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Marriages of inconvenience

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MASERU – FOR some time, Limakatso* was suspicious of her husband’s movements. Often, she would call her husband asking about his whereabouts and his company.

“Usually I found out that he was with other men,” she said.

Limakatso says one day she heard a car parking outside her home and she waited for her husband to knock on the door. When he took long, she went out to see what was happening.

“To my surprise, I found him being in a sexual activity with another man in the garage. My dear husband was fornicating with another man and in the sexual relationship he was the receiver. I am still reeling from the shock,” she said.

She says she is split between reporting the matter to her in-laws and leaving her marriage altogether. For years, Limakatso’s husband has been a true father to her children and they were living a happy matrimonial life. Now Limakatso’s heart is broken beyond words.

“The father of my children has disappointed me,” she said.

A general term used to describe men who have sex with other men is “after 9”. Lirontšo Motloheloa from Masianokeng says she thinks some men get into marriages knowing exactly that they are gays. To hide their sexual orientation from the public glare, they marry just to satisfy their parents by having a wife and children but continue with their sexual orientation.

“That is ungodly,” Motloheloa said.

Mokete Mohapi, a young man in his thirties says he thinks poverty “is fuelling this trend”.

“We often hear stories that men with fat pockets buy cars for the young men they use to satisfy their sexual desires,” Mohapi said.

While presenting a report on the impact of Covid- 19 on HIV treatment programmes before the Senate, the HIV and AIDS Committee headed by Lebohang Mothae, revealed that there are increasing numbers of men having sex with other men (MSM).

The report shows that the HIV/ AIDS prevalence rate among MSM is at 32.9%. For female sex workers, the HIV/ AIDS prevalence rate stands at 71.9%, according to the report.

The report states that Lesotho has a high HIV prevalence rate of 23.6% among people aged 15 to 48 years of age. It is estimated that 340 000 people are living with HIV, of whom 61% (206, 000) are on treatment. Mothae said they are struggling to find out the push factors for MSM.

“Most are hidden,” she says. “This is just a matter of sexual preference”.

Because of the findings, Mothae says they are now treating MSM as key populations and they have to strengthen their programmes towards them.
She says such people need special interventions to save their lives.

Leribe has the highest HIV prevalence rate, which stands at 57% among Female Sex Workers followed by Maseru at 48%. For the MSM HIV prevalence rate, Leribe is also the highest, standing at 36%.

Mothae says HIV and AIDS are high where there is a high concentration of people. She says because of the emerging business activities in Leribe district now, people are migrating to the north of the country.

Bishop Monaheng Sekese of the Assemblies of God church says MSM is “totally unacceptable before the eyes of God”. He said the Bible explicitly states that men should have sex with women only.

“We condemn this behaviour as the church,” Bishop Sekese said.

Dr Lekholokoe Leshota, a sociologist, says the culture of men sleeping with other men has always been there since time immemorial.

“This culture is not new. It has got a long history even from the Bible,” said Dr Leshota.

Dr Leshota says from the Bible context, Kings would sleep with young boys in palaces despite being married. The boys would be workers in the Royal House. When minerals (diamond and gold) were discovered in South Africa, a large number of men trekked to the mines to seek fortunes.

They left their families behind and they would spend months without meeting their wives. To fulfil their sexual desires, they would sleep with other men in the mines.

At the time, Dr Leshota says, men would take up to six months without meeting their wives. This also happens in prisons where some men are turned into wives by other men.

A local newspaper recently reported that the Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) had begun distributing condoms in male prisons throughout the country as part of efforts to stem the tide of HIV infections that are said to be on the increase in correctional facilities.

The LCS health officials said 31 percent of the men and 69 percent of the women in correctional facilities are living with HIV.

The report showed that the high figures highlighted the need for effective and innovative HIV-management programmes, including the strengthening of preventive and treatment strategies.

It said that even though prisoners were not granted conjugal rights, they had come up with an unconventional decision to distribute 300 condoms on a weekly basis because “a lot happens behind bars and away from the eyes of prison officers”.

“While unnatural sexual acts are prohibited, we cannot deny or pretend these acts do not happen,” the paper reported.

“Therefore, we make condoms available for prevention”.

Writing in an online psychological magazine, MentalHelp.Net, Dr Allan N. Schwartz, said he repeatedly receives questions from agitated wives who feel traumatised when they learn about their husbands homosexuality.

“The length of their marriages range from a few years to 20 and 30 years,” noted Dr Schwartz.

“Many have children, of differing ages, with their husbands. They either accidentally find out about their spouse or the husband steps ‘out of the closet’ to reveal his sexual orientation,” he said.

“Always, this is met with shock, despair and betrayal. In a very few cases, partners knew about this even before marriage.”

He stated that in cases where the wife knew about the husband’s homosexual status before marriage “conscious and mutual decisions were made about marriage, monogamy, and children”.

Dr Schwartz says he has wondered how it impacts on the psyche of the straight partner when they learn that their spouse is attracted to people of the same sex. It is difficult to process the fact that “my husband or wife loves another heterosexual person.”

