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‘Only collective response can stop famo violence’

Bongiwe Zihlangu

MASERU — Only a collective response by all Basotho can stop the violence in the famo music industry, Home Affairs Minister Lesao Lehohla has said.

Lehohla, who is the MP for Mafeteng, seen as the hotbed of the gang wars, told the Sunday Express in an exclusive interview on Friday that Basotho needed to join hands to stop the carnage.

He made the comments after the Sunday Express had asked how he as the minister responsible for the police and the MP for Mafeteng, the district that has had most of the gang related murders, was going to deal with the crisis.

“Being the home affairs minister and Mafeteng MP does not necessarily mean bringing an end to the violence lies solely on my shoulders.

“I do not deny that fact that I am the Mafeteng MP, but it can only be with the help of the public that we can manage to deal with these famo gang wars. It is an issue of collective responsibility,” said Lehohla who is also the deputy prime minister.

Lehohla said the violence is linked to the lack of education among famo artistes.

This made them weak and unable to make informed choices, Lehohla said.

But he said there is no way that he was going to push the police to bring an end to the killings without assistance from the public.

“If the main gripe among famo artists was sharing markets for their products there was no reason why they could not resolve their issues around the table”.

“There are many effective ways to resolve problems of this nature rather than resorting to violence.”

Describing as barbaric the brutal murder of popular famo musician Lephats’oe ‘Selomo’ Lebajoa on Saturday, Lehohla said it was unfortunate many people were accusing him of not doing enough to stop the famo gang wars.

Selomo, 36, was killed by a group of four unknown men at Lakeside Hotel.

He came from Matelile in Mafeteng district.

No one has been arrested in connection with the murder.

Lehohla said the onus was also on the commissioner of police to conduct an investigation into the murders to “get to the bottom of it”.

A reformed gangster, Selomo led the Fito gang which was trying to bring peace between the Seakhi and Terene warring groups.

Fighting between the two has resulted in the senseless killing of more than 100 artistes in the past two years. Most of them were from Mafeteng district.

“These deaths are an abomination. They have brought us immense shame and sadness. It is also indicative of the fact that there are some people somewhere who know something,” Lehohla said.

“There are people who know exactly what is going on and I strongly believe they are the ones who hold the key to the cause of the deaths.”

Asked about the possibility of establishing a commission of inquiry into the murders, Lehohla said when all else fails to curb the famo violence, that will be a last resort and the responsibility of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.

“If in the long run we fail to get answers to this problem, then maybe a commission of inquiry will be our last resort,” he said. 

“But that is if the prime minister sees fit because it is his responsibility to get the commission established.”

Meanwhile, the Likhoele constituency MP in Mafeteng district and Minister of Gender and Youth and Sports and Recreation, ‘Mathabiso Lepono, said she was also worried by the escalating famo gang violence “because it hampers economic growth”.

“The violence has chased away scores of investors. In 2000 there were Japanese investors who wanted to build a vocational school in my Likhoele constituency,” Lepono said.

“But they withdrew when the chief of the area at the time was brutally murdered. The killings are detrimental to Lesotho’s economy.”  

Asked if it did not make sense for the government through her ministry to censor vulgar famo lyrics as they are said to be one of the driving factors behind the bloodbath, Lepono referred this paper to the Ministry of Culture.

Tourism, environment and culture minister, ‘Mannete Ramaili could not be reached for comment on the possibility of censoring offensive lyrics, while the principal secretary in the ministry, Makalo Theko, was reported to be in Turkey on official business.

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