IT was brutal.
And the torture was intense.
Battered into submission and after hours of excruciating torture, the six new students at Lerotholi Polytechnic could hardly take in any further pain.
They were beaten and dipped into cold water until they were so tired they could hardly swim.
One of the victims got stuck in the mud and when a rescue team arrived he could not get out of the water by himself and had to be dragged to safety.
“None of the victims got injured. They were only treated for post-traumatic stress,” the police spokesman Superintendent Clifford Molefe says.
The torture, part of a decades-old shocking initiation practice to welcome new students, happened on Sunday in the Mohakare River.
Molefe says no arrests have been made and the police are investigating the matter.
On Monday, the Maseru Urban police commander Senior Superintendent Motlatsi Mapola held a closed-door meeting with the Lerotholi Polytechnic athorities at the college’s premises.
What was discussed at the meeting remains unclear but the college’s deputy rector, Thabo Fonya, told a press conference on Tuesday that the school had decided to stop the students from wearing blue overalls after hours.
Fonya said they realised that when the students wear the blue overalls their behaviour changes from good to bad.
He said the college had also banned the singing of mangae, graduation songs of initiated Basotho young men. He blamed the songs for influencing violent and unruly behaviour by the students.
Fonya added the college is working with the police to investigate the violence at school.
In an article the police published on their website, the police said a number of students had lost their lives during initiation practices at Lerotholi Polytechnic since 2009.
In 2009, a student was killed while undergoing torture by older students while in 2012 two more students were murdered.
In 2014 two more newcomers, Tokelo Masiea and Motlatsi Matete, both from Mafeteng were killed.
Four students, Abiel Mokete from Le-Coop in Mafeteng, Refiloe Mohale from Wepener in Mafeteng, Moloi Makoanyane from Baroeng in Butha-Buthe and Tseko Sebata from Likhutlong were charged with murder.
The four are still waiting for their day in court in prison.
Two more suspects were nabbed in connection with the 2009 murder and they are facing murder charges in the High Court.
The school says it is doing its utmost to stop these killings.
A 2014/2015 rule implemented by the college makes it an offence for any student not to report ill-treatment or initiation practices to the authorities or the police.
The police however say their investigations have revealed that some of the teachers are involved in promoting the practices by denying uninitiated students access to academic materials so that they may fail their exams.
The uninitiated ones are called Lijankate, a derogatory term whose meaning is not known to people outside the circle of the initiated, while those who underwent initiation are called Batho (humans).
But Fonya denied knowledge of the involvement of teachers at the press conference, saying all teachers are committed to peace and proper education of the students.
However, some students who spoke to thepost on condition of anonymity say the school authorities know the existence of this ritual of “welcoming new ones in this brutal way”.
“The practice has been reported both formally and informally to the authorities and we are sure that the teachers know of it but they do not deal with it effectively,” one student said.
“I have not undergone the initiation but I know the teachers know about this and I believe that some of them support the practice,” said another.
A student who underwent initiation was so afraid that he told thepost that he could not talk about the secret because doing so is dangerous.
The police have also said some of the students they interviewed told them that some businesses that are run by Lerotholi Polytechnic alumni do not employ the uninitiated.
The Lijankata or the uninitiated are also said to be denied attachment opportunities in companies that are run by former students of Lerotholi Polytechnic.
“Under the circumstances, some students are willingly offering themselves to be initiated and once they become part of the group they have secrets they cannot share with outsiders,” a student said.
Both the police and the school authorities have appealed for information to put a stop to these “ruinous acts”.
Mokhosi charged with murder
MASERU – FORMER Defence Minister Tšeliso Mokhosi has been charged with the murder of Police Constable Mokalekale Khetheng.
Mokhosi briefly appeared before Chief Magistrate ’Matankiso Nthunya who told him that he had the right to apply for bail at the High Court.
Mokhosi is the fifth suspect in the murder of Khetheng. Other suspects already in custody are police officers Thabo Tšukulu, Mabitle Matona, Haleokoe Taasoane and Mothibeli Mofolo.
They are alleged to have murdered Khetheng on March 26 last year near Ha-Mokhalinyane in the district of Maseru.
His family would spend the next one and half years looking for him while the police insisted that he had been released.
The then government also insisted that it did not know where he was.
A testimony by a brave police officer broke the case and led to the arrest of the police officers. The police discovered that Khetheng had been given a pauper’s burial.
He was properly buried in Mokhotlong on Saturday.
Mokhosi who is also the deputy leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) is represented by Attorney Qhalehang Letsika while the prosecutor is Advocate Lesaoana Mohale. He is expected to appear in court again today.
Sitting in the dock, wearing a navy blue jacket, Mokhosi looked sickly and tired.
Mokhosi handed himself to the police on Monday morning. He was accompanied by some LCD members who were however refused entry into the police headquarters premises.
His family has alleged that Mokhosi was beaten while in police custody.
