they were going to behave this way. I don’t think they could have allowed them to do so.
“Maybe Moleleki is in a position to know why this happened. Maybe he is the cause of this, I just don’t know.”
Mr Moleleki also told this paper that it was “unfortunate” that the burial ceremony became politicised.
“We tried, as the government, to ensure the four were given a befitting send-off. We even met with the bereaved families twice. So it is very unfortunate that the four were not afforded a befitting send-off as this ceremony was highly politicised,” he said.
“Time will be the best judge on these allegations that the shooting was politically-motivated. This was just a political show by the opposition.”
The minister said no arrests had been made in the case, but stressed that investigations were at an “advanced stage”.