“I have seen cases where the heterosexual spouse fears that they drove their partner into homosexuality. It’s a silly and incorrect notion but, not for that individual.”

He says there are serious concerns with regard to children. When there is a threat to the stability of a marriage it is felt strongly by the children because they do not want to lose either parent.

However, he says “it is psychologically dislocating for a child to learn that their parent is in love with a person of the same sex”. He says one young gay man asked him if he should marry a woman.

The man’s reason was that he would like to have his own children and raise them as though he was heterosexual, stating that he would pretend to be straight for the sake of his wife and child.

“First, secrets are disastrous for all relationships,” he warns, adding: “Harboring a secret of such magnitude must lead to devastating results.”

Dr Schwartz recommends that the homosexual must, before marriage, open up to the woman he intends marrying so that she gets into what she understands and approves.

Majara Molupe

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A night of horror

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THE police arrived in Ha-Rammeleke, a Mokhotlong village, in the middle of the night.
They stormed one house and found a couple sleeping.

They then dragged the man out and ordered him to follow their instructions if he didn’t want to be killed. Their order was that he should scream while announcing to his neighbours that his wife was gravely ill. The villagers who responded to the man’s plea for help didn’t know that they were walking into a trap.

The police rounded them up as they arrived at the man’s house.

Their night of horror has just begun.

Dozens of men and women were frog-marched to the edge of the village.

The police assaulted the men with sticks and whips. They kicked others.

In the crowd was Tebalo Lesita, a 48-year-old Rastafarian with dreadlocks.

He was called to the front and ordered to act like a Rastafarian.

First, they said he should sing Reggae while shaking his head so that his dreadlocks would wave from side to side. He did and they laughed.

“They also ordered me to mimic Lucky Dube.”

Lesita says he only shouted like he was singing because, due to fear, all Lucky Dube’s songs he knew had slipped out of his mind.

“I just mumbled some words as if I was singing. I have never experienced such torment before.”

“I only kept saying ‘Ye ye ye!’”, he says.

They laughed again.

Meanwhile, the police were hurling insults at him.

“I was told that I was smelling rubbish in the mouth.”

Lesita says the police then instructed him to act as if he was having sex.

And when he said he was tired of the act the police ordered him to act as if he was ejaculating.

He did and his tormentors roared with laughter.

The police, Lesita says, wanted him and other villagers to confess that they knew men who had shot and killed a man earlier in the village.

Lesita says after the ordeal that lasted nearly an hour the police ordered him to pray. He claims his body is full of bruises, especially on the buttocks.

“My body is aching all over.”

Lesita says he wants to sue the police but doesn’t know where to start.

“I understand that my human rights have been grossly violated but I do not know which legal steps to follow,” he says.

A week after the assault, he still hasn’t sought medical help.

Nor has he opened a case against the police.

“I find it impossible to open the case against them. I will have to go to the police station to open a case,” he says.

“How can I open the case against the police at the police station?”

As a sheep farmer, Lesita says he cannot afford the taxi fare to travel to Mapholaneng to report a case at Tlokoeng Police Station.

Lesita says he cut his dreadlocks a day after the incident “because they have put me into serious problems”.

“I rue the day that I started growing those dreadlocks,” he says.

Police spokesman, Senior Superintendent Kabelo Halahala, confirmed that there was a police operation in Mokhotlong but said he didn’t know how it unfolded.

Incidents of the police terrorising villagers under the guise of fighting or investigating crimes are common in Lesotho.

It is rare for police officers involved in such incidents to be arrested or prosecuted.

Majara Molupe

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Anger over Chinese businesses

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FORMER Mining Minister, Lebohang Thotanyana, says Lesotho is shooting itself in the foot by allowing Chinese companies that win major construction tenders to import everything from China.

Thotanyana was speaking at the Basotho Business Empowerment Forum on Tuesday.

The forum was organised by the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise (MSME) Association.

Thotanyana told the forum that of all the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) countries, Lesotho is the one benefitting the least from hiring Chinese-owned companies for major infrastructure projects. 

 

Thotanyana said Chinese companies tend to “import everything save menial labour” in every government job they win.

 

“We only benefit minimally with the labour force,” Thotanyana said, adding that “more money goes back to the countries that have brought their own machinery”.

 

“This is exactly what is happening at the Polihali Dam which is under construction.” 

 

“There should be a value chain so that the economy grows.”

 

Tempers flared at the forum as local business owners accused the government of failing to protect them against Chinese businesses. 

 

The forum revealed the growing frustration among local business owners who feel the government is not doing enough to protect them against Chinese business muscling them out of sectors reserved for them. 

 

The local business owners criticised the government for failing to implement the Business Licensing and Registration Act 2019 that reserves certain businesses for indigenous Basotho. 

 

They told the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Trade, Thabo Moleko, together with a handful of MPs in attendance, that their patience had worn out.

 

“We want our business from the Chinese and Indians,” Thobei Motlere, the president of the MSME Association said.

 

“We are not afraid of these Chinese,” he added, adding that they could approach them head-on.

 

“We want to see the Act implemented now, not tomorrow or any other time. We want to push them out of the business peacefully. We want peace.”

