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Child neglect cases on the rise



A 22-year-old woman from Keiting lost two children to malnutrition and claims she lacked the means to properly feed them. Now she is facing criminal charges for neglecting other minors under her care – one of many cases of child neglect and abuse blighting Lesotho.
The woman appeared in court charged with child negligence of her younger brother aged 16 and her three other children aged six, five and two.

According to prosecutors, the woman unlawfully left the minors at night between January and June this year, subjecting them to physical and psychological risks.
thepost has decided not to publish the name of the woman to protect the identities of the children.

She pleaded innocent but did not ask to be released on bail, saying she is too broke to even afford bail money. The court remanded her to Tuesday this week.

Speaking to thepost last week, she said she is heartbroken, lamenting that she faces imprisonment for not taking care of the children, yet she does not have the financial means to do so.

“My parents left me with two of my siblings aged 16 and seven. I am burdened, having to take care of so many children yet I am unemployed,” she said, tears rolling down her cheeks.

She disclosed that she buried her eight months old child who died of malnutrition two weeks ago, while her youngest with whom she went to prison with is also malnourished.

“Doctors even told me that she might never be able to walk. I will learn to accept everything that is coming my way because I do not have a choice. Maybe prison is the solution I need to survive in this cruel world. But I am worried about these children and their survival as I will not be there for them anymore. All I ever wanted was for them to go to school,” she said.

She added, sobbing: “I am hopeful that God will see my tears and answer my prayers because I opened a file at the (Ministry of) Social Development but unfortunately, I never got the help I needed.

“If I had money, I would look for a lawyer to win the case and be able to live for these children who rely on me for survival. I want them to attend school.”

Another woman aged 29 from Ty appeared before court for neglecting her 13-year-old son.

The accused unlawfully left her son without providing for his basic needs such as food, clothes and guidance on separate occasions from 2021 to July 13, 2023
She was granted a M1 000 bail, which she managed to pay and surety of M10 000. She must not interfere with state witnesses, hamper police investigations and should attend remand hearings and stand trial to finality as part of the bail conditions.

The two were charged with contravening section 44 (1) of the Child Protection and Welfare Act (CPWA).

The cases are just a tip of the iceberg, according to authorities, who say many other cases go unreported in the district.

Section 44 (1) of the CPWA states that a person who abuses, neglects, abandons or exposes a child in a manner likely to cause the child physical, psychological or emotional injury commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine, imprisonment or both.

The Act further states that “a parent or guardian or other person legally obliged to maintain a child shall be deemed to have neglected the child in a manner likely to cause the child physical, psychological or emotional injury if he fails to provide adequate food, clothing, medical treatment, lodging, care, guidance and protection to the child.”

The Act provides that “a child has a right to live with his parents and grow up in a caring and peaceful environment unless it is proved in court that living with his parents shall…lead to significant harm to the child”.

It also states that a child shall not be subjected to any cultural rites, customs or traditional practices that are likely to negatively affect the child’s life, health, welfare, dignity or physical, emotional, psychological, mental and intellectual development.

The same law states that the government should provide “special protection for a child deprived of family environment and ensure that appropriate alternative family care or institutional placement is available in such cases”.

The Act says a child is in need of care and protection if they have been or there is substantial risk that the child will be physically, psychologically or emotionally injured or sexually abused by the parent or guardian or a member of the extended family or any other person.

The Act provides that a police officer, the Department of Social Welfare, a chief or member of the community who is satisfied on reasonable grounds that a child is in need of care and protection may take the child and place him in a place of safety.

It is the role of the state, through its agencies, to ensure the supervision of the safety, well-being and development of any child placed in alternative care and the regular review of the appropriateness of the care arrangement provided.

Statistics from the Social Development Department show that 83 children were found neglected countrywide from April to August 2022. Leribe topped the list with 20 cases, followed by Qacha’s Nek with 17. From January this year to date, 10 cases of negligence have been reported and three of the children were taken to care facilities, while others were placed with their relatives.

The District Child Welfare Officer in the Department of Social Development, Lerato Kopo, expressed concern over escalating cases of child neglect in the district.

