21 appear in court over initiation school killings

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MASERU — Twenty-one men from Takalatsa in Matelile appeared in the Mafeteng magistrate’s court on Friday last week jointly charged with the murder of four men and assault of two others at an initiation school two weeks ago.
Three of them were released into their parents’ custody because they are still minors.
The rest were remanded in custody where they will remain until they appear in the High Court at a date still to be announced.
The 21 men were arrested on January 31 for allegedly murdering four men and injuring two others during a fight at a local initiation school.
Police say three men died at the initiation school while the other one died later after admission at Mafeteng Hospital.
The injured men are reported to be in a critical condition at the same hospital. 
The police refused to release the names of the deceased saying their next of kin had not yet been informed.
The fight allegedly ensued between the two villages of Takalatsa and Ha-Makhakhe after the initiation school owner turned down a request to release some of the boys before the traditional closing ceremony.
Police spokeperson, Masupha Masupha, said villagers from Ha-Makhakhe are reported to have asked the school owner, Ntšema Toketa, to release the boys before the closing ceremony.
And when Toketa refused a fight ensued, Masupha said.
“That was when the fight between the two villages started, leaving three men dead,” Masupha said.
“The fourth man died later in hospital.”
Masupha said neither the deceased, the injured nor the arrested men were related by blood to any of the Ha-Makhakhe boys whose alleged release they had demanded.
“These men fought, got injured and died for the release of boys they were not related to,” he said.
“It is also not clear why they wanted the boys to be released before the ceremony was over yet.”
Masupha said Toketa should have informed the police so that they could have provided security during the graduation ceremony which later turned violent.
“When one plans to have a social or traditional gathering that will attract a large crowd it is wise for him to inform the police for them to go and provide security,” he said.
“The police know that people tend to get out of control when they are in large numbers and it is always wise to involve them in such big gatherings.
“Surely the police could have prevented this crime if they were present at that ceremony.
“We have policemen who underwent initiation and we often assign them to such events.”
Masupha said the Ha-Makhakhe chief only called them when there was a fight and by the time the police arrived, it was too late.

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