Death brings home horror of illegal initiation schools

July 15, 2017. A dilapidated su-station was used an illegal initiation school in Lenasia, where Samkelo Khola succumbed to his injuries after being tortured repeatedly by his abductors. Photo Thulani Mbele. © Sowetan
July 15, 2017. A dilapidated su-station was used an illegal initiation school in Lenasia, where Samkelo Khola succumbed to his injuries after being tortured repeatedly by his abductors. Photo Thulani Mbele. © Sowetan

An epileptic teenager has died after he was allegedly abducted and forced to attend an illegal initiation school where he was repeatedly tortured with knobkerries and planks for "faking" seizures.

Police are investigating a case of murder and have arrested a 16-year-old boy. An alleged accomplice, aged 28, is still at large, according to Lenasia police spokesman Captain Mbulaheni Netshivhodza.

Samkelo Khola's body was found last Sunday under a tree covered with soil allegedly to make it look like he had taken a fatal fall from the tree.

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His fellow initiates, who were also abducted, were allegedly made to wash Samkelo's body with water drawn from a nearby pond and dress it to hide the wounds.

Four days earlier, 17-year-old Samkelo of Boipatong, south of Johannesburg, was allegedly kidnapped with his two friends as they were preparing for a soccer match in the township.

The man and the boy, who are known to them, pretended to be part of the game and lured them away from their homes.

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They then allegedly walked about 40km to Lenasia where an illegal initiation school, an abandoned empty sub-station, had been prepared.

The sub-station was hidden among tall reeds about 2km from the suburban houses.

One of the kidnapped boys, aged 13, said their abductors immediately circumcised them with a razor on arrival.

"They told us that we will die that night," said the boy who is currently recovering at home.

"They made us undress and sleep in the bare open space.

"It rained the following day and we were moved inside the sub-station except for Samkelo, who started having fits and wanted his medication.

"They started hitting him all over the body with knobkerries until they all broke. They then used planks," the boy said.

In between the torturing, the boys were escorted to fetch water from the pond and collected metal to be sold by their abductors at scrapyards to buy dagga and sorghum beer.

They survived on pap and boiled cabbage, which they cooked in old tins.

On Sunday morning, Samkelo allegedly received more beatings until he had seizures. "We found him naked, lying next to the sub-station. We were told to dig a shallow grave but we refused.

"We were then ordered to wash and clothe his body and dump it under a tree so it can be easily found."

Samkelo's mother Margaret Lenong had suspected he had been abducted when he did not return home for several days. He was then reported missing.

"His epilepsy had been under control. I suspect it was the cold weather and the beatings that triggered it," she said.

The department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs confirmed yesterday that 14 initiates have died this season countrywide.

Seven deaths were reported in Eastern Cape, three in Mpumalanga, and two each in Gauteng and Western Cape.

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