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Principal ‘abducted’ to initiation school



MASERU – The wife of a school principal who was abducted and forcibly taken to an initiation school in Quthing last month has filed an urgent case in the High Court demanding his release.
The matter will be heard today.

’Mashama Mahlala has asked the High Court to order the initiation school owner to produce the body of her husband dead or alive.

Her 55-year-old husband, Jesse Mahlala, was allegedly abducted by three men travelling in a white Honda Fit in full view of students at his Sebapala Primary School in Quthing district.

Mahlala is said to have irked the initiation school bosses after he discouraged his students from attending initiation school by teaching them that those who undergo initiation are castrated.

It is traditionally considered a crime among Basotho to talk about what happens at initiation schools to the uninitiated, and much more so when such discussion is among the uninitiated.

The wife told the court that on October 25 she accompanied her husband to work and while there she saw the three men arriving in a Honda Fit and proceeded to the office.

“Out of the taxi there came one Moalosi Tholang who quickly entered the staffroom armed with a stick,” ’Mashama Mahlala said in an affidavit.

She said at the time her husband was talking over a phone outside the staffroom.

“When he was outside Moalosi Tholang closed the door and (one) Selebalo and Setipe (Mohale) caught (Jesse Mahlala) outside and took him to the car and drove away with him,” she said.

The car, she said, was driven by one Mofetoli Mofetoli who drove in the direction of the initiation school, which in court papers is referred to as a circumcision school.

“Since then we have not seen Jesse anymore.”

She said the school children “remained shocked and traumatised” by the abduction of the principal.

The court also heard that Jesse Mahlala had sent a message to the school indicating that he needed his medication and spectacles and that the school should send the date stamp to the district education office.

Her lawyer Advocate Puseletso Khutlang, in a certificate of urgency, said Mahlala’s abductors threatened to kill him and threatened to forcefully take his relatives to the initiation school if they objected.

She said the situation “might involve firearms”.

The Quthing Education manager, Moipusi Motebang, in a letter attached to the court papers, told the Education Ministry that on the day of his abduction, Mahlala telephoned her reporting that he had been attacked.

She asked him to describe the men who had attacked him at the office and “while he was trying to give a description I heard a commotion in the background of the call, with Mr Mahlala shouting “butleng . . . butleng!”

“The call was cut and when I tried to call him back his phone was no longer accessible,” Motebang said.

Motebang said she called the principal of the nearby Sebapala High School to establish what had happened and she confirmed that Mahlala had been abducted.

She also said one of the teachers where Mahlala worked confirmed to her that she had personally recognised the faces of two abductors as Tholang Moalosi and Setipe Mohale.

The teacher is also said to have identified the car used as a familiar one.

Motebang reported the matter to the police.

The district’s National Security Service (NSS) confirmed that Mahlala had been “abducted and forcibly taken to some initiation school”.

The Quthing district initiation school committee chairman, Selebalo Mohlomi, denied allegations that Mahlala was abducted.

In an answering affidavit, Mohlomi said teachers at the school wrote a letter complaining that the principal was “revealing to students content that was not supposed to be taught to them”.

Mohlomi said the “content was in relation to matters of circumcision”.

The letter, attached to the court papers, had been jointly written by the Sebapala Primary School board which included a representative of teachers, ’Makabelo Lipholo.

“He says to children that men are being castrated at circumcision schools and that they will be treated similarly if they go to circumcision schools,” the letter reads.

It says Mahlala taught children that “women have nothing for castration”.

The board’s letter also said the Ministry of Education advised that Mahlala should be removed from the school and was removed but “(was) later fraudulently employed”.

Mohlomi told the court that Mahlala was confronted about these matters “and advised that he was to be circumcised”.

He said Mahlala “took the advice and consented to be accompanied to the circumcision school”.

“It is not true that children were shocked and/or traumatised,” Mohlomi said.

“Instead school children were corrupted by matters that are reflected in (the board’s letter) and these matters ought to be addressed in the manner that has been done,” he said.

He said if Mahlala wanted to be taken back from the initiation school he would have said so.

The wife, he said, is “acting contrary to any instruction from his (sic) husband”.

No one in Lesotho has ever succeeded in recovering an abducted one from initiation school.

Caswell Tlali


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