LEROTHOLI Polytechnic students have been warned not to attend the funerals of their colleagues, Motlatsi Matete and Tokelo Masiu, whose bodies were found along Mohokare River last month.
According to both grieving families, the students should stay away from the burials, set for this coming weekend and next week, or face unspecified action.
Matete (19), whose body was found during a police search on 31 July after he was last seen alive on 23 July, would be buried on Saturday in Tšakholo, Mafeteng district.
On the other hand, the body of Masiu (22), was found on 25 July after he was also last seen alive on 23 July. His burial is set for 30 August in Thabana-Morena, also in Mafeteng.
Both Matete and Masiu were first-year students at the college, popularly known as Fokothi, and their deaths have since been linked to the institution’s brutal initiation of first-year learners by their senior colleagues.
According to the college’s registrar, Hlomohang Majara, the management had received instructions from the families that the students would not be allowed to attend both funerals.
“The students are expected not to attend both funerals. The management has already communicated this message to the students following instructions from the grieving families that they don’t want to see any of our students anywhere near their homes during the funerals,” Advocate Majara said.
“The families are so angry with the students, including us the management, because they believe we should have done something to prevent this. They are much angrier with the students as they have already made up their minds that they viciously ended their children’s lives through the induction or initiation.”
Advocate Majara, also said the college had since cancelled this year’s graduation ceremony which had been scheduled for 6 September, to allow the mourning of the two learners.
“We cancelled the graduation ceremony which was scheduled for 6 September, to mourn the death of the two learners. This matter has also affected many other school activities and the running of this institution. A lot of other issues have been postponed while the management tries to strategise how this deadly induction could be eradicated from this school.”
Advocate Majara further revealed the families snubbed an invitation to attend a memorial service organised by the college on Tuesday this week.
“They chose not to come for the memorial service we held on Tuesday; we had to go ahead with the programme without their presence,” she said.
Meanwhile, a student who spoke to the Lesotho Times on condition of anonymity this week said he understood the families’ anger, but pointed out the induction was only supported by a few hooligans.
“They have every right to ban us from the funerals. They should be believing that we are a bunch of dangerous criminals who might even cause havoc at the funerals. But the truth of the matter is this initiation is done by just a few of us. The authorities should take serious action against the culprits because the truth will eventually come out,” he said.
The student further said the induction became deadly when the school’s boarding facility for male learners was shut down around 2008.
“Before the dormitories were shut down around 2008, we are told the initiation was still being done, but no student was ever reported dead. So we don’t know why the initiation suddenly became deadly after the dormitories were shut down,” said the student.
According to Advocate Majara, the school’s records indicated the first student to die due to the induction was in 2009 “after the dormitories for boys were closed.”
“The current management is considering re-opening the facility, but it should be clear first that we no longer want this practice to exist even if it is not deadly anymore.”
Meanwhile, there still a pending High Court case where six other former Fokothi students face murder charges following the death of two first-year students in 2012 — allegedly due to the initiation.