Keiso Mohloboli and Billy Ntaote
The mere mention of his name draws stares of both fear and disbelief, with residents of this sprawling village of Koalabata still unconvinced their erstwhile son, Lehlohonolo Scott, has finally been arrested after almost two years on the run.
Scott and his mother, Malehlohonolo, were arrested on July 12 2012 for the suspected murder and mutilation of Moholobela Seetsa and Kamohelo Mohata in January and June 2012, respectively.
But Lehlohonolo sensationally escaped from the Maseru Central Prison on October 14, 2012, and had been on the run until his arrest in Durban on Saturday last week.
Scott, who had changed his name to Joseph Mokhele and had South African identification at the time of the arrest, was living at a Durban church and attending a computer college when he was finally captured by the South African police.
Last Tuesday, Scott briefly appeared before the Durban North Magistrate’s Court where he was remanded in custody until 24 April.
Police Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana on Thursday held a press conference to confirm the arrest of the country’s most wanted suspect.
But after previous false-claims about his arrest, residents of Koalabata, where the Scott family lives, remain unconvinced the 27-year-old has been captured.
On Friday, a Sunday Express crew visited Koalabata to find out what residents thought of the latest news regarding their infamous son, whose mother has since been released from remand prison after paying M500 bail.
Local residents who were patient or not distraught to comment on the issue, said just hearing Scott’s name opened old wounds and brought back painful memories and a sense of betrayal.
One of the residents, who said she had “actually been assisted by the Scott family” when she first arrived in Koalabata from her rural home, said she was still living with the trauma of now knowing she could have been living “so comfortably” with alleged murderers.
“We had become very close friends with the family upon my arrival in this village,” she said. “In-fact, let us go outside and talk from there because I’m no longer comfortable having strangers in my home talking about the Scotts after that shocking experience.”
The middle-aged woman also revealed that when her house was being built near the Scotts’ now-torched residence, the family had been “kind enough” to look after her building materials.
“Even after the completion of my house, we were very close until it was discovered they were the suspected culprits of the murders,” she said.
The woman also said what surprised her was when the villagers were all expressing their shock over the discovered body of Moholobela Seetsa, ‘Malehlohonolo Scott allegedly never showed any interest or commented about the shock discovery.
“Again, I should mention Lehlohonolo was always an easy person to talk to; he was such an easygoing person you would never suspect him of such a thing, if ever he did it since he has not been convicted.
“In fact, when the home of one of the local residents was being pelted with stones by an angry mob after the discovery of body parts at the Koalabata Primary School pit-latrines located a few meters from his house, Scott was in the frontline of the angry mob,” she alleged.
The woman further claimed she always spoke to Scott regarding the allegations leveled against the local resident, whose house ended up being attacked. The resident has since sued the police for failing to protect him during the attack.
“Scott would actually say he had heard that the ritual-murderer had said he would be killing a lot of people in Koalabata. He told me he had overheard this while riding in a taxi.”
The woman further said news that Scott was the actual suspect and not the other villager had left her horror-struck.
“I was expecting my baby then and I believe that the terror the discovery had over me actually affected my unborn child. Today, when she hears a vehicle passing by or a knock on the door, she gets frightened and I blame that on the discovery of the mutilated bodies.”
Another Koalabata resident told the Sunday Express she was not convinced Scott had been arrested despite the police commissioner’s announcement.
“I will only believe Scott’s arrest when he is back in Lesotho, and when I see him in person,” he said. “In-fact, I am no longer interested in Scott’s arrest because the government is playing games about the matter. One time we are told the man has been arrested, and the next, that he has not, so I am not interested in it anymore.”
However, another resident said she was not scared of the Scotts despite the allegations against them.
“I don’t believe they can come back to do anything to Koalabata residents,” he said.
On her part, ’Makhomo Makoanyane, the Koalabata area chief, said Scott’s arrest in Durban was welcome news that would hopefully bring closure for her people and the families of the bereaved.
“Scott’s prison-break actually left us in shock. When we received news that Lehlohonolo had been arrested, we felt that our fears had been allayed,” Makoanyane said.
“But as Koalabata residents, we need to see Scott stand trial so that this case can be concluded and there would finally be closure for the families of Seetsa and Mohata.”
Makoanyane also expressed fears that Scott’s newly discovered South African Identity Document might prevent his extradition to Lesotho for trial.
In the meantime, Police Commissioner Tšooana on Thursday allayed Basotho fears, saying Scott’s extradition back to Lesotho was already in progress.
Tšooana also said although in possession of a South African identity and now calling himself Joseph Mokhele, the person in question was without doubt, Lehlohonolo Scott.
“He was found to be using his father’s surname, Mokhele, on the South African ID and not his mother’s name, Scott, he had always used in Lesotho. However, he would still face extradition back to Lesotho despite calling himself by his new name.
“He was actually arrested because we placed him as a wanted person for escaping from lawful custody here in Lesotho as he committed no crimes in South Africa,” Tšooana said.