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A special drum for rural tannery

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ROMA-THIS is a design of a drum to be used in the making of leather in the process called leather tanning.
It is a combined effort of Mothepu Lerata, a Chemical Technology graduate from the National University of Lesotho (NUL) and Mziwakhe Makhaya, a Mechatronics Engineering graduate from the University of Cape Town (UCT) and a former attaché of the NUL Innovation Hub.

They are assisting the Mazenod Rural Tannery.
“Mr Makhaya developed the designs and I developed the mathematical equations to estimate the heat loss of the design in order to conserve the energy lost by the drum during use,” Lerata said.
Use of animal skins as leather for clothing is as old as mankind.
However, the making of machines for leather tanning is a process of continued interest.

That is because leather tanning is a complex and long process that relies heavily on the use of numerous chemicals.
It needs continual improvements.
So, you love wearing your leather jackets or (genuine) leather shoes?
That’s cool!

However, do you know how much work went into that leather?
Today, we are going through the leather making process to find out why this drum design would be necessary for efficient leather tanning and reducing tanning costs.

To understand why leather tanning is necessary, you need to understand that animal skins contain a form of protein fibres named collagen fibres.
These are the fibres that make the backbone of animal skins.
The skins are made strong by these fibres.
By tanning the skin, you want to make sure that these fibres cannot be attacked by microorganisms such as bacteria so that the skin doesn’t rot.
Then you get leather.

However, before you arrive at that, there are lots of things to clear along the way.
Here are some of them:
(1) Soaking: Water is added to dry previously salted animal skins to bring back the moisture content of the skin to a desirable level so that they can be treated with chemicals
(2) Liming: The skins are treated with lime to extract the natural fat and unnecessary proteins. Sodium sulphide is also added to remove the hair from the skin.
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3) Fleshing: The skins are passed between several rollers of a machine to remove meat and fat.
(4) Deliming: This is the removal of lime (added in step 2) from the skins using organic or inorganic acids.
(5) Bating: This reduces skin swelling and removes some protein waste using enzymes, among other things.
(6) Pickling: Skins are then put in a salty water and acid solution to bring collagen fibres of the skin into acidic conditions so as to facilitate penetration of the tanning agent (usually chromium-based chemicals).

(7) Tanning: This is the most important stage in the leather industry. The collagen fibres are made strong by tanning agent so that the skin can no longer rot. The tanning agent connects the collagen fibres together, increase the skin’s resistance to heat and turn it into a material that cannot be attacked by bacteria or fungi. That is why “genuine” leather often lasts you a lifetime.
The process of tanning can be very slow in the absence of drums of the kind designed by these two folks.
“The tanning process can take up to six months in the absence of tanning drums, but just 24 hours in their presence,” Mothepu said.
Tanning is done by adding chemicals based on an element called chromium in a water-based solution.

The drums keep spinning or revolving, make it easy for these chemicals to find their way into the skin and changing the collagen fibres to make them strong and almost impossible to rot.
To do their work well, the solution in the drums should be heated and kept warm.
That makes the tanning process even faster.
This is where Lerata and Makhaya’s design comes in.
To keep the water-based chemical solutions in the tanning drums warm, you must keep adding heat to the solution through electricity.
The problem is that as much as you add heat, you are also losing it from the drum to the environment.

In winter, when it is really cold outside, you lose more heat, so your heater works overtime.
If your drum is made of a metal, you lose heat (and therefore electricity) faster than if your drum is made of wood.
So, you will pay more for electricity if you use steel-based drum.

“However,” Lerata said, “We found it would be easier to fabricate a steel drum than a wooden drum, at least in Lesotho, given the skills available.”
But we had to make changes on the steel drum design, he said.
Instead of a single steel layer, it has two layers of steel and one layer of air in between.

That air layer is a game changer as it prevents lots of heat from escaping.
Through mathematical equations we developed, “we have proved that our steel-based drums, with an air layer, will perform even better than wooden drum in terms of conserving energy,” Lerata said.

