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Student killed in ‘welcome’ ritual

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MASERU – A FIRST year student at Leloaleng Technical Institute in Quthing was brutally killed by schoolmates on Monday last week. Five other students were severely injured after they were allegedly beaten up by senior student as part of a “welcoming” ritual.

Deputy police spokesperson Inspector ’Mareabetsoe Mofoka said the deceased young man was from White Hill, in Qacha’s Nek. The 21-year-old was confirmed dead on arrival at hospital. Narrating the ordeal, Insp Mofoka said preliminary investigations revealed that the young man was strangled to death by his schoolmates and former students of the college.

She said police investigations show that the new students were taken to a deserted house in the nearby Mekanametsong village in the district where they were subjected to severe inhumane treatment. She said the incident happened during the night.

“They were severely kicked around the heads,” Insp Mofoka said, adding that process the dead man’s head was twirling which shows that his neck was twisted when he was killed.

Because of the kicks on their heads, the new students have severe headaches and now have to take pain killers to soothe the pain. When the victims were interrogated by the police, Insp Mofoka says they were made to kneel down and bury their heads on the floor so that they could not identify their perpetrators, said Insp Mofoka.

ome perpetrators are no longer attending school at the college and had simply come to torture the newcomers, she said. Insp Mofoka says it will be difficult to trace the suspects because they are no longer students of Leloaleng.

“They fled the scene and are now in hiding. But we will continue looking for the suspects so that they face the wrath of the law,” she said.

The former students usually nudge the newcomers that they have to join groups at the school to help them secure jobs after completing their studies. Police say they found out that there are two groups at the campus that the newcomers are persuaded to join Manomoro and Mekola. But they are not forced to join.

Insp Mofoka said what pushes the newcomers to join the groups is the belief that they are securing future employment opportunities, as is said by their perpetrators. She said the newcomers suffer in silence because they would be looking forward to getting jobs upon completion of their studies.

Insp Mofoka said Leloaleng students follow the same traditions as those at Lerotholi Polytechnic. Dr Molefi Oliphant, the principal secretary for Higher Education, condemned the violence but said the ministry is yet to receive a formal report from the school.

Dr Oliphant said although the school is privately owned, the ministry will not tolerate violence and killings witnessed at such institutions. He said the school belongs to the Lesotho Evangelical Church of Southern Africa (LECSA), while the Technical School of Leribe (TSL) belongs to the Roman Catholic Church (RCC).

“The owners of these schools should help us eradicate barbarism at their schools,” Dr Oliphant said.

“We will act as soon as we receive the report,” said Dr Oliphant.

He said the ministry will be guided by the actions it took regarding a similar situation at the Lerotholi Polytechnic. Two Lerotholi Polytechnic students went missing after attending a ritual in the Mohokare River early last year, resulting in a police probe.

At least six students have reportedly died as a direct result of the forced “initiations” over the years. In 2018, the body of 21-year-old Rethabile Mosito was discovered at the institution’s football pitch in the early hours of 21 July the same year. He was the sixth student to die since 2009 as a result of the students’ initiation culture.

Amongst other strategies to eradicate this culture, is a proposal to rope in the army. Dr Oliphant said he only learnt of the unfortunate incident through the media and is still waiting for a formal report.

Leloaleng Technical Institute Rector Rutang Santi said authorities are devastated by the incident. He said this is the first time that a student had died at the college, adding that he could not comment much as investigations are still in progress.

“I will be able to analyse the situation once investigations have been completed,” Santi said.

The deaths at the technical schools (Fokothi and Leloaleng) in the country have left the parents in panic mode because they fear that their children will be killed once they enroll at such institutions. The problem of gangsterism in schools, from secondary to tertiary level, is a worldwide problem.

A United States-based online magazine called Campus Safety says many children “live in households that appear to be complete, but the elements of street life (gang life) are as strong inside as they are outside”.

The magazine says higher education administrators are often unaware of or ignore the fact that gang members are on their campuses. It proposes that education administrators should establish specific, measurable, achievable and timely goals. The magazine says administrators should “develop an understanding of the gang’s history and the issues that exist surrounding the gangs in your area”.

“Broaden your knowledge base to develop an accurate perspective regarding your campus’s role within the local community,” it says.

