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Mourners beaten up in search for gun

THEY had just lowered Emmanuel Rammasa’s coffin into the grave in Khanyane on Saturday when soldiers arrived. The soldiers had a brief chat with the village chief who pointed to a man in sunglasses. When the man was searched the soldiers discovered what they thought was a gun. It however turned out to be a toy gun which meant their tipster had been mistaken.

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This should have ended matters but the soldiers put the man aside and turned to the crowd. They grouped the people according to gender and age.

They then started beating all those above 60, beginning with those wearing green T-shirts and blankets. They were accusing them of associating with Parachuthi, one of the 12 banned famo gangs.

Rammasa, the deceased, had been a member of Parachuthi.

Popularly known as Mashai, he was murdered in South Africa’s Matlatsane earlier this month.

The soldiers ordered the alleged gang members to roll in the mud while beating them with sticks. After a while, they turned to the other mourners who they also beat and ordered to roll in the mud.

“What angered the soldiers is that one man was spotted with a toy gun,” Lechamo Setlojane, the area’s councillor who was at the funeral, said.

Setlojoane said some of the mourners sustained minor injuries.

He said they then turned to the man they had found with the toy gun and beat him severely.

“From there, we continued with our mission to bury the deceased and departed to our homes,” he said.

The army spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Sakeng Lekola, said the soldiers went to Khanyane following a tip-off that someone had a gun at the funeral.

“We indeed found a man hiding the gun in his trousers,” Lt Col Lekola said.

He however confirmed that they found that it was a toy gun.

He said there are incidents where a toy gun has been used to commit crimes.

“It must be clear that we were responding to a tip-off that a man was holding a gun,” Lt Col Lekola said, adding that “we were not attending a car accident where we would be expected to go with latex gloves, nurses and ambulances”.

“We rushed there to save the mourners whose lives might have been in danger because of the gunman,” he said.

He said their operation was successful because they arrested some men who were wanted in connection with other crimes and they handed them over to the Hlotse police.

He however could not give the number of these suspects.

Majara Molupe

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