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The scourge of rape



Staff Reporter



LERATO expected support when she was gang-raped. The village, she thought, would be outraged at such a heinous crime.

Instead her aunt said she got what she deserved and the village ignored her plight.

Four men had taken turns to rape her for nearly two hours.

They also whipped her and threw her into a river.

Lerato (not her real name), says her aunt told her and the people who had gathered at a neighbour’s house to hear her rape ordeal that she got what she wanted.

“My aunt said she wished they had killed me as she thought I asked for it,” Lerato says.

Lerato says she was walking home with a friend when they noticed that some men were following them. As they approached the gate to her home the men started pelting them with stones.

The friend escaped while Lerato says she jumped over a neighbour’s fence, screaming for help. The men caught her and stuffed a cloth into her mouth before dragging her to a nearby gully.

“I also did not see the faces of these men as they had their faces covered,” she recalls.

“They were also beating me with sticks and fists, and kicking me indiscriminately.”

Lerato says they “pulled me to a rocky area where they ordered me to take off my clothes. When I refused one of them got hold of me while another one started tearing my clothing with a knife, and in the process I suffered a cut on my stomach”.

“Then one man forced me to the ground, took off my pants and raped me. They then carried on raping me one after another. They were also surprised, but brutally so, to realise that I was still a virgin”.

“They had no condoms on. After what seemed like eternity they cut my cheek with a knife, saying they were giving me a permanent mark.”

She says they then took her to a stream and threw her clothes into the water and ordered her to retrieve them.

When she refused they pushed her into the stream. They pulled her out when they realised she could not swim.

“I was so tired and my whole body was sore and stiff. I could hardly do anything”.

Later they ordered her on her feet and followed her towards her home while hurling insults.

“We were joined on the way by two other men who also raped me”.

“They were forcing me to walk and I could not. The best I could do was crawl. They then pushed me hard and I fell into a ditch”.

Lerato says she then crawled to a friend’s home and in the morning the friend accompanied her to her home where she found people gathered at a neighbour’s house.

That was where the aunt said she had asked for it.

Lerato, an orphaned teenager in Mohale’s Hoek, says she is the youngest in a family of five children, with her sisters working in Johannesburg and brother working for a security company in Maseru.

Another sister was working in Mohale’s Hoek.

“I called my sister in Mohale’s Hoek and related the whole story to her. She, in turn, called my brother in Maseru and we all went together to the police who recorded my statement and issued me with a medical form to see a doctor. I was tested for pregnancy and HIV and AIDS, and given medication that would deal with the virus should it occur”.

Lerato’s horror story is part of the “I” Stories series produced by the Gender Links News Service to encourage victims of gender-based violence to speak out.

Lerato’s case is not an isolated one in Lesotho. Last month the magistrate’s court in Maseru sentenced two men of Ha-Maama to nine years imprisonment each without an option of a fine for gang-raping a teenage girl from their village.

The 15-year-old girl was on her way to home when she met the men and another teenager. They asked why she was walking alone at night. They also accused her of being disrespectful to her parents.

She told the court that they dragged her to the bushes, whipped her when she tried to call for help and then took turns to rape her there.

They ran away when her cousin, who had heard her calls, came to her rescue and raised alarm.

He had known them.

He took his cousin to the village chief who in turn called her parents before taking the matter to the police.

The court heard that the three went to the girl’s home accompanied by their parents where they admitted to have raped her and asked for forgiveness.

The court ordered that the teenager’s case should be taken to the Children’s Court.

About two weeks before the imprisonment of these two men, two other men appeared before the Maseru magistrate’s court facing murder and rape cases.

These three incidents of rape may seem as just isolated cases but according to recent studies they are part of an epidemic problem of rape in Lesotho.

Gate Stone Institute, a research organisation, last year reported that Sweden is number two in the world in rape cases “surpassed only by Lesotho in southern Africa”.

According to a United Nations study last year Lesotho has the highest rape rate in the world, with 61 percent of women reporting having experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives.

The country had a rate of 88.6 rape cases per 100 000 inhabitants in 2011, according to a UN report.

