Traditional healer battles to bury three initiates

Traditional healer battles to bury three initiates

MASERU – A 73-year-old initiation school owner says he is struggling to raise money for the burial of three initiates who died under his care when the hut they were sleeping in was set on fire early last month.
The three, and their instructor, were burnt beyond recognition in a suspected case of arson in Leribe last month.

The initiation school owner, Thibello Selokoe, who is a traditional doctor (ngaka-chitja) from Hleoheng Ha-Mokati in Leribe told thepost on Monday that he is struggling to raise money for the burial of the four.
Selokoe said he is struggling to bury the deceased because he is too broke to afford the M800 per body demanded by pathologists.
Selokoe said he approached the Leribe District Administrator (DA) for help resulting in the pathologists finally working on the bodies.
However, Selokoe said he is not convinced with the post-mortem results performed.

“A retired pathologist just came and looked at the charred bodies and did nothing. I was hoping there would be scientific examination of the bodies,” he said.
“I was hoping the pathologist would come hanging the tools (of his trade) around his neck to do the post-mortem.”
Selokoe said he is failing to bury the deceased because he does not have money to buy coffins, while he has been informed that the bodies are decomposing.

“I am expected to bury these boys because culturally they belong to me,” he said.
One of the deceased is from Mantšonyane while the others are from nearby villages.
Selokoe said he has been initiating boys from as far back as 1991 while he became a traditional doctor in 1980.
He said this was his first time to experience such a tragedy.
Selokoe said people are flocking to his home just to pass their condolences, although no one has extended financial assistance to help with the burials.
“I am appealing to everyone to contribute towards the burial of these boys,” he said.

He suspects that someone deliberately set the hut on fire.
Selokoe said he could not use magical powers to prevent the arson because he is ngaka-chitja – a healer who relies only on plants to treat minor ailments without the help of supernatural powers.
Lingaka-chitja are traditional doctors who do not carry a horn containing concoctions with magical powers and when they are unable to cure a disease they refer their patients to a diviner or, lately, a clinic.

“I suspect that someone deliberately set the hut ablaze and could have used petrol given the speed with which the flames engulfed it,” Selokoe said.
He said he does not believe that it is fotha – an elf believed by some Basotho to cause destructive fires that cannot be doused without the help from supernatural powers.

No suspects have been arrested in connection with the incident and investigations are still continuing, said police spokesman Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli.
Selokoe said when the tragedy occurred, the initiates were about to move up the mountain where they were supposed to undergo training.
Unfortunately that could not happen.
He said out of five initiates, three died instantly while two escaped death with serious burn wounds.
Their instructor died at a hospital.

The community woke up to the heart-wrenching sight of charred bodies clustered together in the khoali (hut of the initiates) while smoke was still smoldering.
A khoali is a small structure built for initiates with just stones with no mud in between and is approximately 60 centimetres from the ground. It is roofed with grass and has no door.
Selokoe said the victims were rushed to hospital where their mentor later died.

He said the initiates are his responsibility because their parents entrusted him with their custody.
Training for the initiates starts in August under the supervision of elderly instructors and those who graduated a long time ago.
They spend a month doing some errands at home until such time when they will be taken away from the village to the wild where they will be taught the sacred secrets of manhood.

Their passage from boyhood to manhood takes four or more months before a graduation ceremony is held away from the village.
Another big ceremony is performed after the graduation to welcome them back home.

Majara Molupe


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