- Justice Mokhesi says Ha Mabote man “responsible” for his wife’s brutal killing,
- bemoans violence against women.
HIGH Court Judge Moroke Mokhesi says a murder-accused Ha-Mabote man, Qamo Matela, is “responsible for the death of his wife” and is therefore unfit to bury her.
Justice Mokhesi said this while delivering judgement in a civil case in which the family of his deceased wife had petitioned the court to stop him from burying her.
The family had argued that Matela battered his wife to death and was therefore unfit to bury her or be granted custody of their minor children.
The 35-year-old Qamo made headlines last month after being accused of murdering his wife, ‘Mahlompho Matela (nee Rethabile Mofolo). It has been alleged that he beat her to death in anger after she allegedly failed to give his mother M20 she had requested from her.
Ms Matela was initially ferried to Maseru Private Hospital before being transferred to Pelonomi Hospital where she died on 11 September 2021.
Qamo was later arrested and charged with murder. He was granted M1000 bail on 21 September 2021 by Judge Tšeliso Monapathi. His bail conditions are that he attends remands, hands over his passport to the High Court, stands trial to finality and does not interfere with crown witnesses.
Ms Matela’s sister, Makoetle Mofolo Ntšihlele, subsequently teamed up with the deceased’s uncle Lebohang Mofolo, paternal grandmother ‘Malebohang Mofolo and her cousin Karabo Mofolo to petition the High Court to declare that they, not Qamo, should be allowed to bury her.
Qamo, his brother Maloi Matela, mother ‘Mamatela Matela, the Lesotho Funeral Services, the Master of the High Court, the Officer Commanding Mabote Police Station, Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli and Attorney General Rapelang Motsieloa were the first to eighth respondents respectively in the application.
The applicants alleged that Qamo had previously assaulted his wife on numerous occasions before she met her tragic end. Therefore, he did not deserve to bury her or benefit from the monies which she left behind, they argue.
The Mofolo family asked the court to order that “the first respondent (Qamo) be declared unfit to bury the corpse of his late wife, Mahlompho Matela, or to benefit from proceeds accruing out of her part of the joint estate.
“The applicants and the Mofolo family be authorised to bury the corpse of the late Mahlompho Matela who was born Rethabile Christina Mofolo. The corpse of the late Mahlompho Matela be released to the applicants for burial at Maqhaka in the district of Maseru.
“That (the deceased’s employer) Vodacom Lesotho be allowed and authorised to release or facilitate the release of the funds for the burial of the Mahlompho Matela to the applicants.”
The applicants also wanted Qamo to be declared unfit to have custody of the couple’s two minor children. They wanted the Master of the High Court to be ordered to administer Ms Matela’s estate on behalf of the children.
They even asked the court to order the police to attend the burial to “maintain order and exercise such other powers they have according to the law”.
Matela had opposed the application. He had insisted that his wife had died from natural causes and at no time did he ever lay hands on her.
Handing down his verdict on Friday, Justice Mokhesi said Qamo had lied when he said that his wife had died of natural causes. He said Qamo had to explain what had caused the bruises and internal bleeding which were cited in a post-mortem report as the causes of Ms Matela’s death.
The post-mortem was conducted by one Dr L.F. Phakoana on behalf of the police at Lesotho Funeral Service on 18 September 2021.
“From the onset it should be stated that the first respondent (Qamo)’s version that the deceased died of natural causes is clearly untenable when seen in the light of the post-mortem report and I accordingly reject it,” Justice Mokhesi ruled on Friday.
“The first respondent’s version ignored the finding of the post-mortem examination in favour of a superficial examination of the deceased. When the version of the first respondent is assessed against these common cause facts, it will be seen it is curious and pales into a state which beggars belief. His religious reliance on a medical report of one Dr Mosese that the deceased died of natural causes, in total disregard to the post-mortem report, is opportunistic and ridiculous. Curiously, he (Qamo) does not even make a fleeting mention of the post-mortem when he protests his innocence. He does not even say on what surface, if any, the deceased fell which could have resulted in such a traumatic activity,” Justice Mokhesi said.
In his post-mortem report, Dr Phakoana had stated that, “there were multiple bruises on the chest (of Ms Matela), a bruise on the left eye, bruises and scratches on the neck.
“There was a subcutaneous bleeding in the muscles of the neck and scalp. There was collection of blood in the subdural space of the brain, massive blood collection in the thoracic cavity, a lot of blood in the peritoneal cavity and a laceration of the liver with a lot of blood in the peritoneal cavity. The deceased is reported to have been assaulted, admitted in hospital and later died.”
Commenting on the post-mortem, Justice Mokhesi said Qamo had to explain how his wife had suffered all those injuries which led to her death.
“The question that needs to be asked is how the deceased got all those multiple bruises on the chest, face, neck and subcutaneous bleeding in the muscle of the neck and sculp. All these injuries are not consistent with the version that the deceased fainted, fell and died of natural causes.
“The answer to this question could not be more glaring: the deceased was assaulted on 3 September 2021 and was only taken for medical observation more than a week later where she later succumbed to internal bleeding resulting from the same assault.
“The first respondent (Qamo) is responsible for the death of his wife. In my judgement, there is nothing natural about the way the deceased met her death. She met her death in a violent way and that violence could only be meted out by the first respondent,” Justice Mokhesi said.
He however, said Qamo’s criminal trial would determine whether he was guilty of murder or culpable homicide.
But in terms of the civil case that was before him, he granted the application to stop Qamo from burying his wife.
“Should the first respondent be deprived the right to bury the deceased? The answer, in my view, should be in the affirmative. The deceased was brutalised by her husband in what was plainly a callous act of domestic violence. This type of act offends public policy which frowns upon women being abused and brutalised.
“All over the world and even in this country, there is a loud outcry against domestic violence, particularly gender-based violence. In my considered view, it would offend a sense of what is right to allow him to bury the deceased merely because he is the heir. The only reasonable and fair thing to do is to authorise the deceased’s blood relatives to bury her, but in consultation with the heir (Qamo) and his family.
“In the result the following order is made: the first respondent is declared unworthy to bury the corpse of his wife ‘Mahlompho Matela. The applicants are hereby authorised to bury the corpse of the late ‘Mahlompho Matela in consultation with the heir and his family. Vodacom Lesotho is authorised to release or facilitate the release of the funds for purposes of the burial of the late ‘Mahlompho Matela to the third applicant (Malebohang) or her representative. The Master of the High Court should administer the estate of the deceased on behalf of the minor children in terms of the Children’s Protection and Welfare Act of 2011. The Mabote Police is ordered to keep law and order during the burial and to exercise all such powers as are bestowed on them by law,” Justice Mokhesi ordered.