“This includes how you work with grade schools, high schools and community organisations that are battling the same issue every day but may not have any regular connection with your college or university.”

“Gather as much information as you can about the gangs in the community that surrounds your campus. Working closely with local law enforcement is a helpful first step in this process.”

The magazine recommends designing “an awareness program for everyone within your post-secondary community so that, when needed, the team can implement an effective response and support plan”.

It says a basic step in developing an understanding of gang life is learning how to identify individuals who are involved in gangs. A common set of member identifiers such as tattoos or dressing code, including accessories and colour combinations, tend to be the most obvious visual elements that most experts use in their identification efforts.

It says professors on a college campus, however, spend far less time with their students as opposed to resident advisers in dormitories. But “while resident advisors in dormitory settings might have more of an opportunity to observe students in a casual setting, do they know the signs of gang involvement?”

It says because commuting to a university campus is popular in urban settings, social life might never be observed on campus, thus making it impossible for someone employed by the campus to observe a gang-affiliated college student in their gang-connected setting.

The magazine says there are certain factors to be aware of as it relates to gang membership. The most basic is that membership is now generational and many current gang members have simply been born into gang life.

The simple fact that mom and dad are members of a particular gang means that their offspring are automatically members of the gang as well, it says.

“Gangster at birth means gangster for life.”

It says well-educated members of a gang have as much to offer as the less educated street level members. The magazine says earning degrees in accounting, business and law can result in a high functioning network of professionals who can eventually prove to be beneficial to well-organised gangs.

“With the assistance of well-educated members, a new world of opportunity is created that might look like legitimate businesses,” it says.

Majara Molupe

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BNP wins rescission order against SG

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MASERU – THE Basotho National Party (BNP) this week successfully applied for a rescission of a court order that would have seen the party’s secretary general, Thato Lethobane, being awarded M126 000. Lethobane’s case will now be heard again at the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution (DDPR) on Monday.

The party raised technical legal reasons that prompted the cancellation of the award that ordered the party to pay Lethobane for the time he did not receive his salary since his suspension.

Lethobane was suspended in October last year after he was accused of embezzling party funds and he asked the DDPR to order the party to pay him from October last year to April this year.

The BNP deputy secretary, Moeketsi Hanyane, who is holding forte at the party’s administration, told thepost last night that “Lethobane’s glow was short-lived and was wrong in the first place”.

“The DDPR award against us will not see the light of day because Lethobane got suspended for two years after we discovered that he stole the party’s funds,” Hanyane said.

“A thief is a thief and we cannot allow him to claim monies he is unworthy of,” he said.

“We have opened a case against him at the police and he cannot come around and say we owe him.”

Hanyane said Lethobane was suspended for two years so that after that period, if he still loved wanted to be part of the party, he could come and participate in its affairs again.

“The suspension was not meant to put him aside for a while to allow investigations but it is a punishment for what we found on him,” he said.

Hanyane said Lethobane is not owed anything for that period because he is officially out of office as a result of the punishment he got from the party not because he was suspended pending investigations.

He said the BNP did not defend itself at the DDPR and the arbitrator ruled in favour of Lethobane in default.

“We did not go to the DDPR on technical issues and we have since applied for and acquired a rescission of the award,” he said.

Lethobane declined to get into the details of his case with the BNP but only confirmed that he had won an award at the DDPR.

“After I realised how much they owed me I decided to go to labour and successfully claimed my payment,” he said.

“The case judgment was done in my favor, even though I will not discuss that issue much.”

The party pays its secretary general M18 000 per month.

Nkheli Liphoto

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Killer police investigated

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MASERU – PRIME Minister Moeketsi Majoro has set up a special team to investigate police officers who killed a student during a protest at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) last week. Majoro’s decision comes as pressure mounts on the government and the police to identify the officers who pulled the trigger and bring them to justice.

The police killed Kopano Makutoane and seriously injured six more students on Thursday last week during a strike over their stipends that were not paid in full. Makutoane was shot with multiple live bullets in the face.

Police Minister Lepota Sekola, Commissioner of Police Holomo Molibeli and Development Planning Minister, Selibe Mochoboroane, confirmed that a team has been set up but were reluctant to give further details. thepost has been told that the police have zeroed in on 12 police officers who were part of the team that responded to the protest.

