Le­sotho Times edi­tor re­mains in crit­i­cal con­di­tion

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Staff Re­porters

THE edi­tor of the Le­sotho Times and Sun­day Ex­press news­pa­pers, Lloyd Mu­tungamiri, re­mains in a crit­i­cal con­di­tion after be­ing bru­tally shot at his home in Up­per Thamae in the wee hours of Sun­day morn­ing in what ap­peared to be a well-or­ches­trated as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt.

Mr Mu­tungamiri (50) is now sched­uled to un­dergo spe­cial­ist re­con­struc­tive surgery at a hospi­tal in South Africa to repair his shat­tered jaw and to re­move a bul­let that re­mains lodged near his left ear.

As the world united in con­demn­ing the cold-blooded mur­der at­tempt, more de­tails emerged of how Mr Mu­tungamiri nar­rowly sur­vived the shoot­ing.

Even though he still can­not talk clearly due to se­vere swelling of his mouth, he was able to pro­vide de­tails of what had hap­pened on the fate­ful night and to sketch a di­a­gram to de­pict the method­ol­ogy of his at­tack­ers.

His first-hand ver­sion rules out any pos­si­bil­ity that the at­tempt to kill him could have been an or­di­nary rob­bery as noth­ing was robbed from Mr Mu­tungamiri. His wife, Tsitsi, was in fact able to col­lect all his be­long­ings in­clud­ing cell­phones, cash and a wal­let from the car after the in­ci­dent, sug­gest­ing the hit was a re­sult of his jour­nal­is­tic work.

As per his usual rou­tine, Mr Mu­tungamiri left this news­pa­per’s of­fices in Thet­sane around 11:35 pm on Satur­day after hav­ing fin­ished edit­ing the Sun­day Ex­press, the sis­ter news­pa­per to the Le­sotho Times.

As he ap­proached his house, Mr Mu­tungamiri said he saw two men stand­ing by a cor­ner near his house. As the area is a fairly busy one due to a drink­ing out­let and tuck­shop in the vicin­ity of his home, Mr Mu­tungamiri said he wasn’t ini­tially both­ered by their pres­ence as he has seen peo­ple milling around the area dur­ing late night hours.

He then stopped his car be­hind the gate in a par­al­lel po­si­tion, in readi­ness to turn right into the yard after man­u­ally open­ing that gate. Once he had stopped near the gate, be­fore get­ting out of the ve­hi­cle, the two men passed by his car one on the left and the other on the right side glanc­ing at him as they walked past. With the ben­e­fit of hind­sight, Mr Mu­tungamiri said he thought the move was in­tended to ver­ify whether it was in­deed him in the ve­hi­cle as he did not nor­mally use the ve­hi­cle he was driv­ing that day.

He said he still did not read much into their move­ments as he thought they were walk­ing to­wards ei­ther the drink­ing out­let or tuck-shop near his res­i­dence. Mr Mu­tungamiri then alighted from his ve­hi­cle and opened the main gate.

After get­ting back into his car to ma­noeu­vre the car into the yard, all hell then broke loose. The men, whom he had just seen walk­ing past him had turned back. As he tried to turn his car right into the park­ing, the one man had passed him and taken a po­si­tion to his right. The other one moved in front and they started fir­ing.

The first bul­let fired from the man on the right shat­tered the driver’s win­dow hit­ting him on the face and shat­ter­ing his right jaw be­fore mov­ing to stop in the left ear-lob. Another one hit his palm as he raised his hand in a des­per­ate at­tempt to shield his face. He then slumped for­ward onto the steer­ing wheel. The as­sailants fired more bul­lets at the car.

The shots fired by the as­sailant in front of the ve­hi­cle failed to reach Mr Mu­tungamiri as they bounced off the bul­let-proof wind­screen. Mean­while his au­to­matic ve­hi­cle ac­cel­er­ated into the yard, ram­ming into the other car parked in front.

