SETLEKETSENG — A Setleketseng local court president is lucky to be alive after armed assailants attacked her residence on Tuesday night, shooting dead her security guard in the process.
Pontšo Serame — who stays in a government house in Chief Ramabanta Matete’s village of Lithathane in Setleketseng — only managed to escape after hiding in a kitchen corner throughout the night.
Her security guard, Moro Makhanya, was shot four times during the assault.
Under Lesotho’s dual legal system, the country has local courts that deal with matters involving customary law.
The attack, which has left the Lithathane community in a state of shock, came hardly a month after Serame handled a dispute between two local chiefs over grazing land.
Police spokesperson Senior Inspector Masupha Masupha on Friday confirmed the incident, adding that Serame had reported the case at Roma Police Station on Wednesday.
“A local court president in Setleketseng, aged 45 years, reported a case that she and her security guard were attacked on Tuesday night at around 10pm,” Masupha said.
“Police have opened a case of attempted murder and murder following the death of a 50-year-old security guard.
“According to the report, it is suspected that the people who attacked the Setleketseng local court president were not satisfied with the judgment she had passed.
“The report further says the guard had told the president that there were people threatening to kill her because of a certain ruling she had passed.
“Investigations are still continuing.”
The attack against Serame was on Wednesday also confirmed by an information officer at the Maseru Magistrate’s Court, Nthabiseng Mohale.
Mohale told the Sunday Express that although Serame escaped unharmed she had to be admitted at Roma Hospital on Wednesday and was released the same day.
“She was in shock,” Mohale said.
“Up to now she cannot believe she managed to escape this horrific attack.
“We suspect the attack was a result of one of her recent judgments.
“But we can’t disclose more details because it could jeopardise police investigations.”
The Setleketseng local court, Mohale said, had been closed until further notice because of the attack.
When the Sunday Express crew on Friday visited Lithathane village, 75km south-east of Maseru, residents who spoke on condition of anonymity said the incident had “shocked” the community.
Serame, according to one of the villagers, had left for her family home in Mohale’s Hoek on Wednesday evening.
Efforts by the Sunday Express to reach her for comment on Friday were unsuccessful as her mobile phone was continuously on voicemail.
But according to the villager, the attack was “well planned”.
It took place when it was raining “heavily” in the village.
“Serame last month passed a judgment in a case involving two local chiefs (names supplied) who were fighting over pastureland (maboella),” he said.
“One of the chiefs won the case but the villagers who lost left the court very bitter.
“The men were chanting mangaee (initiation chants) while the women were singing in a van.
“They were saying some people were going to pay dearly for the lost grazing land.”
On Tuesday Serame — who had asked for Makanya’s protection as her husband is said to be working in the mines in South Africa — suddenly found herself under attack.
“From what the court president told us, Makhanya was confronted by armed men who started shooting as soon as he opened the door,” the villager said. “He died instantly.”
The assailants, the villager told the Sunday Express, allegedly tried to force their way into the house but Serame locked the door.
“Serame told us she used her furniture to further fortify the entrance,” he said.
“She said when the attackers failed to gain entrance they started stoning her home, shattering the front window panes.
“She said she then crawled under her kitchen table and spent the whole night hiding under the table.
“The attackers were so brazen she said they were using vehicle headlights to monitor movement inside the house.
“She said they only left in the early hours of Wednesday morning.”