MASERU — The iconic Basotho Shield, Maseru’s key tourism information centre, was burnt to ashes in the wee hours of yesterday morning.
The burning of the Basotho Shield could deal a severe blow to the fledgling tourism industry as it was the nerve centre for tourists visiting the country.
BB Alert Security Guards boss, Mathibeli Moleko, whose company guarded the centre, told the Lesotho Times yesterday that they were still investigating the cause of the fire.
He however suspects that the fire could have been an act of arson.
“I suspect sabotage, but this will be clearer after investigations are complete,” Moleko said.
He said the centre first caught fire on Monday night.
He said a security guard who was patrolling the area noticed that part of the building was burning and raised alarm.
“He immediately called for help from his colleagues posted at the nearby Leo Office Equipment headquarters and Maseru Toyota.
“They doused the flames and reported the incident the following morning to the managers of the building.”
Moleko said the Basotho Shield was burnt down while they were still preparing a report about the Monday fire to the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation.
He said a guard who was patrolling the site saw that the centre was burning and quickly raised alarm.
“At the time he noticed three women near the fence but when the fire was being put off they were nowhere to be seen,” Moleko said.
The BB Alert guards broke open the door to the house in an attempt to douse the fire but their attempts failed.
Moleko said they immediately notified the police and the fire brigade who arrived an hour later.
“I’m told that the fire started at around 2am and the police arrived at around 3am when the roof of the house had already started caving in,” he said.
Police spokesperson Masupha Masupha said when he was notified around 4am the fire brigade was already at the scene.
“I can’t say the police delayed to go there because I was informed that our firefighting team was already there,” Masupha said.
“Our police are well trained in firefighting and I don’t think they have to be blamed for what happened.”
LTDC spokesperson Lineo Tlapane said the burning of the Basotho Shield was an “unimaginable loss to the tourism industry whose after-effects will be long-lasting”.
“Although it will be difficult for me to quantify the loss as of now, all I can say is that the government, we as a corporation and individual vendors who displayed and kept their hand-made products in this house have lost,” Tlapane said.
“Also tourists who used to get guidance from here will now have to search for our offices or wherever we will set up an interim tourism information centre for services that were easily found here,” she said.
“This will be a big inconvenience to tourists.”