Mafeteng herd boys burn church

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MAFETENG — Hell hath no fury like two herd boys denied access to their preferred grazing land.

Two herd boys, aged 17 and 18, were allegedly told to stop grazing their livestock in the church’s yard.

They were incensed.

The two then allegedly set fire to the Lesotho Evangelical Church (LEC) building.

The church building is in Likueneng in Mafeteng, about 80 kilometres south of Maseru.

The arsonists left a trail of destruction.

When parishioners came for services last Sunday they were shocked by what they saw.

The furniture had been burned to ashes.

The roof, windows, chairs, table and table cloths were all destroyed in the blaze.

Police spokesman Masupha Masupha confirmed the incident.

“Two boys aged 17 and 18 from Ha-Matšaba were arrested on suspicion that they burned furniture at the LEC church in the village,” Masupha said. 

“The suspects had been asked to stop grazing their livestock in the church’s yard a few days earlier.”

Masupha said the suspects were in police custody.

A shell-shocked priest at Likueneng LEC, Motlatsi Selele, told the Lesotho Times on Tuesday that they discovered the arson attack on Sunday morning.

“It was around 10.30am on Sunday morning when I found people gathering outside the church,” Selele said.

“When I came closer they asked me to go inside so that I could see for myself. The door was not locked.

It seemed like someone had broken in.

“I went inside to see what happened. Everything was covered in smoke,” Selele said.

He said at least 54 chairs and five tables had been burnt in the attack.

The church could not provide an estimate of the value of the property that had been destroyed in the attack.

Part of the roof was also damaged and all the windows had cracked.

“Whoever did this had no intention to steal from the church but to destroy the property of the church,” Selele said.

He said he suspected the people who burnt the church had used plastic paper to light the fire.

“A week before I had found two boys grazing their cattle and sheep in the church’s yard.

“I told them that they should stop grazing their livestock in the church’s yard because they would destroy the trees that had been planted recently.

“I even told them that if they continued grazing their livestock in the church’s yard I would report them to the village chief. 

“They boys drove out their livestock and they seemed to understand that they were not doing the right thing,” Selele said.

He said the two herd boys had however defiantly gone back to the church yard to graze their livestock against his instructions.

Last Sunday, the church held its services in the open with members sitting on the ground.

He said there were moves to settle the matter out of court.

“I have been working very well with the community and this is the first incident of this nature to happen here,” Selele said.

A member of the church, Matlotliso Molefe, said the incident had left the community shocked and disappointed.

“The suspects burned the church because they believed it belonged to an individual (preacher). They burned it to sabotage him.”

The church has been operating in the area since 1970 and an average 150 members attend services at the church every weekend.

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