Tradition committee wants new law passed 

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Initiates after successfully completing the rite of passage

By Matṧeliso Phulane

The president of the Traditional Healers Association, Malefetsane Liau has urged the association’s members to step up efforts to push for parliament to pass a 2005 draft law aimed at regulating initiation schools.

In an interview with theReporter this week, Liau pointed out that the law would go a long way towards curbing deaths associated with initiation practices.

This after several reports of incidents which resulted in the maiming and killings of some people linked to initiation.

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 “It is so unfortunate that up until now, the Bill has not been taken into consideration and strengthened. We took all the initiatives and fought since 2005 until now because there is always initiation activity every year but our request has not been received favourably by the legislature,” he said

He said the Bill was formulated through consultations with various sectors such as: the Traditional Healers Association, Principal Chiefs, Christian Council of Lesotho and Human rights lawyer whereby their opinions and suggestions were incorporated into the Bill.

“The Bill does not contain secrets of the initiation school, it is important and can be read by everybody whether they are graduates from the initiation school or not,” Liau highlighted.

He said among others the Bill called ‘Matsipa a taba tsa moetlo oa thaba, lengope le liotloana’ contains the age of the owner of initiation school which has to be 45 years and above. Apart from that such a person should highly knowledgeable in cultural and traditional practices of Basotho.

Again, the instructor should have certain qualities and values obtained from his family.

He added that the Bill has indicated that, an initiate has to be at age 18 and above as it is believed that at that age one is mature enough unless one has to be initiated on the grounds of some spiritual drive.

 “If such a Bill is not strengthened, declared and turned into law by the parliament, the country will face serious problems when it comes to cultural practices,” he observed.

Liau said before Covid-19 started, they held the meeting which involved 24 Principal Chiefs with the along with their traditional representatives and National Covid-19 Secretariat staff to discuss the issue.

But according to Liau the meetings came to an abrupt end when the lockdown restrictions were phased out allowing opening of initiation schools. He was hopeful that the meetings would be resume to pave way for the enactment of the Bill into law,

 “We still expected to gather at the same meeting as before the Covid-19 pandemic. However, if that does not may we can then hold talks on the number of initiation schools perhaps that they should not exceed five in one area,” he said

Furthermore, Liau said nowadays people turn initiation into business which is very wrong. He added that it was imperative to conduct such acts in a proper manner.

He said in the previous year the crisis of death rate has been occurring but is now in the country but  is now shocked at the rate at which it happens. He said there are certain stages passed before a person decide to open an initiation school, such as being given the approval by the village chief and the local authorities.

Liau said, however that is no longer considered since nowadays the owners now use their economic power to bribe the chiefs if the villagers do not approve of the issue.

He further said there is also an issue of the people who want to take a shorter period of time at the initiation school, instead of completing six months required for a person to be well trained and as a result such people come back with the same behaviours.

He then strongly urged parliament to pass the Bill into law as a move to curb rising fights and deaths associated with the traditional activity.

Commenting on the matter, advocate and chief initiate Borenahabokhethe Sekonyela who was also the head of commission as a lawyer when the Bill was made said there is always the reason behind everything and there is a source where it all started and its formation, therefore the same thing should happen with initiation.

He said previously initiation involved respect starting from one self to others. Apart from that initiation was meant to mould the Mosotho man for the future. He said one has to be monitored by other men to avert misbehaving.

He said the absence of the law created a huge gap in initiation because it contained customary law however there should still be members from the villages who are still responsible for initiations matters.

“The owner of the school should be responsible and be the one to choose who should teach the initiates manners. Therefore it has to be a person without criminal record, have good qualities and have enough food to provide the initiate since initiation school is one of the respected place, Sekonyela said.

Sekonyela urged the police officers from all the districts to be responsible and ensure that criminal acts stop at initiation schools. He also said principal chiefs should take responsibility and not allow anyone to have an initiation school at own will and called for strengthening of the Bill.