The editor of the Lesotho Times, Lloyd Mutungamiri, is battling for his life in Maseru after he was shot by unknown gunmen in the early hours of Sunday, his wife has confirmed.
Susan Matope, the distraught wife, told African Independent she suspected the army of attempting to assassinate her husband. “They wanted to kill him. I’m sure when they finished shooting they were convinced that they had killed him. The entire window on the driver’s side is shattered. I’m sure they’re shocked that he’s still alive,” Matope said.
Mutungamiri, a Zimbabwean, was shot in the driveway of his home in the Thamae residential area at about 4am. He had driven from work, which is 20 minutes away from home.
“When we heard the gunshots, we were startled. We came out with neighbours and rushed my husband to a private hospital and he was then referred to a bigger hospital. They opened fire on him soon after he entered the driveway. When they shot him, he lost control of his car and rammed into parked cars,” said Matope, who is also a Zimbabwean journalist.
He sustained serious facial injuries and doctors say his life is in danger. A dental surgeon is scheduled to operate on him on Monday. Police are guarding both his hospital ward and his home.
His wife said she has “no doubt” that the shooting is linked to a recent story published by the newspaper revealing secret negotiations about an exit package for Lesotho’s army commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli.
The army chief was unhappy with the story, which suggested that he was demanding more than R40 million. Mutungamiri and the reporter who wrote the story were briefly detained by police.
But when the newspaper later published a hard-hitting article in a satirical column titled The Scrutator, the army commander was further infuriated. This time, police arrested the publisher of the newspaper, Basildon Peta, who is also Zimbabwean. Peta has been charged with defamation and crimen injuria. The authorities accuse him of writing the column.
Mutungamiri’s wife says the army must be held responsible for the heinous shooting. “I know that the shooting is related to the army story. I don’t even suspect or think – I know it’s related. It’s related to that. They picked him for questioning, together with the reporter who wrote the story involving the army commander,” said Matope.
“They were interrogated and after that they were asked to apologise. They apologised and, after that case, the authorities started complaining about a satirical column called The Scrutator. They wanted to know the name of the writer. My husband told them he’s not Scrutator because even before he joined the paper the column existed,” added Matope.
“The police told my husband that the paper was undermining the government and mocking the army commander. They said you Zimbabweans wouldn’t do it in your own country. They said you’re here in Lesotho to destroy our country the same way you destroyed your own country. It was on a Friday. By Monday, police ordered my husband to leave his passport with them, in a bid to ensure that Peta (the publisher) would surrender himself to the police. Peta eventually went to the police and they ended up charging him,” Matope said.
She said her husband will have to be evacuated to South Africa because the family feels unsafe in Lesotho.