MASERU — Death at a funeral.
That’s what happened when a graveside quarrel between two relatives in Ha-Hlalele village in Maseru became fatal a fortnight ago.
Serupane Malimatle, 52, was bludgeoned to death when he tried to prevent a relative from performing a graveside ritual ahead of his senior cousin.
After their grandmother’s coffin was lowered into the grave an argument broke out between cousins Borotho Hlalele and Libako Hlalele.
Their argument was over who should perform the graveside ritual of throwing soil into the grave first.
According to Sesotho culture the throwing of soil into the grave should be done according to seniority.
The sons from the eldest family should be the first to perform the ritual.
But on this occasion Borotho and Libako did not agree on who should perform the ritual first.
An argument then erupted.
Borotho, 36, was now holding the shovel, ready to perform the ritual, when Malimatle tried to stop him.
Malimatle was of the opinion that Libako, 35, should perform the ritual ahead of Borotho according to seniority.
Although he is younger than Borotho, Libako is senior because he is from the first family and should have therefore performed the ritual first.
An angry Borotho is alleged to have turned to Malimatle and hit him with the shovel in the abdomen.
He is alleged to have hit him on the head, the neck and on the ribs.
An unconscious Malimatle was rushed to hospital where he was confirmed dead. Police spokesperson Masupha Masupha confirmed the incident.
Masupha said Malimatle died on the way to hospital.
“The two men quarrelled about filling the grave of their relative. The suspect then took a tool (shovel) that was used to fill the grave and hit the victim until he died,” Masupha said.
“If these people prepared their family list of the order in which they would fill the grave they would not have argued and no one would have died,” he said.
He said the suspect was arrested last Tuesday.
Libako told the Lesotho Times, he was supposed to fill in the grave before Borotho.
He said his (Libako’s) late father was older than Hlalele and was the chief of the village.
His mother took over the chieftainship but later gave it to Hlalele’s father Lesoma when she moved from Ha-Hlalele to Maseru.
He said he moved back to Ha-Hlalele when his mother died years later but his family members did not acknowledge his return.
He said Borotho was particularly hostile because he thought he was going to claim back the chieftainship.
He said for that he was never accepted hence the fight over who should fill in the soil first.
He also said under normal circumstances Borotho would not have taken part in the ritual because his religious beliefs forbid him to do so.
He said Borotho had taken part in the ritual because he wanted to spite him.
It was during this fight that Malimatle tried to intervene and was killed.
“He hit him with the shovel in the stomach. He staggered and fell down,” said Libako as he narrated the brutal attack.
“He then hit him on the head, on the neck and on the ribs.
“Blood was gushing from the wound on the neck just under the ear. He was unconscious.”
Libako said people were so shocked that they did not stop Borotho.
“We all stood there watching in shock. It happened so quickly. No one said a word when he was still hitting ntate Malimatle. I only thought I should stop him when he started to run away. But I was stopped by his father who was throwing stones at me. People, mostly women ran away to their homes,” he said.
People who remained filled the grave while others took Malimatle to hospital where he was confirmed dead.