He had bought the ve­hi­cle in ques­tion from a se­cu­rity con­sul­tant who was leav­ing Le­sotho and un­be­known to Mr Mu­tungamiri, the wind­screen was bul­let proof and this fac­tor was to be one of his main sav­ing graces.

His wife and chil­dren who were still awake and had heard Mr Mu­tungamiri open­ing the gate while pre­par­ing to wel­come him, started cry­ing for help upon hear­ing the sound of gun­shots. But they were too scared to get out only do­ing so a few min­utes after the gun­shots had sub­sided.

The as­sailants had left, pre­sum­ably think­ing that their das­tardly aims had been ac­com­plished due to Mr Mu­tungamiri’s slumped po­si­tion and pro­fuse bleed­ing.

“When I first saw him, I thought he had died,” said Ms Mu­tungamiri. “He ap­peared mo­tion­less and blood was all over, with teeth scat­tered in the ve­hi­cle.”

She called for help and rushed him to Maseru Pri­vate Hospi­tal, where after ini­tial treat­ment to stop ex­ces­sive bleed­ing, they were whisked by am­bu­lance to Tse­pong Hospi­tal.

Mr Mu­tungamiri was sub­se­quently re­ferred to a hospi­tal in South Africa where he is un­der­go­ing spe­cial­ist re­con­struc­tive surgery last night to re­store his jaw and to re­move the bul­let still lodged at his left ear-lob and any other bul­let frag­ments else­where in his body.

A pri­vate se­cu­rity ex­pect who vis­ited the scene after the in­ci­dent said he was as­tounded that not a sin­gle shell had been left on the scene, sug­gest­ing that a very high cal­i­bre weapon, not eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble to civil­ians, had been used in the ap­par­ent hit.

Mr Mu­tungamiri says it’s a mys­tery that he sur­vived.

Claims that this could have been done by com­mon crim­i­nals were dis­con­cert­ing. No le­git­i­mate rob­ber would hit a man and leave the per­son with all their pos­ses­sions, he said. Equally, no per­son would way­lay a man and shoot him just for the fun of it.

Mr Mu­tungamiri’s shoot­ing was the cul­mi­na­tion of a tough week for him and his com­pany dur­ing which he, and re­porter Keiso Mohloboli, were sum­moned to Mabote Po­lice Sta­tion for in­ter­ro­ga­tion by more than a dozen de­tec­tives over a story in which the Le­sotho Times had re­ported about ne­go­ti­a­tions for an exit strat­egy for army com­man­der Lieu­tenant-gen­eral Tlali Kamoli in line with a rec­om­men­da­tion by a South­ern Africa De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity ( SADC) res­o­lu­tion that the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) head be re­moved from his post.

They were also quizzed over a satir­i­cal col­umn in the Le­sotho Times that goes by the moniker Scru­ta­tor which had claimed a joke about a mock cabi­net in­va­sion by the army com­man­der to ex­em­plify his power.

The satir­i­cal col­umn re­sulted in Le­sotho Times and Sun­day Ex­press Pub­lisher and CEO Basil­don Peta, be­ing charged with crim­i­nal defama­tion and crimen in­juria. He was re­leased on M800 bail and M30 000 surety.

The Le­sotho Times and Sun­day Ex­press had also been the sub­ject of un­mit­i­gated vit­riol by politi­cians, led by one Bokang Ra­mat­sella, who claims the news­pa­pers are anti-gov­ern­ment and went to the ex­tent of call­ing for the killing of Mr Peta on ra­dio pro­grammes on a lo­cal ra­dio sta­tion, Tsenolo FM.

The as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt on Mr Mu­tungamiri has at­tracted world­wide con­dem­na­tion from hu­man rights and press free­dom groups who have called for an in­de­pen­dent, im­par­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the hit and the bring­ing to book of the cul­prits.

Lloyd Mu­tungamiri

THE bul­lets did not leave any shells.

THE as­sailants’ bul­lets failed to pen­e­trate the car’s wind­screen.

LE­SOTHO Times and Sun­day Ex­press Edi­tor Lloyd Mu­tungamiri bled pro­fusely fol­low­ing the at­tack.

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