The Lesotho Nursing Task Analysis Report of 2013 showed that 25 percent of women aged between 18 and 35 years reported that they had been physically forced to have sex.

According to the Lesotho Bureau of Statistics report of 2013 there were 1 498 cases of rape out of the 13 052 serious crimes reported to the police.


The southern region that combines districts of Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek, Quthing and Qacha’s Nek reported 14.4 percent of rape cases.

The northern districts of Berea, Leribe, Butha-Buthe and Mokhotlong had 11.6 percent of rape cases while the central districts of Maseru and Thaba-Tseka had 10.1 percent.

Maseru urban had 18.9 percent and Maseru rural 15.2 percent.

Mokhotlong reported the lowest proportion (4.2 percent) of rape cases.

Another recent study of school age children in Lesotho echoes similarly disturbing statistics, with one in every five children aged 11–16 years reporting that they had been forced or coerced into having sex.

A 2008 study by UNODC, an international organisation, reveals that 61 percent of women reported having experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives, of which 22 percent reported being physically forced to have sexual intercourse.

In the 2009 DHS survey 15.7 percent of men said that a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife if she refuses to have sex with him, while 16 percent said a husband is justified to use force to have sex.

In another study, researchers concluded that “given the high prevalence of HIV in Lesotho, programmes should address women’s right to control their sexuality”.

But that is easier said than done given the dominant role of men in Lesotho’s society. Rape, including in marriages, remains high despite progressive laws like the Married Persons Equality Act 2006. The law gives equal rights to women and men in marriage, but little has changed in reality.

“Unequal gender relations and belief in the sexual entitlement of men are entrenched in cultural and social norms, and the country has a very high incidence of rape. In the majority of cases victims of sexual violence are silenced,” according to a research by Kick4Life, an NGO focusing on HIV and Aids prevention among the youths.

The research also suggests that since many Basotho work and stay in South Africa, they are influenced by the prevalent sexual offences in that country.

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS), a regional research organisation, says “the prevalence of rape and particularly multiple perpetrator rape is unusually high”.

“The proportion of adult men who have raped is between 28-37 percent, and 7-9 percent has engaged in multiple perpetrator rape,” the ISS says.

The ISS says as the majority of sexual assaults remain unreported in South Africa, because of fear of repercussions, rape statistics show a lower rate of molestations as many women choose not to press charges.

The government is working to stop sexual violence in all its forms, according to the Acting Director in the Ministry of Gender ’Mapuleng Secheche.

Secheche says the ministry has a department called Social Empowerment through which the communities countrywide taught about the ills of sexual violence including rape.

Secheche also says there are gender officials in the districts who are engaged in countrywide campaigns against gender-based violence.

“We hold public gatherings through which we encourage the communities to prevent gender-based violence in all its forms,” Secheche says.

“Also we work with NGOs with which we share the same objectives. Some of these NGOs are for women and girls and we often have closed sessions with them where we discuss how we can prevent gender-based violence and how we can report it when it has happened,” she says.

“There are also NGOs that focus on issues of men and our officials often have closed sessions with them.”

She says also there are selected days and internationally observed activities like 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence that starts in mid-November to early December, Human Rights Day on December 10 and other similarly celebrated days.

“That is when we strengthen our campaigns to an extent that we get on board buses to Thaba-Tseka, Mokhotlong and Qacha’s Nek and continue with our campaign in the buses,” she says.

The Gender Link’s country manager, ’Manteboheleng Mabetha, also says they are working with local councils to combat gender-based violence although they have not narrowed their approach to sexual assault.

Gender Link’s 2014 Gender-Based Violence Indicators Study shows that “more than a third (39 percent) of men who had been physically abused as children reported perpetrating (Intimate Partner Violence) whereas 26 percent of men who did not experience physical abuse committed IPV”.

The study also shows that 17 percent of survivors of childhood neglect perpetrated non-partner rape while 13 percent of non-survivors of childhood neglect admitted the same offence.

“Thirty-five percent of male survivors of childhood sexual abuse committed non-partner rape whereas 10 percent of non-survivors of childhood sexual abuse committed non-partner rape,” the study shows.



