MASERU — The Maseru Magistrate’s Court yesterday heard how an octogenarian clergyman allegedly asked for the murder of a church member in a bid to reclaim the leadership of a church he used to lead before his retirement.
Details of the factionalism affecting the Methodist Church of Lesotho played out in court this week as seven parishioners, including the ageing reverend, answered charges of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm before magistrate ‘Mampho Mokoena.
Reverend Daniel Senkhane, 83, who headed the church for 16 years before retiring in 1998, allegedly led an assault on members of his successor, Daniel Rantle, on 17 January last year.
Senkhane and his co-accused are denying the charges.
Phakiso Lebona and Stephen Mapheelle, a preacher and church elder with Rantle’s faction, are the complainants in the case.
During cross-examination yesterday, Lebona quoted Senkhane as saying: “As for Mapheelle you should kill him. I will shoulder the responsibility,” while barking instructions to followers during the skirmish.
Rantle, 53, replaced Senkhane as the church leader in 1999.
Senkhane started by wooing some senior church members to back his return.
But it was his bid to use a school hall utilised by Rantle’s followers that resulted in the violence that has now landed the elderly clergyman in court.
According to Lebona, 67, Senkhane and his supporters used sticks, stones and a hammer during the assault in January.
Senkhane’s co-accused are ‘Maseabo Kalaoe, Seabata Semione, Lebohang Poling, Seabo Kalaoe, Thabang Ts’iu and Mamaza Nomzana.
The clashes happened at the gate of the Methodist High School in Khubetsoana in the Berea district.
Lebona told the court that police ordered the two factions to stop using the school as a venue to avoid clashes between the two groups.
He said Senkhane’s people defied the order and went on to open the school hall for a church service on 17 January.
A bid by Lebona and Mapheelle to inform the rival faction of the police ban received a violent backlash, according to statements given in court by Lebona.
Lebona said Poling struck him with a hammer on the forehead and Tsiu hit him with a stick on the head from behind.
“I fell down, and as I fell down I was assaulted with stones and sticks,” he said adding he sustained injuries on the head before villagers rescued him.
The case continues today.