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Student killed in ‘welcome’ ritual



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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[BREAKING NEWS] Lebona sets curfew



MASERU– In an effort to curb the rampant increase of homicides in Lesotho, the Minister of Police Lebona Lephema has announced a 10:00pm-4:00am curfew, effective Tuesday May 16, 2023. Failure to comply with the curfew attracts a 2 years imprisonment or a fine.

Staff Reporter

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Two nurses deleted for misconduct



MASERU – A Kolonyama midwife, ’Mamalibeng Ralenkoane, who allegedly neglected a woman during labour has been deleted from the nurses’ register for the next six months.

The woman went on to deliver her baby by herself without professional assistance.

In another case the secretary-general of the Lesotho Nursing Council (LNC), ’Mamonica Makhoswonke Mokhesi, has also been deleted for violating a patient’s privacy.

The LNC’s disciplinary chairman, Advocate Rapapa Sepiriti, said Ralenkoane had committed an act of serious misconduct and deserved severe punishment.

Advocate Sepiriti ruled that Ralenkoane “should not be seen anywhere attending (to) patients”.

Ralenkoane was working as a midwife at the Little Flower Health Centre in Kolonyama, Leribe, when ’Mateboho Letlala was admitted there for labour in August 2020.

Letlala told the panel that Ralenkoane took her to the examination room and later left her despite that there were signs that she could give birth anytime.

“At 19:00 pm Ralenkoane examined the patient but left her unattended and the patient had to deliver on her own,” Advocate Sepiriti said in his verdict.

“Clearly the blame has to be put at the door of Ralenkoane,” he said.

Adv. Sepiriti ruled that she should be deleted with immediate effect for 12 months, half of which was suspended.

“During these six months period, Ralenkoane is prohibited in any way from attending patients and this judgment should be delivered at her place of work,” he said.

Letlala in her testimony said by the time Ralenkoane arrived, she was already having severe labour pains and was told to go to the labour ward for assessment.

She said when she stepped down the labour bed Ralenkoane said to her: “Ua seke ua tatela ho hema empa molomo oa popelo o buleile ka 3cm’ (meaning she seemed to be in a hurry yet the cervix had opened by 3cm only).

“I was so surprised because I could feel I was very close to delivering because this was my second child and I could say I have experience,” she said.

She said she told the nurse that she needed to use the toilet but was instructed to use a pan instead.

“As she left me on the bed pan I could not stand from the pan as the pains were severe. I called for help but to no avail,” she said.

She said the moment she got energy to stand from the bed pan she saw blood, she called her but there was no response.

“Ralenkoane promised to come after two hours but there were no instructions on what to do in case I needed help prior to two hours,” she said.

“I wheeled myself to the bed and sat on it, still calling to no avail.”

She said while still alone, her membranes raptured and the time of birth came and the baby was delivered.

“The child did not fall as I was able to hold him,” she said.

She phoned her aunt who told her to find s scissor to cut the umbilical cord.

She said she bled a lot and ran out of energy, then Ralenkoane arrived at around midnight.

“When she came in she asked where the baby was and I pointed to where I had put him where he clamped the cord,” she said.

She said it was then that she got assistance.

The investigator for Professional Conduct Committee (PCC), one Nteso, told Advocate Sepiriti that his findings were that “the mother’s life was in danger as she was found having bled heavily and tired and the baby’s life was also in danger from prolonged exposure which could lead to hypothermia and brain damage”.

“Ralenkoane was not there for the mother until she delivered in the absence of the midwife, this is a case of negligence,” he said.

However, in mitigation Ralenkoane said this was her first time to appear before the panel and has been a nurse for more than nine years.

She said she has two children to support and she has already been punished by the clinic as she was dismissed and that she has policies and loans.

She pleaded with the panel to have mercy on her.

In another case Mokhesi who was the Secretary General of LNC was also deleted from the register for two years after she was found guilty of sharing a patient’s picture on social media without their consent.

She was accused of defamation of character and violating the patient’s privacy by posting pictures of the injuries he had incurred.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Nurses back at work



MASERU -NURSES who have been on strike since Monday are set to resume work this morning after the government started paying their salaries.

The nurses went on a go-slow last week but escalated to a full-fledged strike on Monday after the government delayed their salaries. Some nurses claimed they had not been paid since March.

Morephe Santi, the secretary general of the Lesotho Nurses’ Association (LNA), said they have started telling members to go back to work after the government said the salaries will start reflecting in their accounts last night.

The strike has inflicted huge reputational damage on Prime Minister Sam Matekane’s government which came to power on promises of efficiency.

Minister of Public Service Richard Ramoeletsi blamed the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) and the Human Resource Management System (HRMS) for the delay in April salaries.

Ramoeletsi told parliament last week that the two financial management systems were unable to reconcile, leading to delays in salaries.

But that explanation was little consolation for patients who bore the brunt of the strike.

At least 20 expectant mothers at Machabeng Hospital in Qacha’s Nek were told to go home because nurses could not help them.

Some of the women were later admitted at Tebellong Hospital, a facility under the Christian Health Association of Lesotho (CHAL).

“We were staying at the hospital’s roundavel awaiting our time to go to labour but on Thursday afternoon (last week we were called by the nurses and they told us to go to other hospitals or go back home,” said Maretlotliloe Mpeli, who is heavily pregnant.

She said the nurses told them that they could not work on empty stomachs.

’Matlotla Poling, 19, from Ha-Rankakala said she had to call her parents because she did not have any money to either go back home or to Tebellong Hospital.

The Machabeng Hospital management declined to comment, referring thepost to the ministry’s headquarters in Maseru.

Ministry of Health spokesperson, ’Mateboho Mosebekoa, said Machabeng Hospital “did not expel the expecting mothers but merely sent them back home”.

“Due to the ongoing strike by doctors countrywide …they decided to take those women to the places where they would get help,” Mosebekoa said.

There was similar anguish at Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital.

“The strike has affected all the departments including the kitchen, maternity, and emergencies, but the managers are on duty,” said ’Makananelo Sepipi, the hospital’s spokesperson.

Sepipi said managers were forced to hold the forte “because some sections cannot be left unattended utterly due to their importance”.

“The operations are happening in the emergency section, even though they do not operate in a normal way.”

She said patients whose operations were scheduled for this week were sent back home.

Santi, the LNA’s secretary general, blamed the government for the chaos caused by the strike.

Santi said as much as the government likes to call them an essential service they do not prioritise their ministry.

“They do not appreciate us, it is like they do not see the importance of our job,” Santi said.

“The government turns a blind eye to the fact that our working environment alone can put us at risk of contracting diseases.”

“Now we are not able to buy food and other necessities.”

Nkheli Liphoto & Thooe Ramolibeli

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