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A widow’s tears for a husband who never said goodbye

  • Senseless Zama-Zama killing of ex-policeman stains the national conscience

Marafaele Mohloboli

THERE is never a good and easy way to find about the death of a loved one, particularly a spouse you had last seen a few hours previously, laughing and radiant in the full bloom of love and life.

For a Ha-Mantšebo, Maseru woman, ’Maretšelisitsoe Moshoeshoe, the night of Sunday 29 September 2019 will forever be etched on her mind as the day she lost her husband, ex-policeman, Makoae Moshoeshoe, to yet another senseless Zama-Zama revenge killing.

He was buried yesterday in Qeme, Ha-Peter with various former colleagues taking turns to laud him as “a God-fearing man who always stood for the truth”.

Police Senior Inspector, Lehlohonolo Moreki, described the deceased as “a giant whose deeds shall forever be remembered”.

His sentiments were echoed by retired policewoman, ’Masebina Ramone, who said the late Mr Moshoeshoe diligently executed his duties and “he was a book worth reading for everyone as he was a man of truth”.

Even Assistant Commissioner of Police, Mahapela Leoke, was at loss for words saying Mr Moshoeshoe’s brutal killing had left him with “so many unanswered questions”.

Assistant Commissioner Leoke said Mr Moshoeshoe had been killed like a dog and his death had not attracted widespread media and political attention because he was a police officer and not a civilian.

“If only a police officer had killed a civilian the media would have reported about it extensively and politicians would be busy talking of police brutality. But no one cares because civilians killed a police officer. This is the plight of police officers. Moshoeshoe is irreplaceable, I attained my position because he served under me and made me a proud supervisor.

“There are men out there who are busy cutting short other people’s lives including lives of police officers and this means that I am not as effective as I should be. It means that there is something that I am not doing right. It means that the nation is not protected. I therefore appeal to the perpetrators to hand themselves over to the police or we are going to hunt them down,” Assistant Commissioner Leoke said.

But all the fine words and promises to hunt down the cold-blooded killers can only be cold comfort to Mr Moshoeshoe’s widow who cut a desolate figure at yesterday’s funeral. It has been said that wedlock can be a padlock which imprisons so many people. But in Moshoeshoes’ case, it was more than two decades of wedded bliss and nothing can be done now to give Ms Moshoeshoe back her husband.

Days before the funeral, the Sunday Express visited the Moshoeshoe home and found a widow still struggling to come to terms with the loss of her husband.

“I don’t know where to start except to say I am now a widow,” Ms Moshoeshoe said as she struggled to hold back the tears.

“I called him Mosh and he was the love of my life. Twenty-three years of marriage ended on that Sunday in a hail of bullets. The autopsy revealed that my husband took seven bullets. Four went straight to the heart and three to the head and this means he would not have survived at all and yet the bullets were not even supposed to be for my husband.

“My husband was killed by some unknown gunman who was after two men working in the illegal mines in South Africa known as the Zama-Zama. The two men had thumbed a lift from my husband’s friend’s car as they left for another of our bars. The two asked for and were given a lift. It’s painful that he got caught up in the crossfire and died from that.”

As if they had a premonition of what lay ahead, the loving couple had spent most of the day together, giggling like teenagers who had only discovered the joys of a romantic relationship.

Were it not for the fact that the now deceased Mr Moshoeshoe had to go and lock up their bar after the day’s business, the couple would not have separated that day and probably he would still be alive.

“For some weird reason, we spent the whole day together at one of our bars. He didn’t leave until very late to close the other bar. He even left me with our car so that I could easily get home and assured me that he would make a plan to also get home safely.”

Little did she know that when her husband boarded his friend’s car that would be the last time she would see him alive. Later that night she would see his bullet-riddled and bloodied body was in a body bag.

“I got a call telling me to rush to Scott Hospital (in Morija) as my husband had encountered a problem. I immediately drove there not knowing what awaited me.

“Upon arrival the first thing that caught my attention was the grisly sight of a blood-drenched man perched on a hospital trolley. He was being attended to and nearby there was another covered body – an indication that someone had died but my husband was nowhere in sight.

“I asked for ‘Mosh’ but none of the hospital authorities were willing to inform me of his whereabouts. Eventually a nurse came over and asked how I was related to Makoae Moshoeshoe.

“I replied by saying he was my husband and the nurse then asked about his age. At this point the questions were irritating me and I sensed that something had gone terribly wrong. I couldn’t even remember how old my husband was but I told them the year he was born on and they did their own calculations.

“Thereafter, the nurse pointed out to the man on the trolley and the covered body near him and said the man being attended to had been lucky to survive a gruesome shooting. ‘Your husband and another man did not make it,’ the nurse said to me and immediately a cold numbing sensation engulfed my entire body. I held my nerve, hoping he would say it was some mistake and my husband was alive and well.

“I wanted to think of it as a sick joke but the nurse was not in a jocular mood. He (the nurse) asked if I wanted to see my husband’s body but I refused. It defeated all logic and I just couldn’t get it. I only wanted to go home to my kids and I left for the car where I was stopped by someone who offered to drive me home.

“Life has never been this lonely and this was the first time that I was ever apart from my husband. All the years he was a police officer, I always moved with him whenever he was transferred to any district.”

Ms Moshoeshoe’s husband, Makoae Moshoeshoe, was 46 at the time he met his gruesome death. He had just retired from the police force and he was gunned down together with two other men who were also in the vehicle.

He and another died while the owner of the car and his friend who was driving escaped unharmed, leaving another man fighting for his life in hospital.

According to his widow, the bullets that ended her husband’s life should have been for the two men who were given a lift along with him. She said the two men were targeted by the killers as part of the wars fought by illegal Basotho miners who operate in South Africa. Known as the Zama-Zama, the illegal miners often fight with fellow illegal miners from other countries and among themselves for whatever gold and other minerals they extract from their illicit activities.  The killings often extend into Lesotho and target families as retribution.

Ms Moshoeshoe said the two men knew they were being hunted and probably felt safe around her husband because he had a reputation as a good policeman who was against crime.

“I can’t imagine how life is going to be without him. The only comfort I have is that my husband died trying to do good by protecting lives. The two guys who were shot knew that there were people who were hunting them but they had not told my husband about this. I get the sense that they stayed by his side because they felt safe and protected,” stated Ms Moshoeshoe.

When the burial is done this weekend and after the mourners leave, the widowed primary school teacher will have to face the future without her husband. She will however, draw some comfort from their daughter and son.

For Lesotho, the killing of Mr Moshoeshoe is yet another stain to the collective national conscience as the list of senseless and unresolved murders continues to rise.

As with many other such cases, police spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli said there were “no arrests yet and investigations are ongoing”.

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