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When relatives are your worst enemies



…the sordid story of two women betrayed by relatives..

MOHALE’S HOEK – WITH family like this, who needs enemies?
Promised jobs in South Africa by close relatives they trusted with their lives, two young Basotho women have lived to tell sordid tales of a human trafficking industry that includes sex slavery and the harvesting of body parts.
The two were traded by their close relatives after false promises of jobs.

Police in both Lesotho and South Africa are seized with investigating the cases of Nthabiseng*, a 21-year old from Mohale’s Hoek and 26-year old Lerato* from Koro-Koro in the rural area of Maseru district.
thepost is calling them Nthabiseng and Lerato to hide their real identities while the police in the two countries investigate the cases.

Their trafficking is narrated by the police and government social workers after thepost was barred from meeting the women as part of their protection programme.
In November last year, Nthabiseng thought her fortunes had changed after a relative told her of a job opportunity as a domestic worker in Nelspruit, South Africa, according to Lance Sergeant Lerata Mphale of Mohale’s Hoek police.
After a long struggle with unemployment, this was an opportunity of a lifetime for Nthabiseng. Little did she know it was a death trap.

The relative, ’Maneo Maribe, had allegedly told her that she would never regret working for a couple in South Africa because she would be greatly rewarded at the end of her work contract.
Nthabiseng believed all that she was told. Why wouldn’t she? After all, she noticed how Maribe was flourishing as a result of her relationship with the said employer?
A grocery shop that was doing well in the village and a renovated house were affirmation that the said employer had indeed pulled Maribe out of poverty.

Arrangements were made in preparation of the long taxi ride to Nelspruit.
Once Nthabiseng crossed the Maseru Border, she started communicating with her supposed prospective employers.
The communication went well until she got to Pretoria bus station where she met her prospective employers, a young couple in their 40s.
They walked her to their car and introduced themselves to her. It was about 8 p.m. when she arrived in Pretoria.
On the way to the employer’s home, Nthabiseng thought the drive was too long and she started being suspicious.
On the way, they asked if she spoke or understood English. Lying, she said no.
They started talking in English over the phone and she heard the words: “We have got our person from Lesotho. We need to be done with her when morning comes.”

They talked about body parts in the conversation. Even though Nthabiseng could only hear one side of the conversation, she immediately knew that this was not a job offer. She was going to a slaughter house.
Soon, the car turned into a gravel road and though it was dark she realised they were in a township.
Acting on a hunch, she opened the door, threw herself out of the moving car and ran for dear life.
Most houses had their lights off except one which she decided to knock at.
After several knocks, a woman opened the door and asked what was wrong.

Breathless, scared and crying she explained briefly what was happening but before long the traffickers bashed into the house requesting the owner of the house to release her. The owner initially refused.
The man rushed to the car, returned with a bag full of money which he offered to the house owner who grabbed the cash and released her to her captors.
She was beaten to a pulp before being locked in the car and losing consciousness.
When she woke up, she realised that they had parked at a police station that she later learnt was called Kabokweni Police Station.

Kabokweni is in Mpumalanga, about 339 kilometres from Pretoria where Nthabiseng was handed to the couple and about 28 kilometres from Nelspruit where she was supposed to “work”.
It is not clear what the couple was doing at the police station but they were in a conversation with a woman cop who seemed senior.
Nthabiseng took the chance to open the window and call out for help. It turned out to be her saving grace.
She was taken to a corridor in the police station and left there, unsure of what was happening.
A Mosotho police officer approached her and told her she was going to help her escape because what was happening to her was a clear case of human trafficking.

The Mosotho policeman assisted Nthabiseng through a small window that led to the station commander’s toilet saying no one would open the office in the absence of the commander.
She had to stay put and keep quiet.
She says she could hear two police officers searching for her after the Mosotho cop hid her.
When the commander arrived in the morning, the Mosotho cop narrated what was happening and she was taken to a hospital.

She does not know what happened to the couple that was to be her prospective employers.
But Maribe was arrested back in Lesotho and charged with human trafficking.
Maribe appeared before the a Mohale’s Hoek magistrate in November last year and is out on bail.
Lance Sergeant Mphale says there are delays in taking the case forward because of lack of funds to get evidence and statements from the Kabokweni police.

Mohale’s Hoek police commander, Senior Superintendent Khethisa Koro, says Nthabiseng’s case is one of a few trafficking cases that get reported.
Lance Sergeant Mphale says Nthabiseng seemed affected by the incident and needed counseling and mental health attention.

In the other case, Lerato, of Koro-Koro in Maseru says she was trafficked by her close and trusted cousin with whom she grew up in the same house.
Lerato’s parents died when she was young and was raised by her paternal uncle and she regarded her cousin as her sibling.
She says when she told her there was a job for her in Gauteng, South Africa, she thanked God for she had spent a long time seeking one.

She was not aware that her trusted cousin was going to sell her to an illegal brothel.
She said they drove off in a Toyota Sprinter to Johannesburg with her cousin at night, arriving in the morning.
Upon arriving at Noord taxi rank, the cousin called some people who arrived quickly.
She said her cousin asked her to agree to everything they would ask her to do.
‘‘I thought that they would want me to wash their inner wears and I agreed knowing that I would get used to it even though it is not an easy thing to do,’’ A social worker quoted her as saying.

She added: ‘‘I was so happy when they (two women and a man) arrived in a small car.’’
She mentioned that four of them entered the car and talked for some time.
Afterwards her cousin called her and introduced her to them speaking in English.
She said they drove off together leaving her cousin, who claimed to be going to work.
After a short distance, they stopped near a railway train station and Fouriesburg Primary.

