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Another gruesome killing rocks Lesotho

  • cold-bloodied killers dismember woman’s body which is discovered by herdboys

Marafaele Mohloboli

LESOTHO has been rocked by yet another violent and gruesome killing of a woman. This time the unknown killers murdered and dismembered the body of the unidentified woman in Kholokoe, Leribe.

The gruesome murder is the latest in a long series of violence and killings of Basotho, particularly women and children, which have now catapulted Lesotho to the dubious distinction of being among the top ten countries with the highest levels of homicides in the world. With a grossly incompetent police force and generally anemic criminal justice system, perpetrators of the gruesome killings continue to enjoy a free reign to commit murders without being held accountable.

Where they have been apprehended, the courts have not moved fast to mete out justice, partly due to an equally incompetent prosecution service and lethargic judges. The apparent laxity of the entire criminal justice system continues to embolden criminals as evidenced by the latest gruesome Leribe murder.

According to the United Nations Global Study on Homicide, Lesotho now ranks high alongside countries like El Salvador, Honduras, Jamaica, Venezuela with high homicide rates. What makes it all shameful for Lesotho is that some of its counterpart countries in high crime rates are run by organised criminal drug lords instead of civilised governments.

Police spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli said they had begun investigations of the latest gruesome killing after shocked herd boys on Wednesday discovered a woman’s leg that appeared to have been freshly severed from the rest of her body.

“The herders made the gruesome discovery of a freshly amputated woman’s left leg hanging from a pyracantha shrub near the Khomokhoana River in Leribe,” Supt Mopeli said.

“The discovery led our investigators into a further search of the area for more body parts the following day.

“Our team of investigators started out early on Thursday morning and they found two arms that had been severed from the collarbone. They also discovered the other leg and a thigh that had also been severed from the rest of the body. The rest of the body parts, including the head, have still not been found.

“The leg, whose owner has still not been identified, has a rose tattoo embedded on it. This is the only mark that can help us make a breakthrough in investigating the case because we have not received any report of a missing person. Even the area chief (Mopeli Mopeli) has not received a report.

“The fact that no missing report has been filed makes this even more complicated. It is possible that the woman was murdered somewhere else and her body parts were dumped in that place.

“As it is, we can’t even say whether this is just another random barbaric killing of a vulnerable woman or a ritual murder,” said Supt Mopeli said.

Chief Mopeli yesterday spoke of his community’s shock at the gruesome find.

“It is highly likely that the woman was murdered somewhere else and the body parts were discarded in my area.  I say this because there were no blood stains where the body parts were discovered. There was nothing to suggest that there had been any scuffle or fight before the victim was killed.

“However, the herd boys said prior to their shocking discovery, they had seen a vehicle parked next to the river bridge. They said they saw some people disembark and head in the direction where they later discovered the woman’s leg,” Chief Mopeli told the Sunday Express yesterday.

He described the murder as “one of the cruellest killings I have ever seen”.

“Back in 2012, a man in his 60s was killed in the same fashion and to date his murderers are still living as they please and enjoying their freedom.

“That old man’s body was buried without arms and his family still hasn’t found closure.

“I don’t know why such things are happening in my area. It feels like I have failed to protect my people. People are being killed like animals without any regard for the sanctity of human lives.

“My people and I are just praying for a sign to help solve these murders. It pains me to think that that one of us could be behind these barbaric killings.”

He said what made the latest killing even more devastating and traumatic for his people is that the deceased woman’s leg was discovered by very young boys.

“It was such a gory sight, seeing body parts strewn all over the place like that. What saddens me most is that the small boys discovered the body parts. They are way too young to have seen such and they are traumatised. We all are traumatised,” said Chief Mopeli in a voice choking with emotion.

The gruesome murder is the latest in the long series of violence and killings of women and children which continue to have a debilitating effect on Lesotho and is scaring away investors.

Last month a female student at Lerotholi Polytechnic, Manyai Theoha, was gang-raped and murdered in Thabong, Maseru.

Enraged by the horrific incident, the villagers took the law into their own hands the next day and killed two of the men suspected of raping and murdering the student.

Before that in July 2019, five women were gunned down in the middle of the night by unknown gunmen at Rothe, Maseru. It was reported that the gunmen moved from house-to-house, mowing down all they met in the night. By the following morning, at least five women had been shot dead, with another woman sustaining serious injuries.

The police said they had launched a manhunt for the gunmen but no arrests have been made to date.

In May 2018, a 35-year-old Roman Catholic priest allegedly gunned down a nun at the Maryland Mission in Leribe.

Sources said this could have been a crime of passion as the two were in a romantic relationship despite the Catholic church’s celibacy stipulations.

The sources said the nun, also aged 35, was shot dead allegedly because the priest could not stomach her attempts to end what was said to be an abusive relationship. In a clear illustration of the incompetence and hopelessness of Lesotho’s criminal justice system, the case has not been successfully prosecuted despite that it was a straight forward criminal act which did not require elaborate investigations.

Before that in January 2018, the Ntširele community in Khubetsoana, Maseru were shocked by the brutal murder of prominent businesswoman ‘Mathabang Radiile (53), allegedly by her live-in partner, Lebohang Nkuebe (41).

Ms Radiile’s four-month-old grand-daughter was seriously injured after being sprayed with acid in one of the most gruesome cases of women and child abuse in Lesotho.

Lebohang Nkuebe subsequently appeared in court over the murder and the case was abandoned by the police despite that he had confessed to the gruesome act. In fact, the only contribution by the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) was to dispatch one of their corrupt detail, one Kubutu Kubutu, to rush and facilitate bail for Nkuebe. This was done without any consultations with the family of the victim.  Kubutu, who was the investigating officer, appear to have disappeared the docket. He never even attended the crime scene nor interviewed any witnesses.

Appeals by the family to Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli about the behaviour of Kubutu fell on deaf ears.  Such is the extent of the ineptness and hopelessness of the police under Molibeli and the general anaemic nature of the criminal justice system that even a prominent businessman like   Tšeliso Nthane could shoot his employee in broad daylight in January 2019 and a year later there is still no movement on the court case.

It is against this background that the Sunday Express understands that concerned citizens will soon launch an organized campaign to implore Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro to replace Molibeli as police commissioner as well as implement serious measures to reform the criminal justice system.  Successful prosecutions generally begin with robust investigations of crimes. But the LMPS under its current command is now widely seen as incompetent and unfit for purpose.

In some of the gruesome murders, the perpetrators are known but are instead helped to evade justice by either corrupt and incompetent police officers.

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