NATIONAL University of Lesotho (NUL) Vice-Chancellor, Nqosa Mahao says fourth-year student, Tumelo Mohlomi, was killed just hours after he pledged to ensure students would not be harmed or lose their lives during his tenure.
Prof Mahao made the revelation while addressing the NUL community and members of the deceased’s family at a memorial service at the university premises last Wednesday.
Ms Mohlomi (24), a fourth-year student from Qacha’s Nek, was shot in the back of the head and died on the spot at a popular night spot just outside the Roma-based university. The suspect, Police Constable (PC) Lefa Phihlela, who was allegedly among the police officers who had come to close the bar that evening, has since been charged with murder.
And during Ms Mohlomi’s memorial which was also used as an occasion to launch the campaign against violence at the university, Professor Mahao said he could not believe a student was shot dead less than 12 hours after he addressed the Students Representative Council (SRC) on the importance of safeguarding the lives of students.
“On the 28th April at around 12:00 hours we called members of the SRC for a meeting and I said to them I don’t want to see any Mosotho injured or losing his or her life,” Prof Mahao said.
“I am told Tumelo lost her life at around 11:35pm that fateful night. It was less than 12 hours after I had said that I didn’t want to see or learn about any Mosotho losing their life.”
He also expressed concern over the high rates of violence in the country, describing Mohlomi’s death as a national crisis.
“I was preparing to attend a funeral on Saturday (29 April 2017) of a businessman who was brutally stabbed to death at my home village, Mokema. He sustained 25 stab wounds.
“As I was preparing to go for a funeral I tuned in to PC (People’s Choice) FM radio station and heard one lady reporting that her sister was slaughtered like a goat in Koalabata.”
He said shortly afterwards, he received a WhatsApp message to his mobile phone from the SRC which said that Mohlomi had been shot dead.
“It then clicked in my mind that there was something wrong in this country,” he said, adding that it appeared violence had become the order of the day in Lesotho.
“It seems violence has become part of us as a nation. If one is not sharpening his knife to stab a fellow citizen he is preparing his gun to shoot someone.
“This includes violence in the form of rape, robbery, domestic violence, murder committed by civilians and members of the armed forces,” he said.
He said it was likely that violence had replaced diseases as the major cause of deaths in the country.
“We are told Tumelo was having drinks when a bullet penetrated the window and killed her. Was it really necessary?
“I talked to the owner of the bar and he explained to me that he was only supposed to close at 12 midnight but Tumelo was shot at 11:35pm.”
Professor Mahao said it was “strange” that in the aftermath of Ms Mohlomi’s shooting, the officer commanding Roma police station no longer called like he used to.
He said they even spoke on the day of the shooting.
“At around 4pm that day the officer commanding Roma police telephoned me and asked about the situation in the campus.
“I told him all was well. I further told him that we even had the results for a referendum on whether to resume classes or not.
“He used to call me time and again to ask about the situation at the university but what is strange about Tumelo’s death is that he has not called me since then.”
Development for Peace Education (DPE) Director Sofonea Shale, who also addressed the memorial service, said it was necessary to find peaceful mechanisms to solve problems in the nation instead of resorting to violence.
“We should always seek peace and lean towards a culture of peace.
“In the culture of violence people always believe in force, while in the culture of peace people believe in negotiations,” he said.
For her part, Ms Mohlomi’s aunt Bojoalo castigated the abuse of social media, saying she had only learnt of her niece’s death on the networks.
She said NUL students and the nation had caused the bereaved family immense pain by announcing the death on social media.
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