Own Correspondent

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Doctor tampers with corpse

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THE Mokhotlong Government Hospital has agreed to pay M200 000 as compensation to the husband of a deceased patient after a doctor unlawfully tampered with the corpse.

There is a deed of settlement between the hospital and Jacob Palime, the deceased woman’s husband.

Jacob Palime rushed to the High Court in Tšifa-li-Mali last year after the hospital failed to explain why the doctor had tampered with his wife’s corpse at a private mortuary behind his back.

His wife’s body had been taken to the Lesotho Funeral Services.
Palime lives in Phahameng in Mokhotlong.

In his court papers, Palime was demanding M500 000 in compensation from the hospital “for unlawful invasion, intrusion and interference with” his rituals and rights over his dead wife.

He informed the court that his wife died in September 2020 at Mokhotlong Hospital.

“All requisite documentation pertaining to her release to Lesotho Funeral Services were effected and ultimately the deceased was accordingly transferred to the mortuary,” Palime said.

The court heard that Palime’s family was subsequently informed about the wife’s death.

The family however learnt that one doctor, acting in his professional capacity, went to the mortuary the next day and tampered with the corpse.

The doctor subsequently conducted certain tests on the corpse without the knowledge of family members.

Palime said their attempts to get an explanation from the hospital as to the purpose of the tests and the name of the doctor had failed to yield results.

“It remained questionable and therefore incomprehensible as to what actually was the purpose or rationale behind conducting such anonymous and secret tests,” he said.

Palime told the court that the whole thing left him “in an unsettled state of mind for a long time”.

He said his family, which has its traditions and culture rooted in the respect for their departed loved ones, regards and considers Mokhotlong Hospital’s conduct as an unlawful invasion, intrusion and interference with his rituals and rights over his deceased spouse.

“This is more-so because the hospital had all the opportunity to have conducted any or such alleged tests immediately upon demise of the deceased while still within its area of jurisdiction and not after her release to the mortuary,” he said.

Palime said despite incessant demands, the hospital has failed, refused, ignored and neglected to cooperate with him “to amicably solve this unwarranted state of affairs”.

Palime told the court that there were no claims against the Lesotho Funeral Service as they had cooperated and compensated him for wrongly allowing the doctor to perform tests on the corpse without knowledge or presence of one of the family members.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Villagers whipped as police seize guns

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Dozens of villagers in Ha-Rammeleke in Khubelu, Mokhotlong, were on Monday night rounded up and beaten with sticks and whips by the police during an operation to seize illegal guns.

The villagers told thepost that they heard one man crying out for help saying his wife was sick. And when they rushed to his house, they found the police waiting for them.

The police had stormed the man’s house and ordered him to “cry for help” to lure men from the village.

The men and women were then frog-marched outside the village where the police assaulted the men with sticks, whips, and kicked them.

One man said when he arrived at the house, he found other villagers who were now surrounded by armed police.

“At first I thought they were soldiers but later picked up that they were SOU (Special Operations Unit) members,” he said.

He said they were subjected to severe torture.

“They beat us with sticks at the same time demanding guns from us,” he said.

The police and soldiers also raided other nearby villages in Khubelu area but in Ha-Rammeleke villagers say they identified only police from the Special Operations Unit (SOU).

Several villagers who spoke to thepost asked for anonymity for fear of retribution.

This was the second time within a month that the security forces have raided the villages in search of illegal guns after a spate of gory murders in the areas.

The murders are perpetrated by famo music gangs who are fighting over illegal gold mining in South Africa.

The first raid was on Wednesday preceding Good Friday.

Villagers say a group of armed soldiers stormed the place in the wee hours collecting almost every one to the chief’s place.

“We were woken-up by young soldiers who drove us to the chief’s place,” one resident of Ha-Rammeleke said.

When they arrived at the chief’s home all hell broke loose.

A woman told thepost that they were split into two groups of women and men.

