MASERU — For attempting to stop a fight between villagers and a suspected cattle thief, Trooper Patrick Lekhanya, paid with his life.
Lekhanya, 44, was brutally killed when villagers, angered by the arrest of one of their own, turned against the police officer.
They stoned the police officer until he died on 4 July 2002.
On Thursday, 16 men from Ha-Maboka Sehlabathebe in Qacha’s Nek appeared in the High Court charged with the murder of Lekhanya seven years ago.
They are also facing two other charges of murder.
Chief Makhabane Makhaola, 49, told the High Court that three men arrived at his homestead claiming that they were being attacked by one of the suspects referred in the court as Edward.
The three, who were part of a village neighbourhood watch committee, alleged that the suspect was refusing to be arrested.
Makhaola said another accused, Maboloka Thoola, then attacked the police officer.
Lekhanya fell to the ground but Thoola and several other suspects continued to attack him with stones and sticks, the chief testified.
He said the suspects continued to stone Lekhanya until he died.
“People were afraid to come close as there was a huge fight. After killing the police officer they went to their different places.
“Others were wearing balaclavas and I couldn’t identify them. I could also not see who were actually throwing stones because they were between 30 to 40 people.
“I tried to look for other people to come and help me to bring the attackers under control but there was none,” Makhaola said.
He said the police later came and picked up Lekhanya’s body and took it to the mortuary.
“Police from Paulosi Police Station came and carried away the deceased. I know these people because they are my subjects.
“It happened that they overpowered a policeman who was armed,” he said.
Makhaola said he did not manage to identify some of the attackers because they were wearing balaclavas.
“Other attackers were wearing balaclavas and I couldn’t identify them,” he said.
Makhaola said he could not tell who exactly was throwing stones at the police officer.
“The villagers were afraid to come and watched from a distance because they did not want to get involved. But they came after Lekhanya had died,” he said.
“They used stones and sticks. I had known that the dispute between Mathata and Thoola over the stolen animals had simmered over for two months.”
Those who are accused of Lekhanya’s murder are Maboloka Thoola, Sekoai Moeletsi, Thuso Moretli, Malefetsane Mothibeli, Chongolezwa Mqolocha, Letlala Letlala, Lethusang Lelaka, Moeketsi Mohapi, Motebang Ramoholi, Motsie Mothibeli, Sidwell Mamphele, Tello Mokhesi, Tankiso Leseme, Liphapang Tlali, Motlatsi Ramoholi and Motlatsi Mothibeli.
They are all being represented by a team of lawyers comprising of Advocates Ts´okolo Habasisa, Mokete Seleke and Sepiriti. The crown counsel team is made up of Tsibiso Fuma and Tlali Tlali.
The case is before Ts´eliso Monaphathi and continues on Tuesday.