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The funeral of four Qeme villagers gunned down by unknown assailants last month ended in high drama yesterday after All Basotho Convention (ABC) supporters ran away with their coffins to deny government officials the chance to address the mourners.
The funeral of Tšukulu Ramabusa, Tumello Kobile, Palo Kobile and Lebese Molemela was at the village’s football pitch and drew an estimated crowd of 3000 mostly ABC supporters clad in party regalia.
After family members, traditional leaders, and the leadership of the ABC, Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) had addressed the mourners, the funeral degenerated into chaos as the ABC supporters snatched the coffins and ran with them to the cemetery before Police Minister Monyane Moleleki and other ministers present could address the gathering.
The crowd started booing, singing and hurling profanities as Mr Moleleki walked towards the podium to address the gathering. But before he could even utter a word, the ABC supporters whisked away the coffins, much to the shock of the grieving family members.
Before this shocking event, the ABC, BNP and RCL leaders who spoke at the funeral had taken turns to blame the seven-party government for the deaths of the Qeme villagers who were brutally shot while drinking at a public bar situated along the Main South 1 Road in Qeme, Ha Mantsebo, on 14 February at around 9 pm.
ABC leader Thomas Thabane, who addressed the mourners from exile in South Africa via cellphone, was the most critical of the government and it was after his condemnation that the crowd went wild.
Dr Thabane told the crowd: “MaKobo-tata (ABC members), I don’t know what surprises you from these incidents that are taking place these days, because this government is a cruel government. It is a government run by cruel people who also believe that they can govern people by making threats against them and those who are unmoved by the threats, they are murdered.
“I hear that the government is attending the burial ceremony there in Qeme, with their ministers, Malebo, Moleleki and Mokhosi (Minister of Justice Moeketse Malebo, Police Minister Monyane Moleleki and Defence and National Security Tšeliso Mokhosi). I beg them to go away; they should leave those members of the ABC.
“Malebo, Moleleki and Mokhosi, go away, go to your father Mosisili (Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili). You kill people with your agents and then you bring your hypocrisy to that funeral. I heard that you have also contributed some money there. If there is a family member who was given money just give it to that person and not to that family of our ABC cadres.”
The ABC leader, who fled to South Africa in May last year saying he feared for his life, also accused government of trying to destroy his party.
“I know you want to reduce our numbers, but you won’t succeed, gentleman. You will not be successful in reducing our numbers, do you hear me? What you’re doing will increase our numbers. When you uproot a maize plant, the remaining plants will grow very tall.
“ABC followers, you should accept that your battle is serious and you will win your battle because it is God’s fight. Your ABC battle is based on Basotho’s belief in Christianity and you will overcome”.
Dr Thabane also said the deaths were a reminder that “our war has not yet ended”.
“I end my statement by saying this hypocrisy of giving the bereaved families’ cows and other things are just acts and thoughts of people who kill our people with hunger and when these people are dead, they bring them cows to eat at your funeral.
“Those ministers are killing Basotho with hunger, lack of peace and lawlessness and when people are dead, they bring cows.
“To the families of the bereaved, as Motsoahae Thabane, a Mosotho man, a father and a family man who is also a leader of one of Africa’s biggest political parties, I pass my condolences to the families. The true condolences would come from no one but God,” said Dr Thabane.
However, when it was time for the government to pass its condolences, all hell broke loose.
Minister Moleleki, who spoke to the Sunday Express after the incident, accused the opposition of politicising the funeral.
“As government, we tried our best and I personally came here on two occasions and visited the bereaved families,” Mr Moleleki said.
“Today we had come to bury their deceased children in a respectful manner but it is clear, taking what just transpired, they have not been given a respectful burial.
“Their burial has been politicised, but as time goes on, the history of Lesotho will be clear.
“Some of the issues that I already know will be revealed to the public one day. It’s unfortunate that people’s deaths have been politicised.
“I also said it in parliament that it is unfortunate that these deaths have been politicised as I talked to the families of the deceased who told me that they do not suspect the deaths to be linked to any political issues.
“I believe at the end, it will be clear whether politics were involved or not when investigations are made. Time is a very good judge of things.”
Mr Moleleki also condemned Dr Thabane’s address.
“Ntate Thabane’s statement shows what calibre of a leader he is. You cannot make a judgement and a decision on the spot, at a time people are attending a funeral to pass their condolences and chase them away,” he said.
“What happens when it comes to light that these people were not the ones who killed them? Will you go to a radio station and apologise publicly or what?
“There is also an old man who said here that this government is satanic and I was also going to take the stand to admonish him for saying such despicable things.
“I was going to tell him, that I, Monyane Moleleki, was the first person to be an Official Leader of the Opposition in Lesotho. And it was during Ntate Thabane’s administration, but even though I could have been angered by anything that was happening then, I never said the government of Lesotho belonged to Satan.
“Maybe the manner in which they left somehow helped him because I was going to reprimand him openly. To say such a thing to a Christian… I don’t think there can ever be a worse insult than that one.”
Mr Moleleki also said he was going to respond to attacks by BNP spokesperson, Machesetsa Mofomobe. Mr Mofomobe was highly critical of government officials’ presence at the burial.
“I would also like to respond to statements by Mr Machesetsa Mofomobe who said four people were shot at the bus stop area and others were also shot elsewhere and the people did not see us attending these funerals in this fashion.
“I was going to respond to his statements by saying that we are here because we came to clear the name of the government.
“It was clear that those deaths were caused by thugs. However, here it was claimed that the deaths were caused by politics and we came here to clear our name as government.
“What he and other members of the opposition has said is not true and we repeat that time will tell,” said Moleleki.
On the question of any arrest being made regarding the killings, Mr Moleleki said: “No arrests have been made so far but we are on the right track”.