Yet another cop gunned down
YET another police officer has been gunned down by unknown assailants.
Police Sergeant Kamohelo Thobi’s killing on Thursday in Majakaneng, Butha-Buthe, comes barely three weeks after the brutal murder of 40-year-old Sergeant Mahase Khapu 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.
All in all, 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 Thobi and Khapu within three weeks 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 12. 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 they were investigating the death of the 45-year-old Sergeant Thobi. Senior Supt Mopeli said Sergeant Thobi’s corpse was found with a gunshot wound on the left side of the chest.
His body was discovered by a passer-by on the roadside at Majakaneng, Butha-Buthe early Thursday morning.
“The passer-by raised an alarm and when the police came to the scene they discovered that the deceased was one of their own,” Senior Supt Mopeli said.
“He had a gunshot wound on the left side of the chest. We will have to conduct a ballistics test to ascertain the model of the gun which was used to kill him as there were no shells at the scene.
“It appears the deceased was dumped at the roadside since there were no signs suggesting that he was killed where the body was found. We will also investigate the possibility of a suicide even though this appears highly unlikely.
“The motive of the killing is still unknown and no one has been arrested as yet. We therefore appeal to the public to come forward with information that could help the police crack this matter” added Senior Supt Mopeli.
Police and Public Safety Minister Lepota Sekola and Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli have both condemned the murders of police officers.
In an interview with the Lesotho Times late last year, Mr Sekola said the killings should be treated as a declaration of war against the police force.
“The rate at which police are being killed is a clear signal to the police that war has been declared against them.
“Police officers are also human like everyone else and they mean a lot to their relatives. They are sons, husbands and fathers and don’t deserve to be killed.
“It is very obvious that this is now a war and we will have to sit down with other security agencies to see how best we can tackle this situation. We already have some plans to deal with the situation but we won’t publicise them lest we alert the criminals. But one thing for sure is that we are going to deal with this issue of the killings of police officers,” Minister Sekola said.
Commissioner Molibeli also condemned the killings. He called for tougher sentences including the imposition of the death penalty to deter would-be offenders.
“It is time for Lesotho to put up a stern face when it comes to dealing with these people who are robbing others of their lives. We have to enhance our campaigns against the criminals and work hand in hand with the public to stop these killings.
“Anyone with an illegal gun should be given a tough deterrent sentence. The courts should not be lenient and anyone found with an illegal firearm should know that they are doomed,” Commissioner Molibeli said.
He suggested that the country should follow the example of Botswana and actually execute criminals found guilty of capital crimes like murder.
“Our sentences are just too lenient and not deterrent enough. Our courts are just too lenient while people are being killed night and day.
“Too many police officers have been killed. These may seem like mere statistics to some but these are not just numbers to their relatives. It is sad to see the perpetrators being treated with kid gloves,” Commissioner Molibeli added.
Despite Mr Sekola and Commissioner Molibeli’s tough talk, the killings are continuing without any clear government or police programme of action to stop them.