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Yet another cop gunned down

  • man shoots and kills stepson,
  • as Lesotho’s rampant killings continue unabated.

Marafaele Mohloboli

YET another police officer, Sergeant Tlali Setoromo (53), has been gunned down by an unknown assailant.

Sergeant Setoromo’s last week murder follows hotly on the heels of the killing of another policeman, Sergeant Kamohelo Thobi, a fortnight ago in Majakaneng, Butha-Buthe.

Last month, 40-year-old Sergeant Mahase Khapu became the first police officer to be murdered in 2022. He was gunned by a 16-year-old boy in Ha-Masupha, Metolong.

Before that, in August 2021, another officer, Police Constable (PC) Mokilane Mokete, had been gunned down by unknown killers in Mapoteng.

At least 10 police officers were murdered in 2021. Seven of these were murdered in just three months from July to September 2021. This year has begun in pretty much the same bloody fashion with the murders of Sergeants Setoromo, Thobi and Khapu within a month of each other.

This brings the total number of police officers who have been murdered in just eight months from July 2021 to February 2022 to 13. Civilian murders are much higher and all this has only served to cement Lesotho’s dubious distinction among the top ten homicidal countries in the world.

Commenting on the latest murder, police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli said Sergeant Setoromo was shot and killed last week at his girlfriend’s residence in Lithabaneng, Maseru by an unknown gunman who is still at large.

He said it had initially been though that Sergeant Setoromo had been gunned down by his lover’s estranged husband but they had not found anything linking him to the crime.

“Investigations are ongoing and the perpetrator is still unknown and at large,” Senior Supt Mopeli said.

“The information we initially got had suggested that Sergeant Setoromo could have been murdered by his girlfriend’s estranged husband but police investigations did not yield any results as there was no link between the suspect and the incident,” he added.

In another development, a National Security Service (NSS) officer, Rethabile Tsietsi (40), shot and killed his step son, Bokang Tsietsi, last Thursday.

Senior Supt Mopeli confirmed the incident, saying Rethabile was arrested and appeared in court on Tuesday. He was remanded in custody to an unknown date.

He did not say what had caused the shooting of Bokang. Some family members and friends who spoke to this publication said Rethabile was given to violence and abusive behaviour particularly when he was intoxicated.

In an interview, the slain Bokang’s uncle, Bereng Ramookho, said they were struggling to come to terms with his death.

“We had previously been told that Rethabile was an abusive husband and on several occasions, he had threatened his wife with his service pistol. At one time, she even took her husband’s gun to his work place and reported him.

“The gun was confiscated and the (NSS) management had promised not to give it back until Rethabile’s behaviour had changed for the better. Sadly, our son was shot dead with the same gun. Rethabile’s wife didn’t even know that it had been returned to her husband until she heard some gunshots on that fateful day,” Mr Ramookho said.

He urged the courts to keep Rethabile locked up, saying their community was angry and was likely to exact mob justice if he was released.

“The community is very angry. So are Bokang’s friends and relatives. We think it’s best that Rethabile remains locked up because people might take matters into their own hands. We don’t want to another crime to be committed to address a previous one. We can’t take responsibility for what could happen because everyone is just too angry,” Mr Ramookho said.

A friend of Rethabile, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, described him as a heavy drinker who had “anger issues”.

“Terrible as the murder is, it is not surprising that he (Rethabile) did it. He is violent and trigger-happy, especially when he is under the influence of alcohol. We have heard several stories that whenever he was intoxicated, he would pick fights with his wife and (now deceased) son. He often pointed his gun at them. The NSS decision to give him back his gun is a betrayal of the highest order. They betrayed the family,” the friend said.

Contacted for comment, the office of the NSS said it was aware of the incident and it was also conducting its own investigations.

“We are aware of what happened and we extend our condolences to the bereaved family on the loss of their son. We can confirm that Mr Tsietsi is one of our officers and that he used his service pistol in the (murder) act. However, we are still running some internal investigations. We are working closely with the police and we will compile a report on what really transpired,” said the NSS officer who asked not to be identified for professional reasons.



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