Gang members convert to Christianity

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  • as army commander Letsoela courts churches to address rampant crime

Kaleen Chikowore

SEVENTY-FOUR juvenile gang members who are currently undergoing “rehabilitation” at Makoanyane Barracks say they have turned a new leaf and given their lives to God.

The youths were arrested two months ago by the army on allegations of committing violent crimes including murder, rape, housebreaking, theft and stabbings in the Maseru and Berea districts.

Army commander, Lieutenant General (Lt-Gen) Mojalefa Letsoela, who launched the Operation Namola (intervene), to weed out the young but dangerous criminals, detained them at the Makoanyane Barracks for what he says is an ongoing rehabilitation programme to get them to change their ways before they are reintegrated into society.

Lt-Gen Letsoela has also courted civil society organisations and churches to assist in counselling and support services.

One of the churches courted by the army chief is the Maseru-based Word of Life International Ministries (Wolim).

It was at this church that the 74 youths repented and converted to Christianity on Sunday. They were accompanied to the church by senior army officers, Captain Bokang Melato and Lieutenant Hlapane Tshehlo.

Wolim Regional Pastor, Dumisani Dube, welcomed the youths, saying it was commendable that they had decided to clean up their lives.

“God is love and we will never run out of the love that he has for us. We all have sinned, but he is faithful to forgive us,” Pastor Dube said.

He urged the youths to continue attending church and to get involved in church programmes and groups such as Impact- a group he said was tailor-made to cater for the needs of young people and to give them a platform to influence their peers for the good of mankind.

“Impact is a group specifically structured to build up a young person who is secure, confident, full of self-worth and maturity in an atmosphere of love, excitement, achievement and direction,” Pastor Dube said.

In a direct address to the army officers who had accompanied the youths to church, Pastor Dube said, “you have brought them to the right place because here at Wolim our youths are trained to be the leaders of today not tomorrow”.

In a separate interview with the Lesotho Times, Lt-Gen Mojalefa Letsoela urged all churches to help in rehabilitating youths who had been involved in criminal activities.

“These children were involved in heinous crimes; they need divine intervention for their lives to be completely turned around. We believe that with divine intervention, they will be delivered from the evil that is pushing them into crime.

“Our aim is to see them transform into useful citizens for our country, church and communities. As the army, we have also started teaching them about Jesus Christ. We hope that now that they have received Christ, their ways will be transformed,” Lt-Gen Letsoela said.

The youths were arrested and detained the Makoanyane Barracks in May this year. This after they allegedly embarked on a reign of terror in the Koalabata, Tšenola, Ha-Tšosane, Ha-Mabote and Sekamaneng villages.

The 74 comprise of 71 males and 3 females aged from 15 to 34. No date has been set for their release.  Despite the “rehabilitation” programme, Lt-Gen Letsoela has not ruled out prosecutions for their alleged crimes.

 

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