MAFETENG — A 25-year-old shop assistant from the Kopanong village in the Tajane region of Mafeteng district, Lebohang Lillane, was shot dead on Friday night by two gunmen.
The robbers fled the scene after seizing M500 from the shop.
A police spokesman from Mafeteng police station, Sergeant Motlalehi Phihlela, confirmed the incident.
Phihlela told the Sunday Express yesterday that the robbers stormed the shop at around 9pm and demanded cash from Lillane and a colleague, Molefi Rampai.
“Two employees of a shop in Kopanong were attacked by two men who had disguised themselves as customers to gain entry into the shop,” Phihlela said.
“Upon entry, one of the men pulled out a gun and demanded that the deceased and Rampai give them money.
“Molefi produced M100 notes, but the assailants wanted more. The deceased encouraged Rampai to give the robbers what they wanted,” he said.
Phihlela said Molefi then gave the robbers another M400.
But the robbers were apparently still not satisfied with the money because one of them shot at the deceased before fleeing the scene.
“He shot twice; once at the deceased while the other bullet missed Rampai,” Phihlela said.
According to Phihlela, a pistol was used in the robbery and no arrests had been made by late yesterday afternoon.
Phihlela said: “We have information the deceased had been involved in a scuffle with one man from Ha-Rakhoboso in the Tajane area some days before he died.
“We are keen to interview this man as part of our investigations. That is all we have for now.”
Phihlela said the rise in crime in the Mafeteng district could be attributed to the slack security measures at the Wepener Border Gate in Mafeteng.
“We have established that crime is rife in Mafeteng because security at the Wepener Border Gate is not up to scratch. Criminals come and go as they please,” Phihlela said.
“It is easy for criminals to enter and exit Lesotho through the border post without being caught.
“The majority of weapons used by perpetrators of these heinous crimes are illegal and are being brought in from South Africa,” he said.
Phihlela said it was still difficult to extradite suspects to Lesotho despite the existence of an extradition treaty between Lesotho and South Africa.
“The extradition treaty between the two countries is not being implemented. It is there only on paper. It is a major challenge for the police,” Phihlela said.
“We have an endless list of suspects, whom we have identified in connection with various crimes. But our reach is limited because extraditing them is not easy. The two countries have to work together to ensure the treaty becomes effective.”
Phihlela said despite the challenges, police were working tirelessly to ensure they seized all the illegal weapons.
“But we also need assistance from the public, especially for them to give us leads.”
Chief Thabo Serobanyane of Kopanong said he was the first person to alert police of the attack.
“I phoned the police then called the other villagers. It was shocking to see his wound. He was shot in the neck and the bullet went right through to his back,” Serobanyane said.
Serobanyane said he hoped there would be a breakthrough in the case.
“The deceased had a scuffle with a drunken customer at the shop a couple of days ago. The suspect is known for his criminal activities. I hope the police are investigating him,” Serobanyane said.
Lillane’s grandmother — 86-year-old Anna Lillane — was visibly distraught and said her family had lost its sole breadwinner.
“I had to crawl in the dark as I could not walk with my stick, to get to where my grandson had been murdered when I heard the news,” she said.
“The worst part is that he leaves behind a pregnant wife and a three-year-old son.
“He was such a good child. I have not eaten anything since his death.”
She said her grandson’s death had dealt the family a terrible blow.
“I’m lost for words. Since he started working two months ago, our standard of living had improved dramatically,” she said.
Lillane’s neighbour, ‘Matsáletseng Tefo — whose home is situated just behind the shop where the deceased worked — said she was with him when he died.
“Molefi was able to drag him to the back and into my house after the attackers had left. It was just the two of us in the house and I watched him die before my very eyes, as Molefi had gone into the village to seek help,” Tefo said.
Tefo said she heard gunshots but had mistaken them for fire crackers.
“It was only when Molefi came out shouting Lebohang had been shot, that I realised what had really happened. I can’t believe he died just like that,” Tefo said.
Businessman and the deceased’s employer, Sam Sam from Motsekoua in Mafeteng district, was still shaken when the Sunday Express crew interviewed him yesterday.
“Who would want to kill Lebohang? We started this business together. He was an honest young man with principles and a good business head on his shoulders. With him gone, I fear for the future of this shop,” Sam said.