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Lesotho under nationwide curfew after murder of investigative journalist Ralikonelo Joki

Lesotho under nationwide curfew after murder of investigative journalist Ralikonelo Joki
Journalist Ralikonelo 'Leqhashasha' Joki was shot and killed in Maseru, Lesotho, on 14 May 2023. (Screenshot: YouTube / Lesotho Tribune Live)

‘There were a lot of political figures who didn’t approve of his conduct while he was conducting his political party [radio] programmes,’ said a spokesperson for the Media Institute of Southern Africa.

The Kingdom of Lesotho is under a nationwide curfew which began on Tuesday in response to rising crime rates and the murder of popular journalist Ralikonelo Joki on Sunday night in Maseru.

Joki was shot 13 times while driving home from his weekly radio show Hlokoana La Tsela (I Heard it Through the Grapevine) on private radio station Ts’enolo FM. The show was a daily current events programme that aired from 6pm to 9pm.

The motive for Joki’s murder is still unclear. He was known as an investigative radio journalist, who notably broke a story on five politicians who were illegally trading in alcohol in 2021.

“He was seen as a controversial radio presenter who would absolutely go all the way to prove he was right,” said Lekhetho Ntsukunyane, the Lesotho national director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa). “There were a lot of political figures who didn’t approve of his conduct while he was conducting his political party programmes.” 

Joki received several death threats in the past few months over Facebook, according to an article published by the Committee to Protect Journalists. The threats did not cite specific reporting and were from fake accounts, according to Misa representatives.  

Joki was nicknamed “Qhashi” and “Leqhashasha,” which mean “brave.”  

“It was truly a brave and inspiring show that he was doing,” said the SA National Editors’ Forum executive director, Reggy Moalusi. “Such journalism is rare these days, where we don’t have a lot of brave journalists.”

The last incident of reported violence against a journalist in Lesotho was in 2016 when Lesotho Times editor Lloyd Mutungamiri was shot outside his home in Maseru.

CPJ Africa programme coordinator Angela Quintal said in a Twitter statement: “Authorities must send a clear signal to those who believe they can attack or kill journalists without consequence that, in Joki’s case at least, there will be swift accountability.”

Less than 24 hours after Joki’s murder, Lesotho’s minister of local government, chieftainship, home affairs and police, Lebona Lephema, announced that the nation would go under nighttime curfew from 10pm to 4am, beginning on Tuesday and lasting indefinitely.

“The unfortunate killing of Ralikonelo came at a time when there is a high level of concern over the murders happening and the high rate of illegally owned firearms in Lesotho,” said Misa’s Ntsukunyane.

A 2021 report from the World Population Review found that Lesotho had the sixth-highest murder rate in the world, at 41.25 per 100,000 people.

“It is unacceptable that we have such high homicide rates. We expect the government to do something as soon as possible because people are getting killed,” said Misa’s Lesotho chairperson, Kananelo Boloetse.

The Lesotho Mounted Police Service and the Ministry of Police have yet to release a statement on Joki’s murder and did not respond to requests for comment from Daily Maverick. DM


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