FEDERATION of Lesotho Rugby (FLR) vice president, Letsielo Mabitle, who is also the founding-coach of Mabote Beavers, left mourners in tears when he explained how five of his players were killed in a horrific accident in Free State on 22 June 2019.
Mabitle, who was driving the five players, spoke during a memorial service in Ha-Mabote on Thursday.
Present at the memorial service were the Ministers of Education and Training Ntoi Rapapa, Water Affairs Samonyane Ntsekele, Local Government and Chieftainship Litsoane Litsoane and Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation Mahali Phamotse. Also present were Mabote and Berea legislators Faku Moshoehsoe and Motlatsi Maqelepo, the Commissioner of Police Holomo Molibeli, Maseru Region 5 2020 Games chairperson Fusi Notoane, Lesotho National Olympics and Lesotho Sport and Recreation Commission representatives and other government officials.
Mpho Macheli, Keketso Tšeuoa, Thato Moahi and Lerato Kelepa died on the spot while Mamello Moseme died upon arrival at the hospital in Bloemfontein.
Four other players are still in hospital in Bloemfontein while two others are recovering from home.
Mabote Beavers, who are the national rugby champions in the female category were on their way to play Mangaung Rugby Club when the accident happened.
According to Mabitle, they were invited by the South African Rugby Union (SARU) to go and play in the provincial league where they were meant to play Mangaung.
He said the preparations for the trip were torturous as they encountered serious problems.
“We made all the preparations for that match where our Mabote Counsellor sponsored us with transport promising us his sprinter.
“Unfortunately, the vehicle we were meant to use was hijacked at gun point in Hillbrow, in Johannesburg and some people got shot just a day before our trip to Bloemfontein. The sponsor tried to get other means of us getting the transport and the lowest quotation he got was of M5000 and we couldn’t raise such money within a short space of time,” Mabitle said.
He said noticing that they were failing to get transport, they resorted to suing small cars.
“We had to come up with another plan and we decided to use small cars. We were travelling in a taxi and two small cars. We left the country in a convoy with me in front and two other gentlemen following me.
“As we approached Thaba-Nchu, one of the drivers asked me to stop so that we could buy airtime. However, we couldn’t get airtime at the nearby shops, so we had to go through the town to get the airtime and that was when the other two drivers went ahead.
“We eventually got the airtime, tried to recharge our phones but none of the phones of the people who were in the car could recharge. This meant there was no longer communication between us and the rest of the travellers.
“We drove until we reached Botshabelo. On leaving Botshabelo, there is a hill and there are two lanes towards Bloemfontein on ascending and one on descending. The accident occurred as we were descending. I heard the tyre of the car I was driving bursting and that was when I lost control of the car,” he said.
Mabitle, who is also a Lesotho Mounted Police Service Inspector (LMPS), said noticing the danger they were in, he tried to control the car but unfortunately they hit another car.
“I tried to control it for about 100 meters and I thought I had won but we hit another car which was traveling in the opposite direction. From there, I don’t know what happened. I just remember that when I woke up, I noticed that some of the players were not in the car.”
It was then that he decided to get out and look for them and he found them scattered all over the scene.
“The windscreen was already down so I stepped out to look for the players. I was the only fit person at that scene and I tried to give them first aid but unfortunately I didn’t succeed,” Mabitle said generating wails from the crowd.
He had to stop his narration for a few minutes.
“When help finally arrived, it was already late and I believe, should we have been rescued early, we couldn’t have lost all these players,” Mabitle said adding he will continue coaching the sport in honour of the deceased players.
“I will continue coaching because of this accident. I also hope that parents will still let their children come out and play so that we honour these soldiers.”
Government officials at the ceremony said they are yet to decide how to assist the bereaved families while Econet Telecom Lesotho has pledged M36 000 to help the families.