The police management is said to be close to suspending some of the officers and opening a murder case against them. Their names cannot, however, be revealed because they have not been officially identified and charged.

Majoro visited the Makutoane family last week and promised justice for their slain son. The strike was triggered by the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS)’s delay to pay students their monthly stipends.

Those who received the allowances only got M450 instead of their usual monthly stipend of M1 100. Several eyewitnesses and victims told thepost that the police conducted raids targeting NUL students even after the protesters had dispersed. Sello Khechane, a second-year student, said the police fired live ammunition at the protesters.

“We started fleeing the place and did not even realise that one of us was shot near the gate,” Khechane said.

One of the injured students said about 20 police officers knocked at her rented room when she was sleeping, dragged her out and beat her with sticks and truncheons.

“I was still wearing my gown and was not even part of the protest,” she said.

Another girl who had visited her brother was caught in the crossfire as police went on the rampage.

“I was watching a movie when I saw a mob of police approaching the door and asking all of us in the house to come out,” she said.

She said the police used sticks and kicked her.

“I tried to convince them that I am not a student there, but they refused to listen,” she said.

The Social Development Minister, Selibe Mochoboroane, said he immediately intervened when he was informed of the disagreement between the Students’ Representative Council and the NMDS management over the stipends.

“The school told us that there was a problem as students walked out of examination rooms.”

He also said the NMDS told him that there is a law that says students should not get full amounts when their school days are cut short during a month.

“We made a decision that students should get full amounts,” he said.

He said the students were notified that they would get full amounts but continued with the strike.

“I am sorry that one student lost his life.” The incident has sparked an outcry from different political parties.

The Basotho Action Party (BAP) leader and former Vice-Chancellor of the NUL, Professor Nqosa Mahao, condemned the killing saying it was the third time police have used force during protests and ended up taking lives.

“We are very saddened and embarrassed by this act,” Professor Mahao said.

He said they condemn the police actions that led to the death of the student, saying the behaviour by police shows that Basotho’s lives are not safe. He recalled that in 2009 the police shot a student during protests.

“They shot Tumelo Mohlomi in 2017, she was also shot by the police,” Professor Mahao said, adding that the police officers involved in the incident were not charged.

He blamed the conflicts on the NMDS management “that does not do its job correctly”. The Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) leader, Sam Matekane, met NUL students near the campus on Tuesday.

“We condemn that behaviour, it was uncalled for, it was not necessary,” Matekane said.

He said the police’s job is to protect and save people, not to kill people as they did or do.

“When promised sponsorship, we are expecting you to get them as promised,” he said.

“It does not make sense that someone can carry a gun and shoot an unarmed student.”

He also pledged to provide the students with transport to Quthing where Makutoane will be laid to rest.

“We will make sure that those who were affected get the necessary counselling and also help them,” he said.

The NUL management also condemned the killing and injuring of other students. In a statement, the university said it was aggrieved by “the plan by the NMDS to prorate the student’s allowance for June 2022”. The university pleaded with the students to remain calm, adding that it has started visiting all the affected families.

Staff Reporter

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Mafeteng magistrates’ court records burnt

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MASERU – A fire gutted the records section of the Mafeteng Magistrate’s Court last week. The police suspect it was an act of arson. Thousands of crucial case records were destroyed.

This could affect hundreds of cases that were pending in the court. Police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli confirmed the incident, saying investigations have started but no arrests have been made.

“But our preliminary investigations show that the court was intentionally set on fire,” S/Supt Mopeli said.

“Important court documents have been set alight together with some chairs and a table.”

A source close to the case told thepost that a container of petrol was found outside a broken window. The guard was not at work when the incident happened.

In 2010 computers containing information on cars registered in Maseru and Leribe were burnt in a fire that police suspected was deliberately started to destroy records and cover up corruption.

The Integrated Financial Management System computers, National Transport Information System server, computers, and a printer were destroyed.

The incident happened as the police were investigating a syndicate that was illegally registering stolen cars.

In 2019 a fire at the Ministry of Health’s head office destroyed computers and records.

Although ministry officials said the fire could have been caused by an electrical fault, suspicions of foul play lingered on.

Majara Molupe

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