A family member said the former minister’s face and wrists were swollen, an allegation the government has denied.
“We have found that ntate Mokhosi has been beaten up. He has a swollen mouth and his fingers could hardly hold a spoon so that he could eat,” said the family member. Communications Minister Joang Molapo however said Mokhosi was treated well. He said the former minister had access to his doctor and lawyer.
“We have presented him to the courts as the law requires. Due process was followed,” Molapo said.
The family member said on Tuesday Mokhosi asked to see a doctor but the police decided to take him to Katlehong Filter Clinic against their will. He was later allowed to see his doctor on Tuesday afternoon.
Meanwhile, the LCD has slammed the police for allegedly beating Mokhosi during the interrogation.
LCD spokesperson Teboho Sekata said the police are carrying out Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s instructions at his political rallies and in parliament that they should beat up suspects.
“The police should remember that their acts of beating people are a crime,” Sekata said.
He pleaded with SADC, the AU, the Commonwealth, the UN, the EU and other international organisations which are friends to Lesotho to help the Basotho nation out of this “crisis”.
Sekata also pleaded with the Christian Council of Lesotho and the Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations to join in the battle against the police’s brutality against the public.
“We appeal to ambassadors of South Africa and the United States of America to also be roped in the fight against police brutality,” Sekata said.
Khetheng murder suspects face suspension
MASERU – FOUR police officers suspected of murdering Constable Mokalekale Khetheng have been slapped with letters requiring them to explain why they should not be suspended. The officers were supposed to have furnished the Commissioner of Police Holomo Molibeli with their written explanations yesterday.
Police spokesman Inspector Mpiti Mopeli confirmed that the police authority had written to the officers.
Last night Mopeli said some had already responded while others were yet to do so.
The police officers Superintendent Thabo Tšukulu, Inspector Mabitle Matona, Haleokoe Taasoane and Superintendent Mothibeli Mofolo are being held in custody while investigations continue.
Two weeks ago a magistrate told the suspects that they have a right to apply for bail at the High Court. Mopeli said the move to suspend the police officers is meant to ensure that they don’t interfere with investigations. Asked if they would be paid their monthly salaries while on suspension, Mopeli said “that would be the decision of the employer”.
It was unclear whether the fifth suspect, Assistant Commissioner of Police Tšeliso Moerane had also received the ‘show cause’ letter.
Mopeli said his efforts to find out if Moerane had also received the letter were fruitless.
It is still unclear how Moerane is connected to the Khetheng case. He was arrested a few days after the arrest of the other four suspects.
Khetheng will be buried on Saturday in Mokhotlong district, three weeks after his body was exhumed from the paupers’ cemetery.
Khetheng was arrested in March last year in Sebothoane, Leribe, and transferred to Hlotse where he went missing.
One of the officers who arrested him, Sergeant ’Mabohlokoa Makotoko, told the High Court in a habeas corpus case that she had heard that Khetheng was taken away by a group of soldiers and police officers. She also told the court that her superiors instructed her to come to Maseru at the Law Office where she was pushed to change her statement about Khetheng’s disappearance but she refused.
Makotoko, who worked directly under some of the suspects in Leribe, was later charged with indiscipline and fired.
She has since been reinstated after her bosses’ arrest.
Cable thieves nabbed
Leribe – EIGHT suspects were on Sunday arrested by the Leribe police for allegedly stealing Econet’s copper cables.
The suspects, seven men and one woman, are from the villages of Sebothoane, Khanyane and Mankoaneng.
In recent weeks, Econet has been grappling with an upsurge in incidents of cable theft in Leribe. This is in addition to what the telecommunications company has long suspected to be wanton vandalism of its network infrastructure around the country.
The incidents which include the cutting fibre and stealing of copper cables have cost Econet millions of maloti, money the company says could have been used to help connect other areas in the country.
In some areas Econet’s copper network has been totally wiped out, disconnecting individuals, government departments and health centres.
The vandalism in Leribe affected Motebang Hospital, Ministry of Education, Department of Traffic and Lesotho Electricity Corporation offices.
This is in addition to thousands of individuals and hundreds of businesses that rely on the network for communication.
Puleng Masoabi, Econet’s Public Relations Officer, said the arrest of the eight suspects was made possible by the help of villagers who tipped off the police.
“We therefore wish to take this opportunity to applaud members of the Leribe community who provided information that has been helpful to police investigations and led to the arrest of these perpetrators”.
Masoabi said it is important for communities to always remember that the Econet’s infrastructure in their areas belongs to them because it is there to help them.
“It is the duty of every person to protect the infrastructure because it’s a national asset out of which we all benefit,” she said.
“Those stealing cables and vandalizing the network are not only sabotaging Econet but also the economy, their communities and other essential services. Hospitals and banks rely on this network for communication.”
“As Econet we continue to appeal to the public to jealously guard the network infrastructure.”
The suspects also had LEC cables in their possession.
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