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Policeman shoots five women at initiation ceremony

’Marafaele Mohloboli

POLICE are investigating a case in which five women from Ha Mofutisi in Roma were shot and injured, allegedly by a police officer, at an initiation ceremony on 18 January 2019.

A husband to one of the victims, Lefu Moru, recently told the Sunday Express that the community was in a state of shock after a uniformed police officer inexplicably opened fire on the group of women at the initiation ceremony.

He said his wife sustained injuries which included a broken jaw after being shot on the chin. He further appealed to the government to come to his and other victims’ assistance as they were poor and could not afford the medical bills.

“We are still reeling from the shock of what transpired on that day and we urgently need help,” Mr Moru said.

“We don’t know what could have triggered the shooting as there was no conflict at all when the uniformed police officer randomly opened fire on the revelers.

“Everyone was happy and chanting when the man (police officer) walked to where the women were celebrating and suddenly there were gunshots.

“I am stranded and frustrated because I don’t know how I will foot my wife’s medical bills. I appeal to the authorities to come to our aid and to give us justice,” pleaded Mr Moru. He said the bullet was still lodged in his wife’s jaw.

He further said that after the shots were fired, seven women fell to the ground and two of them could have done so out of shock.

“All the same, it is neither here nor there as to the exact number of people who were shot, the bottom line is that it is unacceptable that there was a shooting. This shouldn’t have happened at all.”

On his part, the Acting Police Spokesperson, Senior Inspector Rantoane Motsoetla, told the Sunday Express that they were investigating the shooting incident. He however, said the outcome of the investigations would determine whether or not the women were shot by the police officer who attended the ceremony.

“We received a report that on 18 January there was a shooting at Ha Mofutisi where five women were injured and rushed to hospital.

“We also learnt of the allegation that a police officer who attended the ceremony is the one who shot the women but that is yet to be confirmed as investigations are on-going,” Senior Inspector Motsoetla said.

He said it was their norm to deploy police officers to watch over initiation ceremonies and maintain peace.

“We have learnt that when initiates return home, fights erupt at the ceremonies and so we resolved to deploy some of our personnel as the maintenance of peace is our primary mandate,” Senior Inspector Motsoetla said.

There have been several reports of police brutality against women and men, with the latest being the Christmas Day 2018 incident in Kao in the Butha-Buthe district in which police officers allegedly assaulted scores of villagers to avenge the beating of a police officer. The male police officer had been beaten up by a villager after a dispute which arose over a woman who was allegedly in a relationship with both men.

One man died and 64 other villagers were injured in the violent clashes with the police officers.

Apart from the police brutality, reports received from the police suggest that from the beginning of last year, gender-based violence against women appears to be on the rise.

On 23 July last year, five women were gunned down in cold blood by unknown killers in Ha-Mokauli, Maseru and up until now the suspects have not been apprehended and the motive for the killings remain unknown.

Before that, in May 2018 a Roman Catholic nun was murdered by her lover, a priest with the same church in Leribe and up to now the case has not gone for trial.

In January last year, the Ntširele community in Khubetsoana, Maseru were shocked by the brutal murder of prominent businesswoman ‘Mathabang Radiile, allegedly by her live-in partner, Lebohang Nkuebe.

Ms Radiile’s then four-month-old grand-daughter was seriously injured after being sprayed with acid in one of the most gruesome cases of women and child abuse in Lesotho.

Lebohang Nkuebe subsequently appeared in court over the murder and the case is pending.

In 2017, there were several cases of the killings of women and children that were reported. The violence and killings are part of wider global scourge which the World Bank says affects one in every three women.

In April 2018, the World Bank published an article which showed that globally, as many as 38 percent 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 US$150 million in development projects around the world aimed at addressing violence against women and girls.

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