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Tradition must not stand in the way of justice

2573594144_50e939edc0_bThe sad case in which initiates savagely attacked three defenceless women in Thaba-Tseka after accusing them of trespassing, is a cruel reminder that tradition — for all its merits — can be abused by anti-social elements to commit crime.

Initiation schools should be a source of pride for the Kingdom as they symbolise centuries-old traditions which define the nation and help Basotho celebrate the uniqueness of where they come from.

However, some rogue elements have continued to take advantage of such customs to exploit their compatriots and in the Thaba-Tseka case, as reported elsewhere in this issue, terrorise their fellow citizens.

The merits or demerits of going to initiation schools is not the point of discussion in this particular instance, but the conduct of the initiates which continues to be cause for concern with each passing day.

In this latest savagery by the initiates, the owner of the school has offered his apology and even said he would help pay the assaulted women’s hospital bills.

It is an act worth commendation yet the damage has already been done and Basotho culture has suffered yet another knock which should not have been allowed to take place in the first place.

The culprits will be allowed to complete their training and only be arrested after graduation. We understand the traditions behind this amnesty, especially the myth that once one undertakes an initiation course, they cannot stop midway because they will supposedly meet a terrible fate.
But the question remains: is this not compromising the sacrosanct tenet of justice that all citizens are equal before the law?

If some people have the privilege of committing a crime, knowing fully well they can have an unwritten grace period of three months which is the time they would be at the initiation school, does this not work against law-enforcement in general?

So even if a woman is raped by an initiate, the matter has to wait three months before the wheels of justice can start turning.

We think such instances should be re-examined for the sake of the nation’s moral health.
The only glimmer of hope, however, in this case is that the police will be sending some initiated officers to, at least, investigate while the matter is still fresh and hopefully bring the culprits to book in the end.

We also have to state that not all traditions remain meaningful in this ever-evolving world. We are also aware that while some aspects of tradition are important and should be safeguarded, it is equally important to tailor-make parts of these to suit current realities on the ground.

We also need to understand the reasons some practices were carried out in the old days.

There is no doubt some aspects are still important, but we struggle to understand how the emphasis on virility and valour —macho qualities that were key to survivalin days gone by can actually empower youngsters to conquer an increasingly complex digital age like ours.

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