July 21, 2017

News:

Initiation violence irks stakeholders

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A tradition abused … Some unethical individuals are putting the age-old practice under threat

A tradition abused … Some unethical individuals are putting the age-old practice under threat

Concentration of initiation schools in a single area is simple proof that owners are more interested in quick cash than preserving culture . . . 

A member of the Free State House of Traditional Leaders, Pinare Molefe, has condemned ‘commercialisation’ of culture, describing it as a breeding ground for gang crime and physical attacks on initiates.

Molefe said this amid a growing chorus of calls for abolishment of the initiation practice, which many communities feel has lost meaning because it has been ‘hijacked’ by rogue elements.

“The concentration of initiation schools in a single area is simple proof that owners are more interested in quick cash than preserving culture. In Maluti-A-Phofung we had more than 60 initiation schools during the last initiation season. This shows that everyone wants to make money from the boys,” he noted.

He added the actual purpose of training boys to become responsible citizens has been thrown out the window as school owners were now more focused on maximising enrolment and profits accruing from the practice.

“This results in competition for clients, which sees the formation of gangsters who are unleashed to attack and destabilise rival schools, forcing them to close down,” explained Molefe.

It is against this backdrop that initiation school owners, traditional leaders and healers who are determined to preserve Basotho culture and initiation schools in Maluti-A-Phofung convened last week to discuss ways to save the initiation practice.

The indaba follows the death of four initiates who fell victim to gang violence in the last initiation season summer.

The meeting saw stakeholders and new graduates engaging on how best to eradicate gangsterism in the mountains where the ceremony is usually held. But in an interview with The Weekly the chairman of the Thabo Mofutsanyane initiation schools committee, Dieke Mokoena, warned the abolishment of initiation schools would do more harm than good.

“We cannot avoid taking our children to initiation schools. Some of them go there on the instruction of the ancestors, and failure to honour such a calling would have serious consequences on a person’s entire being,” Mokoena said.

“It is therefore imperative that we establish the root cause of unpalatable incidents associated with initiation and find an appropriate remedy. Abolishing the practice is not an option.”

His sentiments were echoed by initiation school owner, Lesia Solomono, who blamed the authorities’ interference for the rot in initiation schools.

“Initiation does not teach gangsterism. We do not know where it comes from. But I blame this doctrine of ‘rights’. Traditionally, problems in initiation schools never involve the police or court of laws. Everything that happens at the mountain is resolved there. We have our own judges, prosecutors and lawyers in initiation schools. Democracy has destroyed everything,” he bemoaned.

One of the initiation graduates, 21 year-old Daniel Motsweneng, recounted how the alertness of their instructors saved the day when their school was invaded by a rival group.

“During our initiation we experienced many gang attacks but we were lucky that our teachers were always on guard and no one was hurt. I do not know why people from the initiation schools behave like this, because we are not taught such things up there,” said Motsweneng.

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