The wicked cult  at Fokothi

The wicked cult at Fokothi

MASERU – BARBARITY at the Lerotholi Polytechnic raised its ugly head again last Friday when a newly enrolled student was tortured to death.
Welcome to the Lesotho college of rough, bullying and violent students who are known to be members of a notorious gang of thugs.
The police found the dead body of the student lying on the banks of Mohokare River in the morning, after a tiresome night of searching for a group of college hooligans who were torturing newcomers in the river.

Rethabile Joshua Mositi was a 21-year-old student from Ha-Nyenye in Maputsoe, Leribe, who underwent the college’s infamous initiation of the newcomers.
The college rector Dr Tlali Sepiriti says six suspects have been arrested in connection with the murder.
The suspects are college students.

Sepiriti says Mositi was admitted for a diploma in business management programme and had joined the college on July 16.
“This unfortunate incident happened on the last day of the students’ orientation week,” Sepiriti says.
He says preliminary investigations have shown there were 11 first year students in the river with eight perpetrators.
“Six have already been arrested pertaining to this death,” he says.

He also says the initial investigations point to the alleged cause of death to be the result of ill-treatment by fellow students along Mohokare River last Friday.
“I am new in this institution but reports say this is the sixth student who has passed away in this manner,” he says.
He also says over the years the institution has embarked on different measures to deal with the problem “including expelling all students who were involved in such acts”.
Sepiriti also says what makes it difficult to uproot the ill-treatments is the fact that this ritual is a cult.

“When you are not part of it you will not know about what they do unless something like this happens. So it is not that easy to investigate this issue among students,” he says.
Police spokesman Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli says four of the suspects are college old timers aged between 23 and 28 years.
Superintendent Mopeli says it is expected that more suspects will be arrested before the end of this week.

It is not yet known how many newcomers were ill-treated over the weekend but the police believe many more could have been injured on that fateful night.
The school and the police believe that Mositi was forced to ‘drain’ the whole Mohokare River by drinking its waters.
According to insiders, new students are forced to drink the water as part of their initiation into the secret gang.

The newcomers are forced to stand in the river and drink the water “until the river is drained” – which is impossible.
When they tire of the drink, they are ordered to get out.
At the opening of the new academic year, the newcomers are often seen together with the older students singing violence-inspired famo songs called makhele at the college gate.
These songs glorify violence and urge them to defend themselves against attack from anyone.

In most cases, the songs liken the singers to vicious wild animals such as lions, leopards, eagles and falcons.
The songs also promote the love of weapons by associating real men with possession of guns and spears.
They also sing about defying authority.

In the past 10 years at least six newcomers have died at the hands of the thugs.
A third year student who spoke on condition of anonymity says the gang is joined voluntarily by the students who take the oath of secrecy.
One of its important rules is that wherever they will work they will selectively create employment opportunities for their members.
“It is so bad if you have not undergone the treatment because you are likely to spend years without any job after completing school,” he says.

“They will simply tell you that you are a woman, a sissy, because you have not drunk the Mohokare waters, you have not attempted to drain the river,” he says.
Even some government tenders could be channelled to “men who drank the water”.

The man says it is frightening because even some of the college lecturers, the police, soldiers, senior government officials and prominent businessmen are members of the group.
“Even if you report to the police, chances are your case will be handled by a member of the group.”
The gang is said to predate 2009 when the first newcomer was killed during initiation and since then the college management has made frantic efforts to stop the practice but all has been in vain.
The college spokesperson Hlomohang Majara says they hold induction courses for the newcomers every year when the school reopens.

“We want them to avoid things such as this one,” Majara says.
“It is unfortunate that we have lost a first year student,” she says.

She says the message that the old timers had taken the new ones to the river and were assaulting them got to her at around 9pm on Friday.
“The message was delivered by one of the participants who were part of that unfortunate act of forcing the newcomers to drink water in the river,” she says.
“This is not our culture. We should not call it culture because as a Mosotho, culture is not harmful to anyone.”

Majara is worried that the school is unable to afford safe accommodation to the students where they can stay under the watchful eyes of a hired security company.
“However, we are working together with the police to patrol parts of the river where they do these acts,” she says.
The school is also worried that perpetrators of past killings have not been punished although some of them have been charged with murder.

They have been expelled from the college but that has not been enough to deter those who are still clinging to the culture of violent treatment of the newcomers.
Police spokesman Superintendent Mopeli says the cases are before the courts and soon the law will run its course.
“We have reports from previous years since 2009 and cases are in the courts of law,” Superintendent Mopeli says.
“Investigations are going on,” he says.

“As police, we have to talk to the students. We went there on Thursday and made them aware of the incidents that might unfold,” Mopeli adds.
“It is clear that suspects left their homes with the intention to ill-treat the newcomers.”
He says they have to discuss the matter with all the stakeholders.
“We will go and talk to them again.”

Since 2009, harrowing incidents of how newcomers were killed after torture in the river have rocked the college.
In September 2009 the college had to call off its annual graduation ceremony after a student was beaten to death by former students.
The student was found dead in the school campus.

He was found lying behind the class buildings by his lecturer.
It was suspected that he could have been immersed head first in a bathtub full of water by other students.
The school management then said some students said they saw him coming out of the bathroom naked.

The management said they also learnt that first-year students are stripped naked, forced to stand in a cold shower and to gulp five litres of water.
The management also said some lecturers could be part of the group of tormentors.

Names of the lecturers were given to the management by some students and investigations ensued but until today no lecturer has been fired from the college or brought before any court.
In February 2012 two students were killed and seven suspects were called for questioning and some of them later charged with murder and are awaiting trial out of custody.
Majara says they always make follow ups to the courts of laws about the past incidents.

“All of the cases are pending in the courts of law but as a school it is our wish that perpetrators get their punishment,” she says.
She also says they are going to ask the Ministry of Law to come to their rescue by making sure that such cases are dispensed with quickly to deter other students who may want to continue with this wicked cult.

Nkheli Liphoto

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