. . . as eye witnesses speak out
POLICE Minister Monyane Moleleki has vowed that the government will leave no stone unturned in hunting down gunmen who shot and killed four people in a bar located at Ha Mantšebo bus-stop in Qeme, on Sunday, in yet another tragic and senseless killing to grip the country in recent times.
The gunmen stormed the bar and opened fire, killing three people on the spot and injuring seven others. One of the injured people died a day later in hospital. Three of the deceased have been identified as Lebese Molemela, Tumello Kobile and Pali Kobile, who are cousin brothers. The name of the fourth deceased has not yet been confirmed.
The All Basotho Convention (ABC) has claimed that all the victims were its supporters coming from of a party rally in Qeme. The Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) has however, dismissed these claims.
Minister Moleleki also said the motive of the shooting was unknown and called for patience to allow the police to do their investigations before rushing to conclusions.
Minister Moleleki visited the homes of some of the deceased in the company of Commissioner of Police Molahlehi Letsoepa, Senior Assistant Commissioner Jankie Hlaahla, who heads the Criminal Investigations Department, and Senior Assistant Commissioner Mpota Nthako, who heads the Crime Prevention Department.
The Minister’s entourage also included District Commissioner (Maseru Rural Police) Senior Superintendent Mofokeng Kolo and Police Spokesperson Senior Inspector Clifford Molefe.
Minister Moleleki first toured the scene of the tragedy and was given an eyewitness account of what transpired by Tumo Mabotsane, who dispelled allegations that the gunmen had targeted members of the ABC.
“I escaped the shooting by God’s grace and I am still in shock. Only about four of us left the bar unharmed. One of the deceased was a neighbour that I don’t recall seeing or being associated with the ABC or the Democratic Congress,” said Mr Mabotsane.
He narrated how the four gunmen had arrived at the bar and started shooting at people who were drinking outside before going inside and opening fire while robbing revellers of cash and cellphones.
Another eye witness who works at a nearby bar, Thahane Mohlouoa, said she equally did not think that the shootings were politically motivated. She said she had seen no one wearing party regalia. The fact that patrons had been robbed reflected more of a robbery than political motive.
From the bar, the minister visited the family of one of the deceased, Lebese Molemela, and expressed his grief while conveying his personal condolences and that of the government.
“We heard of the tragedy that happened to your families here in Qeme on Sunday night. We are deeply shocked by the shooting. We are also full of great anger…….
“This tragedy has threatened and shocked the government and the people of Lesotho. We don’t know what you suspect to have been the cause of the killings. I have learned that these gunmen robbed the bar and took cellphones and music-mixers from the bar,” Mr Moleleki said, suggesting this could have been a robbery.
The minister then emphasised that no amount of condolences could outweigh the need to work hard to arrest the killers.
He also appealed to the family not to hesitate calling him personally should they have any information that could lead to the arrest of the killers. The minister then gave the Molemela family his contact details and those of the Commissioner of Police and his assistants.
“With the help of the community, we hope that we will arrest these criminals. God will heal your broken hearts. It’s not comprehensible how someone can just open fire and shoot so many people without asking any questions or saying anything,” said Mr Moleleki.
For his part, Commissioner of Police Letsoepa told the Lesotho Times it appeared the killings were a criminal act. There were no signs of the shootings being politically linked, he added.
“We learned about the painful incident that occurred here. We found it befitting, as servants of the people, to come to convey our condolences directly state that we will do our best to bring the culprits to book.
“We felt we needed to come and see this crime scenes and to visit the families of the victims of the shootings. Although we received the reports, we felt we needed to come here by ourselves and hear what really transpired here. Crime investigations are like puzzles and they need many brains and many skills sets’ involvement….,” said Letsoepa.
He also hinted that if the need arose, the LMPS would enlist the assistance of other sister law enforcement agencies in and outside the country in hunting down the culprits.
Commissioner Letsoepa said the main issue for him was “restoring the people’s trust and faith” in the LMPS.
Commissioner Letsoepa further told the Lesotho Times that felt he could not sit behind a desk while “crimes like this are being perpetrated against people we took oath to serve and protect”.
He said there was no evidence that the killings were politically motivated.
“What we can say at this stage is that people from different political affiliations were affected by the shootings. We will investigate and find out what really happened here. An investigation brings out the truth and nothing else. It’s not a matter of predictions but of going to the truth of the matter”.
He said the LMPS had found it fitting for the crime prevention department and criminal investigations departments’ bosses to attend the crime scene in person due to the seriousness of the shootings.