 

Motlere said they have been pushed out of business by the Chinese yet there is a law to protect them “against unfair competition”.

 

“We have elected you as MPs but you are doing nothing to save us from the competition yet there is a law in place,” Motlere said.

 

The MPs tried to respond to some of the issues people but they were booed and heckled. 

 

“This is not the right place to answer. You should address this in parliament, not here,” said one woman in the crowd. 

 

Some MPs walked out of the forum in protest but were eventually coaxed to return to their chairs. 

 

’Maremi ’Mabathoana, a street vendor, said the Chinese sell almost every item.

 

“We buy from their shops so that we can sell small items. But the Chinese also sell small items,” ’Mabathoana said.

 

“When we sell a sweet for M1, they sell it for 50c,” she yelled.

 

“When we sell apples for M4, the Chinese sell them for M2. This is unfair.”

 

Moeketsi Motšoane, the Mafeteng MP who is the chairman of the parliament’s Natural Resources committee, said he is also facing similar challenges in his home district.

 

Trying to calm the irked traders, Motšoane said he could bet that some people were being used by the Chinese to kick Basotho out of business.

 

“There are such people amongst you who are being used by the Chinese to knock Basotho out of business,” Motšoane said.

 

He told the Ministry of Trade to move swiftly to implement the Act.

 

“If you do not implement the Act, we will drag you before the committee to account,” he said.

 

 Moleko, the principal secretary of Trade,  promised to implement the law. 

Majara Molupe

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Labour unions in nasty fight

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TWO trade unions representing workers at Polihali Dam construction site have turned on each other.
Instead of fighting for better pay and conditions for members, the Construction, Mining, Quarrying and Allied Workers (CMQ) and the Lesotho Workers Association (LEWA) are locked in a nasty battle that could be linked to a fight over membership.

CMQ alleges that LEWA officials intimidated its members who wanted to vote for a proposed strike against companies working at Polihali Dam.

CMQ also accuses LEWA’s secretary general, Hlalefang Seoaholimo, of conflict of interest which it says renders him unable to effectively represent workers in their battles against employers in Polihali.

CMQ says Seoaholimo is working as a union leader and an employer at the same time. This, CMQ says, is because Seoaholimo’s company, Domino Blasting (Pty) Ltd, has been subcontracted by some companies working at Polihali Dam.

The allegations of intimidation and conflict of interest are part of the letter that CMQ’s secretary general, Robert Mokhahlane, has written to the Registrar of Trade Unions.

In that letter, seen by thepost, Mokhahlane pleads with the Registrar of Trade Unions to deregister LEWA over the alleged intimidation and Seoaholimo’s conflict of interest.

Mokhahlane tells the registrar that because of Seoaholimo’s shareholding in Domino Blasting, LEWA has “characteristics of a company, not a trade union”.

“At Polihali Dam construction, there (were) workers who were employed by Domino Blasting Services at various projects,” Mokhahlane alleges.

“They (Domino Blasting) have a long list of projects that have references and include some companies involved in the construction of Polihali Dam.”

Seoaholimo is one of Domino Blasting’s four directors and holds 300 of the 1000 shares in the company.

Mokhahlane tells the registrar that Seoaholimo cannot claim to be independently fighting for workers’ rights when his company is working with the same companies accused of unfair labour practices in Polihali.

He also accuses Domino Blasting’s human resource officer, Mpho Kanono, of being conflicted because she is also an official of the United Textile Employees (UNITE).

“Both the two officials (Seoaholimo and Kanono) are workers’ representatives within the Wages Advisory Board whereby Hlalefang Seoaholimo is the spokesperson of the workers,” Mokhahlane says.

Mokhahlane also accuses Seoaholimo of “intimidating workers who will be balloting for a strike action by encouraging LEWA members to observe and identify workers” who would participate.

He claims that Seoaholimo mocked a CMQ official who was mobilising workers for the strike at the construction site.

The Labour Code, which the registrar has been asked to invoke, says a union or employers’ organisation may be cancelled by the Labour Court on the registrar’s application.

Seoaholimo has however vehemently refuted allegations that his company is working at Polihali Dam. He told thepost that CMQ is in a campaign to tarnish his name and that of LEWA because “they are aware that workers do not want to join their union”.

He admits that he is a shareholder in Domino Blasting but insists that “as we speak now Domino Blasting does not have a job anywhere in Lesotho”.

“CMQ has to provide evidence that a company called Domino Blasting (Pty) Ltd is working and has any employees in Polihali,” Seoaholimo said.

“Domino Blasting does not even have an office anywhere in the country because it is not working anymore.”

“They should identify the people hired by Domino Blasting (Pty) Ltd among workers in Polihali.”

He said the company has not operated in Lesotho since 2016 when it completed a project. Seoaholimo, however, says he is aware of a South African company with a similar name working in Polihali.

“I as a person have nothing to do with that company,” Seoaholimo said.

He said it is true that Mpho Kanono used to work for Domino Blasting back in 2016 when it still had contracts but she has since left because “the company stopped working”.

“Mpho Kanono is an official of UNITE and has nothing to do with Domino Blasting at present moment.”

Staff Reporter

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