NUL STU­DENT SHOT DEAD po­lice ar­rest sus­pect

Sunday Express - - FRONT PAGE - Bereng Mpaki

THE trou­bled Na­tional Univer­sity of Le­sotho (NUL) has been thrown into fur­ther tur­moil after the fa­tal shoot­ing of a fe­male stu­dent on Fri­day night, al­legedly by the po­lice.

Tumelo Mohlomi (24), a fourth-year stu­dent from Qacha’s Nek, was shot in the back of the head and died on the spot at a pop­u­lar night spot just out­side the Romabased univer­sity, al­legedly by one of the po­lice of­fi­cers who had come to close the bar that evening.

Po­lice spokesper­son, Su­per­in­ten­dent Clif­ford Molefe, yes­ter­day told the Sun­day Ex­press a sus­pect was in cus­tody over the in­ci­dent, with in­ves­ti­ga­tions on­go­ing.

A grisly pic­ture of Ms Mohlomi’s body taken soon after the shoot­ing has been cir­cu­lat­ing on so­cial me­dia net­works.

A rel­a­tive of the de­ceased, Mpho­nyane Mohlomi spoke of the fam­ily’s grief at the news of her death in an interview with the

Sun­day Ex­press yes­ter­day. Ms Mpho­nyane said she had com­mu­ni­cated with the late Ms Mohlomi on the night of her killing only to find out about her death on so­cial me­dia yes­ter­day in the morn­ing.

“It is strange be­cause I had just talked to her at about 11pm on Fri­day night ca­su­ally ask­ing her about the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in Roma and she as­sured me ev­ery­thing was okay,” Ms Mpho­nyane said, adding, “I got wor­ried this morn­ing ( yes­ter­day) when I logged into Facebook and saw that peo­ple were pass­ing con­do­lence mes­sages about some­one who had died at NUL.” “And when they wrote ‘ Rest in peace Tummy oa Molele’, I sus­pected some­thing might be wrong with my cousin and I im­me­di­ately called her phone but it was not reach­able.

“I then called my sis­ter and we rushed to Roma where we found other rel­a­tives,” Ms Mohlomi said.

“Roma po­lice told us that she was hit by a stray bul­let that went off dur­ing a tus­sle for a gun be­tween a po­lice­man and one uniden­ti­fied man from the nearby Hatabutle vil­lage.

“When we in­quired if any ar­rests had been made, the po­lice told us no one had been ar­rested but in­ves­ti­ga­tions were on­go­ing.”

She how­ever, said the fam­ily was not con­vinced by the po­lice’s ex­pla­na­tion be­cause some eye wit­nesses gave a dif­fer­ent ac­count of the shoot­ing.

“Some of the stu­dents who were near the scene said they saw the po­lice of­fi­cer who fired the shot, and there was no tus­sle what­so­ever as the po­lice sug­gested. The po­lice of­fi­cer was clearly seen fir­ing the shot. So, we doubt what the po­lice said is re­ally true.

“It is a huge loss to us as we had high ex­pec­ta­tions about her fu­ture,” Ms Mpho­nyane said, adding, she was a fi­nal year Hu­man­i­ties stu­dent who was “not far from job hunt­ing in or­der to help the fam­ily”.

Ms Mpho­nyane said they were very close with the de­ceased and ear­lier that day, they had ex­changed text mes­sages about her vis­it­ing Maseru.

“She was ev­ery­thing to me and I was ev­ery­thing to her. We used to spend week- ends and hol­i­days to­gether at my place when­ever she had time. I was her con­fi­dant and we used to share life’s chal­lenges,” Ms Mpho­nyane said.

Ms Mohlomi’s killing evoked mem­o­ries of the 2009 shoot­ing of an­other NUL fe­male stu­dent, Matšeliso Thulo also al­legedly by the po­lice.

Ms Thulo was killed in a stu­dent protest over the late dis­burse­ment of stu­dent al­lowances by gov­ern­ment.

The lat­est killing came at a time when NUL was locked in a stale­mate with gov­ern­ment over its de­ci­sion to in­crease tu­ition fees at the in­sti­tu­tion.

Sev­eral stu­dents and NUL staff mem­bers were in­jured dur­ing protests at the Roma and Maseru cam­puses which were ig­nited by Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili’s de­lay in re­spond­ing to the stu­dents’ de­mands that their tu­ition fees be fully paid by gov­ern­ment.

Dr Mo­sisili even­tu­ally re­sponded by say­ing some of the is­sues raised by the stu­dents were al­ready under dis­cus­sion be­tween the gov­ern­ment and NUL management.

The univer­sity had pro­posed a 16 to 49 per­cent tu­ition hike for first year stu­dents and 1 to 42 per­cent for se­nior stu­dents, de­pend­ing on the pro­gramme of study for the 2016/2017 aca­demic year.

The fee struc­ture was ef­fected with­out the in­put of the Na­tional Man­power De­vel­op­ment Sec­re­tariat (NMDS) which said it could only af­ford a 10 per­cent in­crease across the board.

The NMDS is man­dated with pay­ing tu­ition fees, costs of re­search, book al­lowances, ac­com­mo­da­tion and food al­lowances among other costs for se­lected stu­dents.

The univer­sity was sub­se­quently closed as the protests raged on and last week, NUL Vice-Chan­cel­lor Pro­fes­sor Nqosa Ma­hao turned down the gov­ern­ment’s re­quest to al­low lec­tures to con­tinue while ne­go­ti­a­tions with the De­vel­op­ment Plan­ning min­istry con­tin­ued.

He ar­gued that the univer­sity had not been given any guar­an­tees that the re­quested fee struc­ture would be hon­oured by the gov­ern­ment through the NMDS hence the de­ci­sion to sus­pend lec­tures.