She said they are mandated to protect children and when they come across such cases, they identify relatives and ask them to support the children. In instances where there are family members who are unavailable, the department places them with care facilities.

Kopo said vulnerable children or families can qualify for child grants aimed at assisting those in dire need of help.

“However, some issues don’t require monetary support but psychosocial support hence we chip in to offer one in collaboration with our partners,” she said, adding “Unfortunately, some parents choose alcohol and dating over their children. Being near Matatiele worsens the situation.”

Kopo said the existing CPWA helps them address the issue, although there is need for amendments to plug some loopholes.

“Both parties (police and social development) should fulfil their roles to strengthen child protection,” she said.

Kopo said lack of resources, in particular vehicle shortages, poses a major challenge.

Sergeant ‘Mamatheko Bohloa, the Qacha’sNek Police Child and Gender Protection Unit (CGPU) Officer, who is also the local Human Trafficking Unit Focal Person, said they are overwhelmed with cases related to child ill-treatment by parents or guardians.

Just last week, about five women and two men appeared in court in connection to child abuse and neglect charges.

“Children are supposed to be left under the care of an older person,” she said.

Bohloa said public sensitisation programmes have been helpful in raising awareness, but reaching remote places has been a challenge due to transport problems.

“We are trying to be proactive. This has to be done regularly so that even those who witness neglect cases happening in their localities can report such cases to ensure the safety of children,” said Bohloa.

She acknowledged the different problems people encounter and warned that “addressing them shouldn’t be at the cost of children.”

“We need a temporary shelter for affected children so that they don’t have to return to the very same toxic environment when we are attending to their issues,” she said.

Currently, the perception is that the district is not doing enough to protect children, hence the need to strengthen efforts, said Bohloa, revealing a recent case of a 15-year-old child who slept at her place as they awaited help from the Social Development Department.

“She can’t afford to go back to the same place where she is deprived of a right to education and childhood as she babysits her aunt’s children,” said Bohloa.

Ntlotliseng Hlokase, a counsellor at Khanya Consultancy, defined child neglect as a failure by parents or guardians to carry out their responsibilities of providing basic needs such as food, clothes, shelter and support to children.

She said although factors contributing to the scourge differ, poverty, single parenting, cultural practices and unsupportive family systems are most common.

“Often it is tough to be a single parent, hence such parents struggle to meet all the basic needs leading to child neglect. Some families are child-headed because once they lose their parents to death, relatives do not take the responsibility, while other parents are absent from their children’s lives yet they are still alive.”

She said lack of self-esteem and inferiority complex, mental health illnesses such as stress and depression and personality or behavioural disorders are some of the common effects of child neglect.

“Some children even resort to violence as a coping mechanism because of neglect. They blame themselves for being neglected as they may believe that they were neglected because they did something wrong or because they simply were not good enough to live up to their parents’ standards,” she said.

Hlokase said the presence of both parents in a child’s upbringing is vital to address this issue as parents can share responsibilities for the betterment of the child’s development and for them to reach their full potential.

She said parents should pay attention to the wellbeing of their children in all aspects – from physical, mental to emotional well-being for them to be able to notice even small changes.

“This will result in children being assured that they live in a safe space to share their views…if they are unable to voice their opinions within their homes, they are easy targets for human rights violations as they lack confidence,” she said.

‘Mapule Motsopa


MP defies party, backs opposition



MOHLOMINYANE Tota, the only MP for the United for Change (UFC), has defied the party’s order to stop voting with the opposition in parliament.
Tota, the UFC’s deputy leader, told thepost this week that he will vote, guided by his own conscience, and not the party’s instructions.

His defiance comes after the party publicly chastised him for voting with the opposition in parliament.
A fightnight ago, Tota angered his party when he sided with the opposition to vote against the government’s motion to continue discussing the reforms’ Omnibus Bill despite that it was being challenged in the Constitutional Court.

The government however won with 57 votes against the opposition’s 50.
The UFC issued a statement reprimanding Tota for defying its decision to always vote with the government.
But Tota told thepost this week that he was unfazed by the party’s warning.

“I will continue to vote with the opposition where need be, and I will also vote with the government where need be,” Tota said.
He said he respects the party’s position but “I also have a right to follow my conscience”.

