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Cold-bloodied killers shoot Qoaling woman dead

  • defenseless woman gunned down in front of her 5-year-old child

Tšoloane Mohlomi

A WOMAN has been shot and killed in Maseru’s Qoaling suburb. According to neighbours and police reports, the woman, whose name and age were not given, was shot dead by unknown assailants shortly before midnight last Saturday.

She was gunned down in front of her five-year-old daughter. Although the child was unharmed, the gruesome murder of her mother will probably haunt her for the rest of her life.

Qoaling is notorious for its high crime statistics, a fact that Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli lamented and promised to address way back in September 2020.

At the time, Commissioner Molibeli even promised to set up a police station and increase the police presence as part of efforts to combat crimes in the area. The police station has since been set up but as the cold-blooded murder of the defenceless woman shows, the law enforcement authorities are still a long way from stemming the killings and other crimes in Qoaling.

If anything, the killings are escalating and the woman’s murder in Qoaling is merely a microcosm of a much wider national problem of homicides that have catapulted Lesotho to the unenviable position of Africa’s murder capital and sixth overall in the World Population Review rankings for the most murderous countries in 2021.

The law enforcement agencies have proved incompetent in dealing with murders and other serious crimes.

In the few instances that the police have actually arrested suspects, they have been quickly granted bail and the cases have not been finalised by the understaffed and under-resourced High Court.

The body of the unnamed Qoaling woman was found in a pool of blood in her home with two gunshot wounds to the head, and several others on other parts of her body.

According to Qoaling Councillor, ‘Matšola Masenkane, the horrifying murder occurred shortly before midnight on 2 April 2022.

Ms Masenkane, who resides just a stone’s throw away from the slain woman, said she was indoors with her husband when they suddenly heard gunshots.

Shortly afterwards, her husband received a phone call pleading with them to rush to their neighbour’s house as a “terrifying incident” had just occurred.

Ms Masenkane said they were initially afraid to leave their house as the gunshots were still being heard.

When the firing eventually stopped, she said they rushed out and found a huge crowd of people already gathered at the scene.

“We received a call at about 11:55pm on Saturday, saying we should quickly rush to our neighbour’s house as there was a problem there,” Ms Masenkane said.

“Initially we were scared to go out because gunshots could still be heard. When the shots died down, we went over to the scene and found that a large crowd had already gathered and the deceased’s body was still in the house.

“According to the information we received, the culprits arrived at the now deceased’s residence sometime between 10 and 11pm. They claimed that they were holding the now deceased woman’s husband in captivity. They demanded entry into her home but she refused to open the door for them.

“The gunmen then started shooting at the door. The woman was with her two children and their friend in the house at the time. One of her kids is five years old. The older child and her friend escaped through the back window and reported to neighbours. The woman remained with her younger daughter who emerged unharmed from the shooting. After the gunmen had fled the scene, the child recounted the shooting to other neighbours who went over and discovered the now deceased woman’s body lying in a pool of her own blood,” Ms Masenkane said.

She said the police arrived at about 1am after midnight and took the corpse.

Upon learning about the shooting incident, the Sunday Express crew visited the scene and observed what looked like five bullet holes on the victim’s door.

Police spokesperson, Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli, said the incident occurred between 10 and 11pm. He said no had been arrested in connection within the incident and investigations were ongoing. He said they had recovered nine bullet shells at the scene of the crime. The shots had been from a 9mm pistol, he said.

Ms Masenkane said the deceased woman’s husband’s whereabouts remain unknown.

She said residents feared that he could either be dead or still in the captivity of his wife’s killers. He could even be in hiding, the residents suspect.

She said murders were rampant in the area and a month ago, a village chief was found dead in his house with a gunshot wound to the head. She said they suspected that the woman’s killing could be gang-related, adding that gangs often killed family members, especially women and children, in retribution whenever they had fights amongst themselves.

She said the Manomoro gang were the most prevalent in the area.

The Manomoro gang comprises of juvenile delinquents, hardened ex-convicts and even Famo musicians.

Despite their rampant killings and other criminal activities, the police have thus far proved incapable of dealing with them. This has forced the army to step in and assume policing duties.

In April 2021, the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) was forced to step in and apprehend 74 people, mostly youths aged from 15 to 34. They were detained at Makoanyane Military Barracks for two months.

Code-named Operation Namola (intervene), the army operation was meant to capture the deviant youths who had caused residents in Maseru and its environs to live in constant fear by committing murders and other violent crimes like rape, stabbings, housebreaking and theft.

The army then organised a rehabilitation exercise which culminated in the juveniles being released and integrated back into their communities.

The LDF had intervened after the police had seemingly failed to perform their mandate of protecting the residents by arresting the criminals and having them prosecuted.

In November 2021, deputy army commander, Matela Matobakele, sharply attacked the police for failing the nation.

Major General Matobakele said “Lesotho has no police force to speak about” due to the failure to discharge effective policing work.

He said the army had been forced to assume policing duties due to the incompetence of the police. His comments did not sit well with Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro, who said he was out of line and had to apologise to Police Commissioner Molibeli. The premier has generally refrained from publicly criticising the police for its apparent failure to deal with violent crimes which have contributed in a big way to Lesotho’s dubious distinction of being one of the world’s top-ranking homicidal nations.

It remains unclear if the deputy army chief has apologised for his remarks as per Dr Majoro’s instruction. What is however clear, is that the killings are not ceasing. If anything, they appear to escalating with each passing day.

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