How­ever, De­vel­op­ment Plan­ning Min­is­ter Se­mano Seka­tle said the univer­sity’s de­ci­sion to in­crease the fees had been uni­lat­eral and un­af­ford­able for the NMDS.

He also ac­cused the stu­dents of be­ing po­lit­i­cally-mo­ti­vated in protest­ing against the gov­ern­ment in­stead of protest­ing against the univer­sity which had in­creased fees. And in an interview with the Sun­day

Ex­press yes­ter­day, NUL Stu­dent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Coun­cil’s (SRC) Sec­re­tary Gen­eral, Thato Ponya said they sus­pected that SRC Pres­i­dent Tšepo Makakane was the in­tended tar­get for the shot that took Ms Mohlomi’s life.

Mr Ponya said the de­ceased had just been chat­ting with the SRC pres­i­dent when the shot rang out.

“I was not per­son­ally at NUL when the in­ci­dent hap­pened but I am re­li­ably in­formed that our SRC pres­i­dent Mr Makakane had just left the ta­ble where he had been talk­ing to the de­ceased when the shot rang out.

“We have rea­son to be­lieve that the tar­get was Mr Makakane but un­be­known to the as­sailants he had just left the place when the shot was fired.

“We be­lieve this to be the case be­cause of the re­sis­tance he has demon­strated to the gov­ern­ment dur­ing the on­go­ing NUL fees mat­ter,” Mr Ponya said, adding, “If they (gov­ern­ment) want to kill us, they should come out openly,” he added.

He said it was shock­ing that a de­fence­less fe­male stu­dent had been shot in cold blood “with­out any provo­ca­tion”.

“It is es­pe­cially shock­ing be­cause there was no re­sis­tance what­so­ever from the stu­dents who were at the restau­rant when the po­lice came and or­dered the restau­rant to close for the night. She did not do any­thing to pro­voke the po­lice.

“We will con­tinue to fight for our right to ed­u­ca­tion un­til the end. We won’t be in­tim­i­dated by these vi­o­lent acts which gov­ern­ment is em­ploy­ing to sup­press us.”

Re­sults of a ref­er­en­dum on Fri­day had in­di­cated that the ma­jor­ity of stu­dents wanted lec­tures to re­sume but Mr Ponya said that was now un­likely to hap­pen after the killing.

“We were ready to re­sume lec­tures as in­di­cated by the ref­er­en­dum, al­though its turnout was ques­tion­able. But after this shoot­ing, it is doubt­ful we will go ahead with that res­o­lu­tion. We would rather fight on un­til the June elec­tions which will usher in a new gov­ern­ment that we hope will be sym­pa­thetic to our plight.”

He said in the mean­time, they would stage coun­try­wide cam­paigns to dis­cour­age the elec­torate from vot­ing for the cur­rent regime as it was “anti-ed­u­ca­tion” and also “vi­o­lent”.

Mean­while, the Ba­sotho Na­tional Party (BNP) Youth League has con­demned the shoot­ing, say­ing this was the lat­est in a series of killings under Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili’s watch.

“We are deeply con­cerned about de­vel­op­ments at the NUL.

“Our ex­pec­ta­tion was that by now a true leader of the peo­ple would have found a last­ing so­lu­tion to the prob­lems of the in­sti­tu­tion but the prime min­is­ter and his gov­ern­ment seem to be turn­ing a blind eye,” the BNPYL said in a state­ment yes­ter­day.

“This tragedy where a po­lice­man is re­ported to have killed a NUL stu­dent has shocked us and sent shiv­ers down our spines con­cern­ing the acts of the dis­ci­plined forces under the rule of Prime Min­is­ter Mo­sisili.

“We won­der whether the guns that have been bought with our taxes are meant to kill us es­pe­cially the stu­dents.”

The BNPYL ac­cused Dr Mo­sisili of fail­ing to ad­dress per­ti­nent is­sues con­cern­ing the wel­fare of stu­dents and spent his en­ergy on in­fight­ing with his Demo­cratic Congress (DC) party in or­der to main­tain power.

“A re­spon­si­ble ruler is one who in­vests in hu­man cap­i­tal and the (par­lia­men­tary) no-con­fi­dence mo­tion on the prime min­is­ter and his gov­ern­ment which took place on March 1 was due to a wide range of is­sues which in­cluded cor­rup­tion, nepo­tism and bru­tal killings of the peo­ple.

“We won­der how many peo­ple have to die for the prime min­is­ter and his part­ners to be sat­is­fied as it looks like they are in some kind of a deal to kill Ba­sotho. We are say­ing this be­cause per­se­cu­tions, tor­tures and bru­tal killings seem to be the thing bind­ing the rul­ing part­ners to­gether.”

Dr Mo­sisili’s Po­lit­i­cal and Eco­nomic Ad­vi­sor, Dr Fako Likoti, said Ms Mohlomi’s killing was “a very un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent which should be thor­oughly in­ves­ti­gated” by the po­lice.

“Since a sus­pect is al­ready in cus­tody, it would be wise for ev­ery­one to wait for the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion which would get to the bot­tom of this very sad in­ci­dent,” Dr Likoti said.

“The law should take its course so that we get to the bot­tom of this mat­ter.”

In re­sponse to the BNP’s al­le­ga­tions against the premier, Dr Likoti urged the party to “de­sist from us­ing such an un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent for po­lit­i­cal ends”.

“The BNP and other like-minded par­ties like to use in­ci­dents such as these to score po­lit­i­cal points. That is rep­re­hen­si­ble and they should de­sist from that prac­tice,” he added.

a GriSlY pic­ture of Ms Mohlomi’s body taken soon after the shoot­ing has been cir­cu­lat­ing on so­cial me­dia net­works .

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