MASERU — Days after Matšeliso Thulo was killed the police tried to duck responsibility by speculating that she could have been trampled on by fellow students during the melee.
But it wasn’t long before that theory was discredited by a death certificate which showed that she had died from shots fired by the police.
It also emerged that Matšeliso was not even part of the rioting students when she was shot.
A week after the riots this paper spoke to Matšeliso’s friend who narrated how Matšeliso had been caught in the crossfire of a fight she had never joined or intended to join.
The colleague, who lived in the same complex with Matšeliso but refused to be named for fear of being targeted, said he saw the police shooting at a group of students.
He said Matšeliso was on “her way to her room after visiting a friend” when she was caught in the crossfire.
He said as Matšeliso was passing a group of demonstrating students six police officers started shooting at the crowd.
“They fired shots to disperse the crowd,” he said.
“Immediately after the police shot at the crowd four students emerged carrying a seemingly lifeless body of Matšeliso. They laid her next to a police van.”
In a few minutes all was quiet and the students were scared, he recalled.
“She was not moving. People were scared.
“Students who were bleeding from injuries sustained from pellet shots immediately stopped crying.
“Everybody approached Matšeliso’s body to see her.
“But the police seemed not to care. One of them shot in the air to disperse them again. They took their time to take her to hospital.”
According to the eyewitness, Matséliso was taken to St Joseph’s Hospital in a police van.
“Students were scared. Some were angry at the police while others were in a state of disbelief.
“Some walked to the hospital from the NUL main gate,” he said.
At the hospital the students received the tragic news.
The eyewitness said tempers flared when the news of Matšeliso’s death reached the students at the campus.
“The students were devastated,” he said.
“They started breaking windows and burning the car park tents.”
The student said Matšeliso was a quiet and respectful young woman.
“She was such a down-to-earth person,” he said.
“She was quiet and respectful and there is no way she could have been part of the demonstration.”
“She would not sing and shout insults in the streets like the other students.”
He said it only dawned on him that Matšeliso was really dead when her parents came the following day to collect her belongings.
“It hit me then that we would no longer see her again,” he said.
“It was heartbreaking to see her parents take away everything from her room.”
He claimed that he was also hit and injured by the police during the riots.
“I was not afraid when one of the police officers attacked me,” Matséliso’s friend said.
“I was not part of the demonstration so there was nothing to be scared of.
“But when I thought about it later, and related to the fact that Matšeliso was also innocent, I realised then that I could also have died.”
She said Matšeliso “had worked hard since she arrived at school”.
“She spent most of her free time in the library reading or discussing with classmates.
“She wanted so much to pass the exams.”