This, he added, is because “it is not mandatory for an MP to toe the party line even when his conscience does not allow it”.
He said whether he will vote with the government or the opposition will depend “on the issue on the table”.
He said his conscience would not allow him to vote with the government on the Omnibus Bill motion.

“It was wrong,” Tota said.
“I will do the same again given another chance.”

Tota’s response comes three days after the UFC issued a statement distancing itself from his stance in parliament.
The party said its national executive committee had an urgent meeting over the weekend to discuss Tota’s behaviour.
It said its position is to always support Prime Minister Sam Matekane’s coalition government.

“‘The issue has caused a lot of confusion in the party and among Basotho at large,” the statement reads.

The party also said Tota did not bother to inform the national executive committee about his decision so that he could get a new mandate.

“He did not even inform the committee before voting,” the statement reads.
“The national executive committee held an intensive meeting with Tota about the matter because the purpose of the party is to support the government,” it reads.
The UFC said where the government goes wrong “the party will continue to confront it with peace and not with a fight” (sic).

“We have confidence in the current government because it was voted in by Basotho.”
The UFC’s statement makes it clear that the party “will not support anything against the government”.

Nkheli Liphoto

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Inside plot to oust Matekane



THE plot to topple Prime Minister Sam Matekane thickened this week amid allegations of brazen vote-buying ahead of the opposition’s planned vote of no-confidence.

The opposition is said to be ready to push out Matekane when parliament reopens sometime in September. They accuse Matekane’s government of incompetence, nepotism, corruption and using the security forces to harass opposition MPs.

But as the lobbying and touting of MPs reaches fever pitch, there are now allegations of each side using bribes to secure votes crucial in the vote to remove the government.
Democratic Congress leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, this week accused the government of bribing its MPs to defeat the motion against Matekane.

Mokhothu, who made the allegations at the opposition’s press conference yesterdday, did not give further details or names of those bribed and those bribing.
But on Monday, the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) MP, Puseletso Lejone, told thepost that Mokhothu offered him a M2.2 million bribe to support the opposition’s motion to upend the government.

Lejone said Mokhothu made the offer at a secret meeting, attended by almost all opposition leaders on August 14, at Monyane Moleleki’s house in Qoatsaneng.
The Thaba Moea MP said the leaders claimed that 60 MPs were supporting the motion against Matekane and wanted his vote to make it 61.

“The money was to come directly from Mokhothu,” Lejone said.
“They asked me to provide them with my bank account so that they could transfer the money.”
Mokhuthu denied the allegations, saying he wondered if Lejone “was smoking socks”.

Lejone repeated the same allegations on the sidelines of yesterday’s press conference where Matekane assured Basotho that his government has enough numbers to fend off the opposition’s attempt to push him out.
He said apart from Moleleki and Mokhothu, other political leaders who attended the meeting were Lekhetho Rakuoane, Machesetsa Mofomobe, Nkaku Kabi, Professor Nqosa Mahao, Teboho Mojapela, Tefo Mapesela and Tšepo Lipholo.

He said the leaders gave him a document showing that six RFP MPs had pledged to support the vote of no confidence. Lejone however refused to name the RFP MPs, saying he still wants them to remain in the ruling party.
He said four MPs from parties in the RFP-led coalition had signed.

They are Mohlominyane Tota (UFC), Reverend Paul Masiu (BAENA), Mokoto Hloaele (AD) and Motlalepula Khahloe (MEC).
The deal, Lejone said, was that Mokhutho would become prime minister and be deputised by Dr Mahali Phamotse.
He said the RFP’s faction was going to be rewarded with 10 ministerial seats for their role in toppling Matekane.
Nearly all the political leaders mentioned by Lejone denied attending the meeting at Moleleki’s house.

“By the living God, I have never been in a meeting with that man (Lejone),” Mokhothu said, adding that Lejone’s allegations are “defamatory”.

Mahao said he last visited Moleleki’s house, which is up the road from his, 22 years ago. Mofomobe said Lejone is lying about the meeting because he wants to curry favour with Matekane, whom he had been criticising for months.
Mofomobe said all his meetings with Lejone were at the BNP Centre and their agenda was toppling Matekane.

