Maseru City Council (MCC) and the police yesterday warned street vendors against opening for business during the night to avoid promoting criminal activities.
MCC Public Relations Officer Lintle Moerane, Criminal Investigation Department’s Senior Inspector Motlatsi Mapola and police spokesperson Senior Inspector Clifford Molefe issued the warning during a meeting with the vendors.
The call comes amid a spate of killings which have taken place in the Maseru Bus Stop Area, with the most recent claiming the life of a trader known as Rethabile ‘Bushy’ Malefane of Matsieng.
The killings are suspected to be the result of a vicious famo music turf-war between members of the Seakhi and Terene gangs.
Senior Inspector Mapola said vendors should adhere to the conditions of their trading permits issued by the MCC.
“MCC permits obtained by street vendors require you to remove your shacks or structures in the evenings. However, the police are experiencing many challenges due to the shacks that remain open throughout the night as they owners sell alcohol illegally. These activities pose a threat to lives as they fuel criminal activities. They make it easy for famo killers to roam around the bus stop area seeking their next victims.
“At times you unknowingly host these criminals at your business. They are dangerous people who take advantage of the nightlife you are illegally creating for them.
“The other element which drives them to kill is the famo music you play. You can easily become a victim for simply playing music which belongs to their rivals. Such a simple action can spark that appetite to kill you. So please stop supporting famo music whose lyrics induce rivalry and stop subscribing to these two groups,” he said.
“Since October last year, all the reported murder cases have taken place in the evening or at night. These cases are as follows: in October, four people who included children, were killed, and two more escaped with serious injuries.
“Later, near Sefika area, a man was killed while another was shot near Roma taxi rank. Both incident took place in the evening.
“Near Manonyane Centre, three more people including an innocent vendor were injured by a stray bullet.
“And just this last Sunday, ‘Bushy’ who was one of the active committee members of one of your associations was shot and killed. This should be enough to say even you, you are in danger of being caught up in the fracas.”
According to Inspector Mapola, the police were hunting the killers.
“We wish to ask anyone who can come forward to help us capture six suspects that are believed to be behind the ongoing killings. One of the suspects has been identified as Lebohang Rantso of Sehlabeng Ha Mojela who is suspected of killing Rethabile ‘Bushy’ Malefane on Sunday.
“We urge anyone with information about his whereabouts to come forward and tell the police. We cannot reveal the names of the other five because we have not obtained their pictures,” he said.
Meanwhile, some of the street vendors attending the event expressed skepticism about the way the authorities were addressing the issue.
“The police do not seem to have enough capacity to drive out these criminals from our businesses. They always disappoint whenever we report criminal activities because of their slow response to crime.
“We also cannot afford to pull off our structures every time we close business for the day, only to put them back on again in the morning. We will not stop opening our businesses at night because that is when we make money. we have responsibilities and we need the money,” said one of the vendors who gave his name as Matsepo Ntsohle.