MASERU — Sixteen men from Ha-Maboka in Qacha’s Nek appeared in the High Court on Wednesday charged with the murder of four men.
One of the men they are alleged to have murdered was a police officer they allegedly stoned to death after he tried to stop them from attacking fellow villagers.
The murder of police officer Patrick Lekhanya, 44, and three others — Khojane Mathata, Phaiphele Mathole and Poi Monamatha — happened in July 2004 following a clash over stolen livestock.
The court heard that the group accused Mathata, Mathole and Monamatha of stealing their cattle.
And when Lekhanya tried to intervene, they allegedly killed him as well, the court was told.
The accused men are Maboloka Thoola, Sekoai Moeletsi, Thuso Moretli, Malefetsane Mothibeli, Jongolezwe Mqolocha, Letlala Letlala, Lethusang Tlelaka, Moeketsi Mohapi, Motebang Ramoholi and Motsie Mothibeli.
Also charged are Sidwell Mamphele, Tello Mokhesi, Tankiso Leseme, Liphapang Tlali, Motlatsi Ramoholi and Motlatsi Mothibeli.
State witness Ts’oeu Senotlolo, 33, told the court that on the fateful day he was at Mathata’s homestead together with Mathole and Monamatha.
He said they saw two groups approaching Mathata’s homestead from two different directions.
The group then began attacking the villagers, Senotlolo said.
He said the alleged assailants were using guns and stones during the attack.
“They threw stones and some of them shot at us,” said Senotlolo who escaped unhurt from the attack before rushing to call the police.
Senotlolo said their attackers numbered “about 20 and some of them were riding horses”.
“I’m telling the court what I saw happening as I escaped death. I am not fabricating this information,” he said.
He said they tried to fight back by throwing stones at the assailants but they kept attacking and advancing towards the homestead.
That is when I decided to flee for my life, Senotlolo added.
“I managed to escape and although they pursued me they failed to catch me.”
In the meantime, Senotlolo said, the assailants had managed to catch Mathata, Mathole and Monamatha and killed them.
He said he was on his way to Paulosi Police station to report the matter when he met officer Lekhanya.
He said Lekhanya told him to proceed to the police station while he rushed to the village to help the other men who were under attack from the mob.
“Lekhanya was dressed in police uniform and carried a big gun. He was visible and recognisable to any one that he was a policeman,” he said.
The area Chief Makhabane Makhaola, 49, told the court during last December’s hearing that he had seen Maboloka, one of the alleged assailants, attack Lekhanya.
“Maboloka threw the policeman down and Letlala also attacked the police officer by throwing stones at him,” he said.
Chief Makhaola said “a lot of men threw stones at the policeman until he died”.
“People were afraid to come close as there was a huge fight. After they killed the police officer they fled in different directions.
“Others were wearing balaclava hats and I couldn’t identify them. I could also not see who were actually throwing stones because they were between 30 to 40 people.
“Police from Paulosi Police Station later came and took away the deceased. I know these people because they are my subjects.
“It happened that they had overpowered a police man who was armed,” he said.
The accused are represented by Advocates Ts’okolo Habasisa, Mokete Seleke and Rapapa Sepiriti.
The crown counsel team is made up of Tsibiso Fuma and Tlali Tlali.
The case is before Justice Ts’eliso Monaphathi.