…at least one murder every month as killers target women
AT least 11 people have been murdered since the beginning of the year in Ha Mokauli village in Rothe in the Maseru district. The killings have now assumed an indiscriminate nature with more women among the victims.
This was said by the Rothe legislator, Mohapi Mohapinyane, during a recent prayer session in memory of the five women who were gunned down under mysterious circumstances last month.
On 23 July 2018, five women were murdered in cold blood in the Ha-Mokauli village, some 25 kilometres south of the capital, Maseru.
At about 6 pm on that fateful evening, the sound of gunfire sent the villagers scurrying for cover behind and below anything that could shelter them.
The loud gunshots lasted for about 30 minutes and thereafter there was an eerie silence. When the shocked villagers finally came out of their hiding places, they were met with the gruesome sight of the five bodies of women who had been gunned down in their own homes. Another woman was writhing in pain together with a two-year-old toddler who had a bullet lodged in her arm.
The gunmen had already disappeared without a trace, leaving no explanation for the trail of corpses, blood, orphaned children and broken-hearted families.
Mr Mohapinyane, the village chief, Mokhalinyane Sekhonyane, and the villagers are still at loss as to what could have caused the brutal murders of the women. Some Famo musicians and their followers have been known to engage in deadly conflicts and Chief Sekhonyane said it was possible that the massacres were one of those Famo killings. He also said these could have been revenge killings after the murder of a male villager a few months ago.
Police spokesperson Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli recently said that no arrests have been made in connection with the murders and the police were still following the leads to find the killers.
And Chief Sekhonyane, whose son was shot killed in January this year, said the whole village had been traumatised by the never-ending cycle of gun violence.
He said there was a palpable sense of helplessness and hopelessness arising from the fact that the killers of the five women had not been identified and arrested.
“The families of the killed women still want answers. They might be getting used to the idea that their loved ones are no longer with them but they want justice served and it frustrates me that no one has been arrested.
“My own son was murdered and I know exactly how those families are feeling knowing that the murderers of their loved ones are out there living their lives as if nothing has happened.
“I am shattered. This year alone 11 people have been shot dead. We have had this problem of gun violence since 2012. We have tried everything to stop it. We have held village gatherings to talk to our people to end this violence and surrender their weapons to police but that has not helped.
“Almost every family in this village has had their loved ones killed. It is so frustrating that more killings happen even after all the efforts we have made. I do not know what to do now,” Chief Sekhonyane said.
In his address to the approximately 200 people who gathered for the “Holy Intervention” prayer session on Thursday, Mr Mohapinyane said while the killings had become commonplace, it had been unheard-of before then that women were murdered in cold blood.
Mr Mohapinyane said although it was important to seek divine intervention, prayers alone would not suffice and the villagers had to acknowledge there was a serious problem and work in unison to find ways of stopping the culture of violence and killings.
“All the prayers can be said but they will not be of any help if you do not deal with your problems yourselves as villagers. The solution to all these killings can only come from you as the people of this village. You first must admit that you have a problem so that you can get the help you need. You alone can bring an end to this,” Mr Mohapinyane said.
Among those who attended the prayer session was the 67-year-old, ‘Maisang Tilo, whose 25-year-old granddaughter, Retšepile was killed last month. Ms Retšepile left behind two daughters aged five and two.
Ms Tilo said she was still devasted by her granddaughter’s murder and it had since dawned on her that she would have to look after Ms Retšepile’s orphaned girls.
“I do not think I will ever get over this. I went through hell with the murder of my son in 2012. I was not over that when they killed my granddaughter. Now I have look after her children like they are my own. I am a getting old and I can no longer cope with looking after such small children. My heart is broken,” said Ms Tilo.
The prayer meeting was preceded by a procession was organised by the women’s parliamentary caucus.
The chairperson of the women’s parliamentary caucus, Matšepo Ramakoae, said last month’s killings clearly showed that women were not fully protected by the laws of the Lesotho.
“What happened was heart breaking. We are pained by the pain and suffering that women go through. Those who kill women are killing the nation.
“These killings have to come to an end. We are going to push for the amendment of various laws to ensure greater protection for the rights of women and children,” Ms Ramakoae said.
The murders of the Rothe women reflect an upsurge in crimes against women and children in Lesotho. Last year, there were several cases of the killings of women and children that were reported countrywide. The violence and killings are part of wider global scourge which the World Bank says affects one in every three women.
In April this year, the World Bank published an article which showed that globally, as many as 38% of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner.
The World Bank also reported that 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. It further revealed that seven percent of women have been sexually assaulted by someone else other than their partner.
“One characteristic of Violence against Women and Girls is that it knows no social or economic boundaries: this issue needs to be addressed in both developing and developed countries, and affects women of all socio-economic backgrounds.
“When speaking about violence against women and girls, it is important to remember that this issue involves both men and women and requires a holistic approach. The overwhelming majority of violence is perpetrated by men, and addressing male perpetration is a critical part of addressing the violence,” the World Bank states in its article titled ‘Violence against Women and Girls’.
The World Bank also said it had committed US150 million in development projects around the world aimed at addressing violence against women and girls.