Later, women were further split into two groups of the elderly and younger ones.

She said the security officers assaulted the men while ordering the elderly women to ululate.

Young women were ordered to run around the place like they were exercising.

She said the men were pushed into a small hut where they were subjected to further torture.

A man who was among the victims said the army said they should produce the guns and help them identify the illegal miners.

He said this happened after one man in their village was fatally shot by five unknown men in broad daylight.

He said the men who killed the fellow villager had their faces covered with balaclavas and they could not see who they were.

 

The villagers chased them but they could not get close to them because they were armed with guns.

“We were armed with stones while those men were armed with guns,” he said.

“They fired a volley of bullets at us and we retreated,” he said.

The murdered man was later collected by the police.

The army spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Sakeng Lekola, confirmed that soldiers stormed Khubelu area in response to the rampant lawlessness of unlicensed guns.

Lt Col Lekola said their presence in the area followed two incidents of shootings where one man was fatally shot and a child sustained serious gunshot wounds.

“There were reports everywhere, even on the radios, that things were out of hand in Khubelu,” he said.

He said in just a day they managed to collect six guns that were in wrong hands together with more than 100 rounds (bullets) in an operation dubbed Deuteronomy 17.

These bullets included 23 rounds of Galil rifle.

Lt Col Lekola maintained that their operation was successful because they managed to collect guns from wrong hands.

He said they are doing this in line with the African Union principle of ‘silencing the guns’.

He said it is an undeniable fact that statistics of people killed with guns is disturbing.

“We appeal to these people to produce these unlicensed guns,” Lt Col Lekola said.

Lt Col Lekola said they could not just watch Basotho helplessly as they suffered.

He said some people are seen just flaunting their guns.

“They fear no one,” he said.

Police spokesman, Senior Superintendent Kabelo Halahala, said he was aware of the operation in Mokhotlong but did not have further details.

Majara Molupe

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Magistrate saves WILSA boss

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A Maseru magistrate, Nthabiseng Moopisa, this week stayed the criminal prosecution of Advocate ’Mamosa Mohlabula who is accused of tax evasion, money laundering and corruption.

In her application Advocate Mohlabula, who is the director of Women and Law in Southern Africa (WILSA), said the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) should not charge her pending finalisation of her tax evasion case.

Advocate Mohlabula is out on bail after she was formally charged with tax evasion in July last year.

She told Magistrate Moopisa that the DPP, Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane, was wrong to have agreed with the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) to bring charges against her.

“In my viewpoint, the DCEO cannot be heard to charge me in relation to matters already seized with this Honourable Court,” she said in an affidavit.

She also said there is a pending civil case in the High Court in which the DCEO’s abuse of power is referenced, saying the precise way the case is handled will depend “on the way an alleged offence comes to the light”.

“Before that pending case is finalised, DCEO has no jurisdiction to detail me to court over isolated phenomenon of tax evasion and or over grievances of former employees of WILSA,” she said.

Advocate Mohlabula was charged together with the WILSA’s chief accounting officer.

She argued that it was WILSA that was being investigated, not individuals, further saying that was “a significant safeguard that the DCEO was impartial from an objective viewpoint”.

“To exclude any legitimate doubt in this respect the DCEO returned the items it seized from WILSA,” she said.

“This was a realistic and practical step towards administering justice and to avoid premature embarrassment to the management of WILSA.”

She said the Board of Trustees of WILSA were sent briefing notes which in certain respects reflected that the DCEO returned the properties of WILSA without warning them that they were suspects.

“In any event, we proceeded to fashion our arguments before the High Court. There was, and could be, no evidence to back up the decision of the DCEO to apply for the search warrant,” she said.

Advocate Mohlabula said before they took the matter to the High Court, she cooperated with the DCEO and it conducted an inquiry into the alleged crimes.

“Now that the matter is pending before the High Court, there is no more reason for the DCEO to remand me before the pending cases are finalised,” she said.

Staff Reporter

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