Local News

Lesotho’s own brandy



ROMA-“Go, eat your food with rejoicing, and drink your wine with a cheerful heart, for already the true God has found pleasure in your works,” so says the Big Book.

Driven by that divine, Mohapi Pule has gone a step further – by coming up with a new type of brandy – to make you merry.
The brandy, Mountain Spels Brandy, will make the heart of the dying man rejoice.
“The healthy nutrients in fruits that make brandy, end up in you when you drink it,” he said.

Pule studied nutrition at the National University of Lesotho.
His brandy is made by fermenting fruits into wine. The wine is then distilled into a brandy. It carries the flavour and the aroma of the original fruits.

The story began when Pule was born in Quthing, Mphaki. He was born to a hardworking mother who brew traditional beer like no other.
“She brew beer well before I was born. She is still making it to this day,” he said.

His passion for brewing was probably “born” even before he was born. Mothers have a hidden way of passing not just their looks but their passions to their children.

As he grew up, he found that he was still intertwined with his mom’s brewing business in one way or another.
“Mostly, I am expected to fetch water for the brewing process. That, I still do to this day when I visit home,” he says.
Two decades later, Pule found himself in the Roma Valley, doing BSc in Nutrition.

“At some point, I found that I had lost purpose in life. There was not a thing that I could say, well, I was passionate about this thing or that thing.”
That situation, of course, threw him into some serious soul-searching.
It brought him back to his roots.

“During this period, I recalled that when I was younger, I used to imagine helping my mom do the packaging of the beer she was making and helping distribute it countrywide,” he said.

From a young age, the issue of subsistence business didn’t appeal to him. But that imagination came and passed. Now here he was, worried that he might not amount to anything in life.

Then, boom! An idea came!
What if he produced an alcoholic drink?

He could have thought about anything to do as a business but, lo and behold! He thought about his mother’s passion!

One of the things he loves about alcoholic beverages is that they are popular.

“I haven’t seen products as popular as alcoholic drinks,” he said.
He might be wrong or right but the reality is, the rest of the world has for generations found delight in alcoholic beverages – some to the extent of overdoing it to their injury!

“Mabele khunoana ralitlhaku thabisa lihoho. Mabele u tsoa kae e le khale re u batla re sa u thole? Ueeeena mabeeeele!” (Loosely translated beer brewed from sorghum make men happy. We’ve been looking for you from afar, you sorghum. In short, this is a praise poem for the Sesotho sorghum brew).
But then came the most difficult part. Which specific beverages should he focus on and how would he do it?

He decided that he would focus on ciders. He realised that not many people in Lesotho were making ciders.

He started experimenting at home and realized how difficult the process was. He just couldn’t get it right. To worsen matters, he also did not have the right equipment.

But like most successful innovators, he just knew that he had to start his business right away.

Pule says he then learnt about other forms of beverages: the spirits. Spirits are very high in alcohol content. Here we are talking the likes of whiskey, vodka and brandy.

He was particularly interested in vodka. He went into one NUL laboratory and, with necessary permission, began testing a number of spirits and doing a lot of research about them.

He began saving some of the money he earned from the National Manpower Development Secretariat in the form of student allowance so he could buy equipment. Saving was not easy. The subsistence money was already not that much. Having to share it with a business was asking a little too much.

But Pule was so determined that he did it, bought equipment that allowed him to develop what he thought was “vodka”.

However, after buying the equipment he immediately realised that the equipment was to make brandy not vodka.

“Now I was forced to get into brandy by chance,” he said.
It was a mistake that he has never regretted having realised that there are very few individuals who were making brandy in Lesotho.

Pule had to throw himself fully into experiments. He read books about brandy production. He even enrolled for an online course on distillation.
In the end, he began to see some light.

“I began to feel some difference in the taste of my produce,” he said. “When I shared my produce with my lecturers, they were over the moon!”
With that encouragement, Pule began packaging his brandy and is now selling it to family and friends.

“My small equipment means that I can’t produce much. However, If I were to get bigger equipment, things would be much better.”

