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Feud claims three lives

by Sunday Express
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. . . as Ha-Motloheloa neighbours’ rivalry turns deadly

’Marafaele Mohloboli

A LONG-RUNNING feud between two neighbouring families in Ha Motloheloa village in Maseru ended in tragedy in the wee hours of Friday leaving three people dead and a smouldering homestead in its wake.

According to ’Matumisang Mokoma, whose husband, Mokoma Mokoma, was killed in the melee, their feud with Sepiriti Khau started as long ago as 2001.

She said they first clashed with Mr Khau, who also sustained fatal injuries, after his donkey kicked and seriously injured the Mokoma couple’s then eight-year old son Thabang.

The donkey, Ms Mokoma said, had made an incursion into their yard and Thabang was kicked by the animal while trying to chase it away resulting in his arm being permanently damaged.

“My boy, who was then eight-years old was trying to chase the donkey out of our compound when it kicked and badly injured him,” she said.

“We then approached Ntate Khau and told him what had happened, he followed us to our home where the boy was. When he found Thabang already bandaged, Ntate Khau asked who had helped him, and my son mentioned the names of the people who had provided assistance.”

“Upon hearing the names of the people who assisted our son, Ntate Khau became agitated and said my son was aided by his enemies. He then declared that he was no longer going to take responsibility for my son’s injury.”

Ms Mokoma said she took it upon herself to nurse her son to health and to foot his healthcare costs.

“I was left with no choice but to take care of my son by myself. Thabang was admitted in hospital for over a month and we had to pay more than M1 800 in hospital bills which is a lot of money for our family since we are poor. Thabang’s arm was badly injured when he was attacked by the donkey, and he still cannot use it today.”

She said the feud seemed to have subsided until 2008 when they had another altercation.

“We came to accept what was done to our son until 2008 when another fight broke out between the two families. The altercation took place at one of the local shops where my husband worked as a security guard,” said Ms Mokoma.

Ntate Khau had claimed that Thabang was deliberately provoking him sparking a fight with my husband. The matter was reported to Mabote Police Station with the hope they would intervene, but we never received the help that we needed. Since then, it has been a case of one incident after another.”

She continued: “We went to the police so many times but didn’t get the assistance we needed. It is my belief that had the police helped us in time, the situation would not have deteriorated to such levels.”

Last November, the Mokomas narrowly escaped death as their home was set on fire by unknown assailants. However, their prime suspect in the attack was Mr Khau and his associates in the village.

“Once again, the issue was not satisfactorily addressed by the police as we expected. As a result, the assailants were never caught.”

The tiff intensified after Thabang began spreading rumours in the village that Mr Khau was behind the burning of the house. Ms Mokoma said an irate Mr Khau then threatened to kill Thabang, who retaliated by stabbing the older man.

“After the stabbing, I handed my son over to the police at Flight One Police station where he was locked up, taken to court and later released on bail after spending a few days in custody.”

While the issue was eventually resolved, the animosity between the two families increased, with both sides fearing for their safety.

“Ever since the time our house was burnt down, my husband patrolled the yard every night. He was doing his usual patrol in the early hours of Friday at around 12.50am when we heard dogs barking continuously,” narrated a still shaken Ms Mokoma said.

Ntate came into the house in a rush to take his spear before dashing out, and I followed him outside. I immediately saw a group of men coming towards our house, and they started to beat him up relentlessly.

“I tried to come to my husband’s aid, but realised I had no chance against his attackers. I then ran to wake up my neighbours so they could assist us.”

She said someone reported the incident to the police and they quickly arrived at the scene and took a badly beaten Mr Mokoma to Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital (QMMH) where he later died.

Meanwhile, the Mokoma family’s supporters in the village decided to take the law into their own hands and went to Mr Khau’s homestead to exact revenge. The mob fatally assaulted Mr Khau and set his homestead on fire. They also killed one of Mr Khau’s herd boys, with the other managing to escape with serious injuries. The herd boy was admitted to QMMH where he is fighting for his life.

When the Sunday Express crew arrived at the scene on Friday, smoke was still rising from one of the homesteads which was under police guard.

There was, however, no representative of the Khau family to interview and get their side of the story.

The Area Chief, Mabusetsa Maphika, said the event had left his subjects shaken with fear and also divided since they supported different families.

“This tragedy shook our community to its very core and hopefully it will never happen again,” he said.

“If only the local police were more vigilant in nipping this feud in the bud, this would not have happened at all. I am very disappointed and shocked to see such intense divisions within this community as I heard some people ululating when the home of a fellow villager was in flames.”

For her part, police deputy spokesperson Senior Inspector Lerato Motseki appealed to Basotho not to take the law into their own hands even if they were angry as it violated human rights.

“We condemn what happened in Ha-Motloheloa and are still conducting more investigations to ensure we bring about peace in that area,” she said.

“We also urge Basotho to leave the law enforcement authorities to deal with any conflict situation and to desist from mob justice.”

 

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