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Keeping an eye on initiation schools

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THABA-BOSIU– A LAW meant to protect the secrets of initiation schools as well as curtail hooliganism associated with the practice is on the cards.
Leaders of initiation schools at an indaba held in Thaba-Bosiu last Saturday commended the move.
Speaking at the indaba, Tourism Minister Motlohi Maliehe said the government hopes that cases of criminality will decline after the initiation law is passed in parliament.

The idea of a law to regulate and institutionalise initiation schools was mooted in 2004, Maliehe said.
He said the challenge was that many MPs were uninitiated and too unfamiliar with the practice to initiate any meaningful discussion on the proposed law.

The practice is shrouded in secrecy. Customarily, it is viewed as a transgression to discuss initiation practices with uninitiated men.
He said when Parliament was supposed to make the law, initiated MPs refused to “discuss men’s issues with boys’.
“We were told that we did not even go to initiation school therefore we knew nothing,” he said.

Committees of initiated men from around the country were invited to the indaba to discuss the proposed legislation among them. The was meant to ensure that by the time the proposed law reaches parliament only issues that are not secrets can come to the fore.
The law will bar children below the age of 18 years from enrolling in initiation schools.

Maliehe said the absence of a solid law poses a serious challenge to children who are forced into initiation school at a young age.
Maliehe said children were leaving school in “great numbers” to join initiation schools.
“After the initiation the same children think they are men therefore they are capable of raising their own families,” he said.

Some unscrupulous school owners have turned the traditional practice into a money-making venture, which is against Basotho customs.
“This ends up making our culture lose meaning and credibility. We should stop it,” he said.
Maliehe said the law should be written in Sesotho “so that other races do not have a chance to read about our culture.”
He also said hospital circumcision does not count as initiation.

“Initiation is teaching people their cultural norms. Therefore after doing hospital circumcision people should go to initiation school,” he said.
Some women attended the indaba because there were no “hard core” issues discussed there.
’Maseisa Ntlama, Director of World Vision, a humanitarian ecumenical organisation was one of them.

Ntlama said their concern was children abandoning formal education to enrol at initiation schools.
She also said they made a pledge to have helped 550 000 children from 210 000 families to attend school and provided food parcels in 2020.
“We found out that many male students leave primary and secondary education to go to initiation schools before the age of 18. After that they refuse to go back to formal school,” she said.

A representative from the Ministry of Education, Cylia Malefe, said the introduction of free primary education has failed to stem initiation-induced drop-outs.
She said that last year 825 children dropped out of primary school to go to initiation schools.

“And here you should understand that they are below 13 years of age, just because there is no law,” she said.
She said 600 secondary schools students dropped out of schools to go to initiation school last year.
“Initiation places are placed at open spaces so that children are attracted or captured while passing so as a result they drop out of school,” she added.

Malefe also said children who go back to school after initiation “feel like men or bosses and they fail because they do not listen to their teachers”.
Ntlama said after initiation the boys marry females of their age on the understanding that they are men, fuelling child marriages.
She said last year UNICEF said 24 percent of all marriages were ‘child marriages’.

Most children who undergo initiation tend to marry early, as they believe they have attained manhood or womanhood.
Initiation School National Committee chairman, Poea Letsielo, acknowledged some criminal activities at initiation schools.
“One of major crimes is people who are beaten while passing through the initiation places,” he said.

A Ministry of Health representative, Baroana Phenethi, said the ministry’s challenge is of nurses who did not go to traditional schools.
“Only a few of them went there, including me,” he said, adding that some young boys struggled with conditions at the initiation schools.
“Their bodies cannot adapt easily to conditions and many of them are infected so they should get medication,” he said.
“Nutrition in some initiation schools is poor so children under the age of 18 suffer from malnutrition,” he added.

Police Senior Inspector ’Malebohang Nepo said law enforcement agents were hamstrung by the lack of a law regulating initiation schools.
At times, police fail to attend to crimes committed at initiation schools if they are not in the company of initiated people, said Nepo.
She said after initiation school some families disown their children because many of them would have rebelled and dropped out of school and opted to be initiated.

“They then become criminals and are taken to jail at a young age,” she said.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Keketso Monaheng said the proposed law would empower the police.
“After the law is passed everything will be monitored,” said Monaheng, who took time off work as a senior cop to attend Monaheng initiation school four years ago.

The Principal Chief of Koeneng, Chief Lesaoana Peete, said he went to initiation school after graduating from university with a law degree.
“I went to initiation school because as a chief I have to protect our culture,” he said.
“The laws are going to help us a lot as people who love our culture,” he said.

Nkheli Liphoto

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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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