Own Correspondent

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Local News

Ready-to-cook vegetables



ROMA – ’MATUMANE Matela, a National University of Lesotho (NUL)-trained nutritionist, is an example of how a nutritionist should think and act.
Matela makes and sells ready-to-cook vegetables out of produce from her own farm or produce she preferably buys from local farms.
“When I make a dish, as a nutritionist, I make choices that ensure a typical package is packed with nutrition,” Matela said.

Today, we examine an interesting story of the lady who is determined to ensure that you eat healthy despite your busy schedule.
It started with her experiences in life.
She describes herself as an extremely busy woman.
She likes getting things done.
As the busy amongst us will say, the busier you become, the less you watch your diet.
She couldn’t escape the trap!

“My busy schedule meant that I ended up eating junk and I was gaining weight,” she said.
With time, she came to her senses.
As a nutritionist, she recalled that the best way to preach was to preach by example.
So, was she preaching what she practised?
Clearly, she wasn’t.
She had to find an option to maintain the busy schedule and eat healthy at the same time.

The beautiful thing about nutrition is that the healthiest foods are the closest to us: fruits and vegetables.
Some scientists even claim that our bodies seem to be designed to thrive on fruits and vegetables.
“Have you ever wondered why looking at a ripe raw peach on a tree is mouth-watering but looking at a fat cow isn’t?” asked one scientist.
Well, whether we were designed for fruits and vegetables or not, the truth is that they are good for our bodies.
That’s what good science tells us.

And we somehow “know it” too if you have heard about anything called intuition.
So one day she found herself increasingly eating fruits and vegetables.
It’s easier to change a religion than a diet, they say.
So it is commendable that she changed her diet at all.
“The idea was to chop as much vegetables as possible and put them in a fridge so that in future, I will just pull them out and cook.”
She wasn’t proposing something new.
Who amongst us doesn’t enjoy the convenience of just pulling up chopped frozen vegetables and cooking?

Little did she know that what she was doing was putting her on a path to a brilliant business.
It took a post on a social media to achieve just that.
“I took a pic of the chopped and packaged vegetables and posted them on my social media account. The reaction was swift. I began getting questions like, “how much?””
It immediately dawned on her that she could be sitting on a great business idea, after all.

So she gave it a try and started selling.
To her surprise, people started buying.
In fact, “I get orders for my products almost on a daily basis.”
That is how interested people really are.
This to an extent that her business now gets up to four irregular employees, she included, when the demand is high.
She said her training in Agriculture, Home Economics and Nutrition has helped her to give a thought into what she was doing.

For instance, where possible, she grows her own crops and sells them as first preference.
She has grown spinach, butternut, green pepper, onion, herbs and beans.
She is also in the process of renting more fields to grow more vegetables.
Then she empowers Basotho producers by requesting them to supply.
Going for foreign produce is the last resort.
Look at her packages and you realise something.
The “7 colours” proverb comes alive.

Those seven colours (several colours actually) may have been designed to appeal to your eyes but that is just the tip of the iceberg.
The colours of vegetables mean a lot in terms of nutrition.
Each colour gives you something different.
So, the more colours in one meal, the merrier.
To drive this home, let’s go a scientific route for a second.
Red, Blue and Purple: These vegetables contain substances that are good at reducing the risk of stroke, cancer and memory problems.
White: The likes of onion or garlic may help lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer and heart disease.

Orange and Yellow: Carrots immediately come to mind.
These vegetables contain substances called carotenoids which may help improve your immune system and help to improve the health of your eyes.
Basotho, it would appear, have long known a thing or two about the relationship between carrots and eyes.
Hence the famous saying, “o jele lihoete” (they ate carrots), often applied to good sportsmen or women with symbolically “good eyesight”.

Green: Green is life. Green vegetables come packed with chlorophyll, a chemical that scientists believe can boost your immune system, eliminate fungus in your body, clean your blood, lead to healthy intestines and give you boundless energy.
As a bonus, her Home Economics background is such that she is armed with a host of recipes for each of the packages she sells.
She has great dreams for the future.
“I want to see my products decorating the shelves of big supermarkets,” she said.
It’s time!

