MASERU — A jilted man on Friday shot dead two security guards who had tried to stop him from violently dragging his estranged wife from her workplace in the capital.
Shocked eyewitnesses said Sello Thebane stormed TZICC Textile factory, in Maseru West Industrial Area, and grabbed his wife, ’Maitumeleng, who had fled their matrimonial home weeks earlier following a fight.
’Maitumeleng begged Thebane to leave her alone, but her pleas fell on deaf ears, according to eyewitness Mats’eliso Maoeng.
She said a G4S guard who was manning the factory gate pulled out his pistol and ran towards Thebane and his wife asking what was happening.
Another guard, from JM Cash Security, also intervened to stop Thebane from harassing his wife, according to the eyewitness.
It was not clear who fired the first shot but witnesses said a shootout started when Thebane was out of the factory gate still dragging his wife.
Maoneng said during the shootout Thebane tried to use his wife as a shield against the guards’ fire.
“I saw the man and woman fall in a sewage drainage and thought the guards had shot them,” Maoeng said.
“We ran to them but we stopped abruptly when he returned fire and we ran away in different ways.”
When the Sunday Express arrived at the factory shortly after the incident, ’Maitumeleng’s colleagues had grouped around the guardroom at the gate weeping.
Thebane was lying on the roadside with blood oozing from his chest where he had been shot.
The police had just collected the bodies of the dead guards.
Some women in the crowd were weeping uncontrollably.
Part of the angry mob had surrounded Thebane with others kicking him as he writhed in pain.
“You devil! Why did you kill these men who had come here to work for their families?” charged one woman as she hit a wailing Thebane with her booted feet.
“They were protecting your wife and you killed them,” she added as she continued to kick the man.
Other people were also either kicking or insulting Thebane who by this time was lying curled and pleading for mercy.
“People, please listen,” he pleaded in between screams.
“This is my wife. She is my wife.”
At that time his wife had sought refuge at the nearby Hoohlo Police Station.
She later told the Sunday Express that she had left Thebane last week because he was abusive and had battered her.
A visibly shaken ’Maitumeleng said her husband had always accused her of infidelity.
A week before the incident she had fled to her brother’s house in Khubetsoana where she said she was waiting for their families to resolve the matter.
’Maitumeleng wept bitterly as she relived her near-death experience.
“I tried to tell the guards not to shoot but they did not listen,” she said.
“I also waved my hands signalling them to stay away but they kept coming.
“They were shooting and my husband was using me as his shield and he was taking cover behind me when he shot back.
“We fell in the sewage drainage and I felt bullets fly very close to my head.”
’Maitumeleng said Thebane had taken her by surprise when he violently pulled her from the factory because when he phoned her in the morning he sounded apologetic for what he had done to her the previous week.
“I had taken refuge at my brother’s home in Khubetsoana and I was expecting that our families would meet to resolve our problem,” she said.
“When he called me this morning I was in Teyateyaneng coming from my parents’ home in Mapoteng where I had gone to report how he was ill-treating me.
“His voice was calm when he requested that we meet so I did not suspect that he would do this thing.”
She said her husband had alleged that she was seeing other men.
Police spokesperson Pheello Mphana confirmed the incident and that the two guards had died.
“I confirm that a man who had clashes with his wife stormed the factory and tried to take her away by force,” Mphana said.
“He clashed with security guards who tried to intervene.
“They had a gun fight and he shot dead the two guards.”
Mphana said Thebane was in a critical condition at Queen Elizabeth II Hospital and police were not sure when he would be well enough to stand trial.
He said pistols were used in the fight but did not specify their type.