“We were discussing his (Matekane) incapability to rule this country,” Mofomobe said.

Rakuoane and Mapesela said they have never been to Moleleki’s house.
So did Kabi who implied that Lejone could have smoked something intoxicating “to talk about a meeting that never happened”.
Lipholo, Rev Masiu, and Tota said they were not at that meeting while Moleleki said he had “no comment”.

Staff Reporter

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Matekane abusing state agencies, says opposition



THE opposition has accused the government of weaponising security agencies to harass and intimidate their MPs.
The accusations come as the opposition plots to push a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Sam Matekane when parliament re-opens in September.

Opposition leaders told a press conference yesterday that the government has resorted to using the army and the police against its MPs because it is afraid of the motion.
Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Mathibeli Mokhothu, said the security bosses have been willing tools for the government because their bosses are desperate for Matekane to renew their employment contracts.

He was talking about Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli, army boss Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela and National Security Service (NSS) boss Pheello Ralenkoane.

“Employment contracts for the security agencies’ bosses are the ones causing these problems because the commanders end up working towards pleasing the government for their contract extension,” Mokhothu said.

He said the army has also started setting up roadblocks closer to parliament to search MPs. Mokhothu said the army searched Nkaku Kabi and Advocate Lebohang Maema KC at the parliament premises last week.

“The government is now bringing back the security agencies into party politics,” Mokhothu said.
“This was the first time the army entered the parliament premises to search members and other people there. It is an embarrassment.”
“The responsibility of our soldiers is to guard the borders and ensure security, not to enter politics or set up roadblocks on the parliament roads.”
“They are now running the country like a shop or a company.”

Basotho National Party leader, Machesetsa Mofomobe, alleged that Matekane had a meeting with the security bosses in Teya-teyaneng to discuss how they could use their institutions to clip the opposition’s wings.

“The LDF, LMPS and NSS boss’s contracts have expired, and now they are using the institution to get extensions,” Mofomobe said.
“The LDF and LMPS are doing this deliberately to protect the government.”
thepost could not independently verify this allegation.

Tefo Mapesela, the Basotho Progressive Party leader, said Matekane’s government is taking Lesotho back to 2014 when the army was wooed into politics.
He warned that officers who allow themselves to be used as pawns in political fights might find themselves in jail while their political handlers enjoy freedom.
He referred to Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli who has been in remand prison for seven years as he faces charges of murder, attempted murder and treason.
Mapesela however said the opposition will not be intimidated because it is their democratic right to bring a motion of no confidence against the government.

“When there is time to enter a motion of no confidence it is time, it is written in the law, there is nothing wrong there,” Mapesela said.
“I once launched a motion of no confidence in the previous parliament, but I was never arrested or threatened.”

“We do not owe Matekane anything. When the time has come he has to go. We will lobby others as it is not a crime.”

The Basotho Action Party’s Nqosa Mahao criticised the police for issuing a press statement with political undertones.

In a controversial statement last week, Commissioner Molibeli said the police were aware that some MPs were coercing their colleagues to support their plot to topple the government.
Molibeli also said they were aware that such MPs were surrounding themselves with armed groups.

“Police warn those perpetrating these acts to stop immediately to avoid action that could be taken to protect the country,” Molibeli said.

Matekane made the same allegations at his press conference yesterday.
Professor Mahao said the statement shows that the police have now been entangled in politics.

“Every time parties experience internal problems the leaders conspire with the security agencies,” he said.
“The opposition leaders are now being harassed because the government wants to stop them from exercising their rights.”

The opposition’s charge sheet against Matekane

  •  Filling of statutory positions despite the reforms aiming to change the system.
  • Corruption
  • Nepotism
  • Using security agencies to deter MPs from ousting Matekane.
  • Job losses.
  • Lack of job creation.
  • Failure to fulfil campaign promises.
  • Protecting mining companies’ interests at the expense of Basotho.
  • Incompetence and lack of communication skills.
  • Arrest of MPs by the police.
  • Cherry-picking reforms that insulate his government.

Staff Reporter

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