Thieves have wreaked havoc in Ha Tšiu where more than 10 households are now buying water at M3 per 20 litres after their water-taps and metres were stolen on a single night last weekend.
The households are in the village of Malothoaneng, and the affected residents believe the appliances are being sold to “foreigners” who melt them to make earrings and necklaces for sale on the local market.
The Malothoaneng headwoman, ‘Mathabang Sebota, strongly suspects the criminals stay in the neighbourhood because of the ease in which they located the devices, some of which were reportedly concealed by tall grass — as well as the way the thieves carefully sealed the pipes to ensure the water does not gush out and quickly give them away.
“On Saturday morning (12 July), we received the shock of our lives when we found the taps and meters stolen from several households in our village.
“We strongly suspect the criminals live in this area or are employed by WASCO (Water and Sewerage Company) because they used a special seal to stop the water from gushing out after they had removed the taps and meters.
“Only WASCO people can easily locate these taps in the dark because they know where they are as they come to take the meter-readings each month, or whenever they feel like it,” Ms Sebota said
“We have reported this matter to the police, as well as the WASCO authorities who promised to replace the meters.
“As for the taps, the owners would have to replace them on their own, since the WASCO authorities said they were responsible for them.
“All the families who were affected by this crime are now buying water from their neighbours at M3 per 20 litres because until the stolen gadgets are fixed, the households cannot have running water in their own homes.”
Ms Sebota said reports in the village had suggested the criminals sell the gadgets to foreign nationals living in Lesotho, who reportedly melt them for processing into cheap jewellery.
“It has been alleged that foreigners living here in Lesotho buy this metal.
“The foreign nationals apparently melt the metal and use it to make necklaces and earrings, which they then sell to Basotho,” she added.
One of the villagers, ’Makhauli Morake, said most of the affected families have been grounded since the theft, which she said had left local residents suspicious of, and resenting foreigners.
“Since Saturday, we have not had running water in our house. We can’t bath properly or use the little we buy for laundry because we would want to keep it for emergencies only.
“We don’t even cook full meals because the water is simply insufficient.
“This theft has greatly inconvenienced us because it is the middle of the month and we don’t have money to buy water from our neighbours.
“We don’t hold it against our neighbours for selling the water because we understand they will be faced with a huge bill at end of the month, hence their decision to make us pay for the water,” Ms Morake said.
Ms Morake further said not even one of the more than 10 affected families “heard anything” when their properties were vandalised.
“We suspect this has something to do with WASCO employees who can enter our premises during the day without being questioned because they would be on duty.
“Otherwise, how could the criminals have known where the taps and meters were when it was so dark?” Ms Morake asked.
Another villager, ‘Muso Ntaitsana, said the criminals had only targeted homes without security fences or walls.
“Most of the people who were affected by this are those whose households have no protective walls or security fence.
“This crime has actually shocked us because it has never happened before; we have lived in relative peace for years without something like this happening.
“I only realised that my tap had been stolen at around 9 am, when I saw other villagers and the headwoman moving around the village,” Mr Ntaitsana said.
“The WASCO people came to inspect the damage, but said they are only responsible for the meters, but they didn’t say when they are going to replace them.
“This is affecting us because we pay M3 per 20 litters of which we don’t have as it’s the middle of the month,” he said.
Senior inspector Makoko Makoae of Thamae Police Station confirmed the thefts, adding investigations into the case were in progress.
“Several dockets have been opened concerning the matter. The villagers are alleging that the criminals are selling the stolen taps to foreigners who make earrings and necklaces from the melted metal.
“No arrests have been made in connection with the crime and we have also asked the villagers to help us with some leads, which could help us speedily arrest the culprits,” Senior Inspector Makoae said.
On her part, the WASCO spokesperson, Lineo Moqasa, said she was aware of the case.
“Some residents came to my office to report this issue, but I asked them to meet our Operations Officer, since she is the one who deals with such issues,” Ms Moqasa said.
However, when the Sunday Express contacted the Operations Officer in question, she refused to comment citing company regulations, which prohibit her from taking to the media on WASCO issues.
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