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. . . As rival asks police chief to intervene

Mantoetse Maama

MASERU — The Reverend Daniel Rantle, head of the Methodist Church of Lesotho, has appealed to the police chief in Maseru to intervene in his dispute against a rival faction over the use of a hall for church services.
The priest has detailed his concerns in a letter to the officer commanding Maseru Urban, Sets’ohe Sakoane.
The letter was copied to Deputy Prime Minister Lesao Lehohla and Police Commissioner Malejaka Letoane. 
The Reverend Rantle is embroiled in a bitter fight with a faction led by his predecessor the Reverend Daniel Senkhane, who was the church’s leader for 16 years before retiring in 1998.
The Reverend Rantle, who took over in 1999, claims the Reverend Senkhane’s decision to come out of retirement around 2000 to lead the church again has torn apart the denomination which commands a following of 10 000 in Lesotho.
Their latest clash is over the use of the hall at Methodist High School for church services.
Two of the Reverend Rantle’s supporters were seriously injured on January 17 after they were allegedly attacked by members of the Reverend Senkhane’s faction over the use of the school hall.
The Reverend Senkane and two of his senior followers appeared in court on Thursday facing two counts of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
Since 2000 the two factions have battled for membership and control of the church’s schools, hospitals and buildings.
The January 17 fight started when the Reverend Senkhane’s group decided to have its Sunday services at the Methodist High School hall which the Reverend Rantle’s faction claims to have been its “church” for the past five years.
Before the clash the Reverend Senkhane and his group had been holding their services at a house in Lower Thamae.
Four days after the bloody clash the representatives of the two factions met at Mabote Police Station to resolve the dispute.
After the meeting the officer-in-charge of the station, one Sebele, ruled that the Reverend Senkhane’s faction should be allowed to continue using the hall as he did not have a place to hold his services.
This decision angered the Reverend Rantle who immediately wrote a letter of complaint to Senior Superintendent Sakoane who is in charge of Maseru Urban.
The letter was copied to Lehohla in his capacity as the minister of home affairs and public safety.
In the letter, dated January 21, the Reverend Rantle complains bitterly that Sebele had ordered church members from Koalabata, Sekamaneng and Khubetsoana to stop using the hall to make way for his rival’s group.
“Sir, to us this is a very unfortunate and unconstitutional ruling which we request that it be revoked as it will continue to perpetuate conflicts,” he said in the letter, a copy of which is in the hands of the Sunday Express.
“We feel very much oppressed by police through this type of ruling.
“If the matter was handled fairly, he (Sebele) could have ruled that no church services be held in the school premises until such time that courts of law’s ruling has been secured concerning the property.” 
The Reverend Rantle said he wanted to know where Sebele got the power to “make such a ruling”.
“Do police have the right to make this kind of ruling over somebody’s property?” he wrote.
The reverend said he also wanted to know the criteria Sebele used to make the decision and whether the “ruling” was “congruent with the laws of this country”.
In an interview on Friday, the Reverend Rantle said he had told Sebele that he was going to challenge his decision.
“I called Sebele to inform him that I am going to challenge that decision because the school is the property of the church,” he said.
“Methodist Christians would want to protect their property as that group is doing things in their own way.
“Senkhane should have got permission from me to hold the church services but he is doing them behind my back.”

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