Own Correspondent

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A new, co-operative chain store



ROMA – ’MAKUENA Lesiea is spearheading the creation of a cooperative chain store that will sell Lesotho products only.
The store is being developed under the National University of Lesotho (NUL) Innovation Hub and it will be incubated by the Hub.
“Have you seen it? Basotho are producing like never before,” Lesiea said.
“However, their products are hard to see in the markets. We want to change all that.”

The store, she said, will open branches in all districts of Lesotho, starting from Maseru.
Visit any supermarket in Lesotho and check the products on the shelves.
You will be shocked to realise that, in general, just one percent of them are made in Lesotho.
The other 99 percent comes from elsewhere.
Is it because Basotho are not producing or can’t produce at all?

“Having worked directly with the NUL Innovation Hub and the Tsa Mahlale TV programme under the Hub, I have travelled the depth and breadth of Lesotho and I was amazed at the amount of work Basotho are doing,” she said.
What is the problem?
Basotho products are not given sufficient platforms to prove themselves.
“Credit where it is due, some shops are beginning to accept and sell Basotho products,” she said.

“However, they are barely making a dent because Basotho products, being at their infancy, cannot receive full attention unless by a store that is designed to give them full attention.”
Such a store doesn’t exist.

She said the idea is not to compete with any of the existing stores because “we are getting into a new territory altogether, we are addressing a different market”.
So listen to Lesiea as she presents some features of the store that will surely persuade you to join the bandwagon:

  1. Customer and producer confidence: The store, she said, will achieve two things.
    First, when they see masses of Lesotho-made products in one place, Basotho customers will slowly grow confidence in them.
    The confidence will shoot to the roof when the customers experience that many of the products made in Lesotho are already way ahead of foreign competitors in terms of quality.
    Secondly, the store will give Basotho producers an assurance that their products have, at least, one store that is willing to take them, dark or blue.
    More production will come from such assurance.
  2. Selling “everything”: The store will sell everything from fruits and vegetables to processed foodstuffs to clothing and building materials (if Thabure car will be in production by then, it will be on the shelves too).
    “Suppose what we want to sell is not locally made, we will never cross the border, any border, to find its equivalence. We will encourage Basotho to produce it until they do.”
  3. We mean business: whereas Basotho are beginning to produce, their products are still all over the place.
    You bump across them in some few willing stores, in expos and trade shows, or as being sold by individual resellers. Those are good efforts, but they are not enough. In fact, many in Lesotho have come to see producing and selling as being more of an art, a hobby, a therapy or a hustling than a business, “so we are seriously moving away from such a casual approach, we mean business this time around.”
  4. Ownership: So when you enter this store, you could be purchasing a product made by you in a store owned by you. What a difference!
  5. Reasonable standards: the store will only demand reasonable standards. As a struggling Mosotho, try taking your products to some of the local shops and you are, at worst, turned away without reason or, at best, given a long list of standards you must meet before they can take your product.
    “In our case, as long as your products are reasonably of good quality, you are in. NUL Innovation Hub is already testing many Basotho products. We won’t ignore quality, but we won’t use it as a way to prevent Basotho products from growing either.”
  6. A cooperative chainstore: From contributing as little as M50 per month, members will use a continuous financing model to ensure that the store doesn’t just end in Maseru but reaches the ten districts of Lesotho.
    Each branch will start at a medium scale in order to grow along with Basotho products. We won’t ask for investors to come from anywhere, “we will be investors ourselves.”
  7. An export launch pad. “We are often told to export our produce. The obvious question is, if you haven’t convinced your own people to consume your own products, how can you convince people in other lands to do so? Why should they take you seriously?”
    However, the store is not meant to be a local store forever.
    It will be a means by which we export our products to other countries in the future.
    When we export the store to Soweto, we export it along with products from Lesotho.
    Don’t say no because we have seen Chinese shops and Indian shops and, of course, South African shops, filled to the brim with Chinese products and Indian products and South African products in many countries.
    “If they can do it,” Lesiea ended, “so can we.”
    “Because if it is there in some of us, it is there in all of us.”

Own Correspondent

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