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Tenants beaten up as row over firm turns violent

Caswell Tlali

MASERU — A dispute over control of a local transport company turned violent yesterday when a group of angry taxi owners beat up tenants at the firm’s property at the main bus stop area.
The taxi owners claim to be the major shareholders of the Lesotho Public Motor Transport Company (LPMTC) which has been at the centre of an ownership wrangle for the past two years.
Yesterday they locked the company’s property which is being rented by several businesses.
A tenant, owner of Maluti Motors and Spares known only as Mokul or Mohammad was beaten with sticks when he tried to force open his businesses.
In the fracas the businessman is alleged to have pointed a gun at the taxi owners’ leader Khotso Lebakeng.
Taxi owners who are members of the Lesotho Bus and Taxi Owners Association (LBTOA) which owns LPMTC had gone to the company premises early in the morning to bar tenants from gaining access to their shops until they pay rent to them.
Monthly rentals had all along been paid to the deposed company trustee, Makalo Monare, who seized control of the company after firing managing director Moeketsi Tsatsanyane early last year.
The taxi operators locked entrances to various shops renting the building saying they should stop paying rentals to Monare or else vacate the premises.
Other tenants had obeyed the taxi owners and left the premises.
One of the tenants was Advocate Koili Ndebele, who pleaded with the angry taxi owners to allow him remove files from his office.
However, the Maluti Motors owner defiantly attempted to drive past the man-made barricade the taxi owners had set up, saying he was going to open his filling station and shop.
When Lebakeng, chairman of LBTOA, told him that he could not gain access he jumped out of the car and they started fighting.
They were fighting over a 9mm pistol which the businessman had pulled from under the floor mat of his car.
Other taxi owners then intervened and beat him with sticks.
The businessman was rescued by plain-clothed police officers who escorted him to the Pitso Ground Police Station.
Earlier Monare had left the scene barefooted after one of the taxi operators allegedly fired a gun.
Monare had brought a security guard to the place allegedly after he was tipped off that the taxi owners were surrounding the premises.
Witnesses say immediately after the guard alighted from Monare’s E240 Mercedes Benz the taxi owners pounced on him and he ran away.
When Monare tried to drive away he rammed into two parked vehicles.
He got out of the car and ran away barefooted to the Pitso Gound Police Station from where he was taken to hospital.
He left his slippers on the car’s boot.
It is not clear whether he sustained injuries because he was hit by a bullet, beaten up by the taxi owners or injured when his car rammed into other vehicles.
But his lawyer Kaizer Selimo told the Sunday Express that the police said they took him to a hospital whose name they did not mention.
However, Lebakeng denied that Monare was beaten up.
“He just ran away at our sight,” Lebakeng said.
“It would be good if he was with us here but he chose to run away when he saw us”.
There was more drama later when a Maluti Motors employee who had been denied access to park his car at the premises brought a group of youths from Moshoeshoe II and Sea Point to fight at the premises.
The youths who looked drunk came with Okapi knives and holding beer bottles. They then started hurling insults at the taxi owners.
They challenged Tšekelo Monare, Makalo Monare’s relative, who was the one holding chains and padlocks, to a fight.
The taxi owners’ patience with the youths was wearing thin and they wanted to fight but their newly appointed trustee, Moejane Mahlaha, encouraged them to remain calm “because these are just small boys, don’t get yourselves into trouble”.
The youths were however so provocative that the taxi owners’ public relations officer, Sekhonyana ‘Sticks’ Mosenene, told them to stop or else “things will be bad now”.
The youths insulted him.
A young boy in the group called the taxi owners “bed-wetters”.
They did not respond.
The property at the centre of the dispute is housing at least seven shops and Maluti Filling Station at the main bus stop in Maseru.
Monare and Tsatsanyane ganged against a local businessman, Makhoabe Mohaleroe, who claimed to own the business together with his son and they kicked him out in 2010.
Soon thereafter Monare and Tsatsanyane turned against each other for the control of the company until early last year when Monare fired Tsatsanyane as the managing director.
The taxi owners have now turned against Monare whom they say has no stake in the company and or the LBTOA.

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