Picture: Lizéll Muller
Picture: Lizéll Muller

Initiation horrors exposed

By Sandi Kwon Hoo Time of article published Jan 10, 2013

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Northern Cape - More horrific accounts have surfaced of how initiates were beaten, tortured and fed burning coals at the same initiation school in Hartswater where Gabaediwe Motsage, 22, was murdered while undergoing her rites of passage.

Motsage was allegedly pelted with stones while burning coals were inserted into her buttocks on December 18.

The surviving women, were unable to eat, speak or walk when they were freed from their captors, following the arrest of the school elders in connection with Motsage’s murder.

The school was shut down last week.

The accused, Ellen Mogwara, 30, from Ganspan, Lorraine Molale, 22, from Taung, Keadimilwe Gopane, 27, Keikantsemang Molale, 19, both from Hartswater, and John Vis from Bonita Park, appeared in the Hartswater Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday.

Magistrate Vincent Jameson set their bail hearing for January 23.

Nine minors will be tried separately on the same charges of murder and assault, under the Child Justice Act.

The three boys will remain in custody, while six girls, who bear noticeable burn marks on their arms as evidence of undergoing their cultural rituals, were released into the care of their guardians on Wednesday.

It is believed that initiates who were unable to pay their fees were enlisted as workers and were instructed to pursue Motsage and force her to return after she managed to flee from the initiation school.

The community threatened to assault the 14 accused with spades if they were released on bail and called for the closure of all illegal initiation schools, during a protest outside the court building.

“A mother has lost a child and children were kidnapped and kept hostage against their will. They were also forced to eat sandwiches that were filled with faeces.”

Throngs of supporters were denied access into a courtroom that was filled to capacity.

Agnes Motsage, the deceased’s mother, whose eyes were filled with tears, as she sat forlornly next to her husband on the court room benches, lamented that there was nothing that could comfort them.

“If I had known that it was an illegal initiation school, I would never have allowed her to go there,” she said.

Another initiate, who also attended the court proceedings, narrowly escaped death after she was beaten and buried alive in a grave after trying to run away.

The initiate’s father believed that Motsage’s death could have been prevented, had the police intervened.

“A number of parents asked for assistance, upon receiving news that their daughters were being physically abused. The school refused to allow us access to our children, despite the fact that they were injured.

“The police visited the site but refused to force their way into the initiation school, three days before her death.”

He added that his daughter was admonished for ingesting snuff that was given to her, through her mouth instead of her nose.

“She had never used snuff before and as punishment, burning coals were placed inside her mouth. They bound her arms and feet and tied her to a tree stump, where she was left outside in the rain.

“Another young girl was also assaulted when she hid away in the bushes with my daughter.

“Two men upon instruction of the school principal, assaulted my child before she was thrown into a grave and buried with soil, up to her chest.

“It is a miracle that she is alive because no one at that school made any attempts to rescue her.”

He indicated that he was prohibited from seeing his daughter until dawn, after she returned home.

“They sang outside the house the whole night. She was unable to walk, the roof of her mouth was burnt from the coals. She is still extremely traumatised as she cries whenever the subject of the school is brought up. I took her to two doctors for medical treatment and while the physical scars are beginning to heal, the psychological damage is permanent.”

He added that parents were required to pay a R1 500 admission fee that included food and the purchase of livestock.

“People who run initiation schools that are not legitimate are enriching themselves at the expense of our children.”

Hartswater community policing forum chairman, Somuel Matholengwe, stated they would monitor the infiltration of unregistered initiation schools in the area together with the police and the municipality.

“Injury and death can be prevented if cultural practices are done according to the regulations. We will also investigate why the police did not take preventative steps at the initiation school prior to Motsage’s death.”

Matholengwe stated that they would be opposing bail for the accused.

“Whoever is responsible must be dealt with a harsh sentence.”

He said that supporters from as far as Pampierstad and the surrounding villages had travelled to attend Wednesday’s court appearance.

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