Close by was a big, unfinished building and waited there for 30 minutes for someone to unlock the door for them.
She said that she took the stairs to her room and inside was a bed, toilet and a bathroom.
After getting inside, the woman locked the door and ‘‘I thought she wanted me to rest without any disturbance. I slept since I didn’t sleep the previous night,’’ she said.

She said that another woman showed up in the afternoon covering her face and asked her to bath.
‘‘I did that understanding that she was about to show me what to do next,’’ she said.
After bathing she said that an Indian man arrived and he started taking off his clothes.
Before locking the door, she said that the woman told the man that it was only 30 minutes.
While still at it, she said that he asked her to do the same thing.
‘‘I refused and started calling out for help.’’

She said a lot of people came fuming in anger and that left her confused.
‘‘I took my belongings and tried to go but they had locked the room,’’ she said.
She added: ‘‘I neither understood nor thought about what that meant.’’
She said that it was only after she was raped that she got the message.
Next, she said her cousin was called and she tried to tell her what happened but she did not listen.
“I told her that I wanted to leave but she got furious and brought two men carrying handcuffs,” she said.

She said both her feet and hands were tied on a bed and she was undressed.
‘‘I was hurt as those men raped me multiple times. They satisfied themselves until they left,’’ she said.
“Later, that woman untied me and asked me to bath.”
‘‘My private part was very hot and I couldn’t do anything. I was not even able to walk,’’ she said.
She said she used cold water to bath.

She said she got used to the routine after a week.
‘‘I ended up being nice to them because I was used to it.’’
She explained that she was always injected when she was on her periods and the bleeding would stop immediately.
In winter, last year she said she got sick.
‘‘I felt the pain but it was not too much as I was always injected and that made me feel tired, always feeling sleepy,’’ she said.

She said that she had always prayed to God to save her.
“I lost hope and I thought I would only come home when I am dead.”
She said her private parts started itching and it developed pimples that looked like sorghum.
The pimples grew bigger every time she scratched. She said some men did not use condoms even though she was sick.
She said the rate men who came to her room decreased as she got sicker.
She said she was helped by a Mosotho man from Roma, who had come for sex like the others.
She said the man told her he would help her by informing the police.
“He left without doing anything to me and I believed he would help me but I did not quit praying.’’
The following day, she heard doors opening and a handcuffed woman came along with the police.
She said the police helped her to collect her clothes and took her to a health facility in Johannesburg.

She was later deported back to Lesotho, given M50 and a piece of paper with information she did not read.
She said she was informed that her cousin would be jailed.
She was taken to Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital where she was admitted.
It was only then that she learnt that she was pregnant.
She said at first, she wanted to get rid of the child but as time went by she decided otherwise.

‘‘I decided to keep it with the perspective that this child will be a comfort to me,’’ she said.
Lerato, with the help of Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital and Mohlomi Mental Hospital, found a hiding place from where she is recovering.
Acting Police Spokesperson, Senior Inspector Rantoane Motsoetla, said Lerato has been interviewed by the police but the formal report is yet to be done.
“She was still sick and we could not get information on what exactly happened,” Senior Inspector Motsoetla said.
He said there might be arrests made in Lesotho.
‘‘Those who encouraged her and those who funded her trip are yet to be known too,’’ he said.

He said the prime suspect had been arrested in South Africa.
Advocate Mabela Lehloenya of the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) expressed concern that this is not the first case the organisation has encountered.
‘‘Our concern is that it affects women and children in different age groups,” Advocate Lehloenya said.
She said Lerato’s case has grabbed the much needed attention.
“We hope it will change the position of the current situation. We wish to see a situation where Lesotho has implemented Acts and policies as we already have an anti-trafficking Act,’’ she said.
Mohale’s Hoek police boss, Senior Superintendent Khethisa Koro, said many cases go unreported because there is still little understanding or education on the crime of trafficking.
“Some victims just fear to report such cases because they are hard to follow-up on and they are already in a state of fear and don’t want to re-live their ordeals,” Senior Superintendent Koro said.
Senior Superintendent Koro said collecting evidence in trafficking cases is difficult because syndicates are often involved.

“It is a chain of people and to find evidence that is strong enough to build a strong case has proven to be challenging,” he said.
According to the United Nations Population Fund, migration has increased due to drought and unemployment and more people have become targets of human trafficking.
At a media training held by UNFPA in Teya-Teyaneng last week, Matšeliso Khesa, the UNFPA Gender Based Violence and Human Rights Officer, said people can be trafficked for different reasons other than sexual exploitation.
In Nthabiseng’s case, she was to be trafficked for organ removal and mutilation.
“New forms of exploitation are being discovered regularly,” Khesa said.
Khesa said there are three phases of trafficking: recruitment, transportation, and exploitation.

The process of trafficking can be long and complicated, and can take months, or even years, said Khesa. Khesa said the drought has become a humanitarian crisis that has pushed people to migrate in or out of the country and they have become easy targets.
“People have become desperate for jobs, for food and a decent life so much that they can take up any offer that is sometimes too good to be true,” Khesa said.
According to last year’s United States Department of State report on trafficking in people, Lesotho has not adequately addressed human trafficking issues in its legal framework.

The report says Lesotho has not criminalised all forms of forced labour and sex trafficking.
The report recommended an increase in efforts to secure convictions for perpetrators of human trafficking.
It also recommended an increase in efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes, including those involving complicit officials.
It recommended allocation of funds for the Victims of Trafficking Trust Fund and implement procedures for administering the funds.

It says the government must finalise and implement guidelines for proactive victim identification and standard operating procedures (SOPs) for referring identified victims to care, in line with the Anti-Trafficking Act regulations.
It also says the government must allocate funding to support operation of the multi-agency anti-trafficking task force.

Rose Moremoholo

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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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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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