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Violence lands pastor in court

Sello Morake

MASERU — The Reverend Daniel Senkhane, the former head of the Methodist Church of Lesotho, appeared in court on Thursday facing two counts of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
The 82-year-old clergyman, who led the church for 16 years until he retired in 1998, was jointly charged with two of his senior followers — Maseabo Kalaoe, 53, and Seabata Simione, 44.
The trio is alleged to have assaulted two members of a rival church faction during a January 17 clash over the use of a hall at Methodist High School in Khubetsoana, on the outskirts of Maseru.
The injured — Stephen Mapheelle and Phakiso Lebona — belong to a faction led by the Reverend Daniel Rantle who replaced the Reverend Senkhane as the head of the Methodist Church of Lesotho in 1999.
The clash that left Mapheelle and Lebona seriously injured is a culmination of a bitter fight that started around 2000 when the Reverend Senkhane allegedly sought to come out of retirement to lead the church again.
When the church resisted his manoeuvres, the Reverend Senkhane is alleged to have formed a splinter group and started conducting his own church services at a member’s home in Lower Thamae.
The two factions are fighting over the control of the church membership and properties that include 11 primary schools, two high schools and a hospital.
The church also owns several houses in the country.
The January 17 fight started when the Reverend Senkhane’s group decided to have its Sunday services at the Methodist High School hall which the Reverend Rantle’s followers claim to have been their “church” for the past five years.
Clad in black suits, the Reverend Senkhane and his co-accused looked calm during the hearing at the Maseru Magistrate’s Court.
In the first count the prosecution alleges the trio assaulted Mapheelle with stones, sticks and a hammer on the head and waist.
In the second count the reverend and his senior followers are alleged to have assaulted Lebona on the head with stones, sticks and a hammer.
They were, however, given free bail on condition that they attend remand hearings and do not interfere with crown witnesses. 
Qinimutsi Tshabalala prosecuted while Advocate Lebohang Molete represented the accused.
The case will resume on Tuesday.

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