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Quiet victims of violence

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MASERU-BLIND, sodomised and humiliated. *Thabo’s experiences seven years ago pain him so much that he does not even want to talk about it.
His experience is a wake-up call to the world that even men can be victims of rape and other forms of gender-based violence.

Thabo’s story comes at a time when Gender Minister Likeleli Tampane launches 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, which started yesterday and will end on December 10.
In the seven years since the sexual incident, the 25-year-old Thabo said he never disclosed his story to anyone except to his colleagues at the Lesotho National League of Visually Impaired People (LNLVIP).
The association told his mother recently.

“Shame and emotional trauma exhibiting internally through fear prevented me to disclose,” he said, noting that he has and continues to experience grief, anger, shame and fear.
He also said fear of being called weak contributed to his non-disclosure. Being welcomed in the association made it easier for him to disclose his experiences, he said.

Thabo said he has been emotionally abused since his childhood because of his visual problem but in 2013, he was sexually violated multiple times in a forest.
He said it was on a winter morning and a bit dark when he learnt that someone was walking behind him.
“I didn’t mind him as it was early and I assumed he was going somewhere and I was unaware that I was the target,” he said.

He said he was dragged to the forest and sexually violated.
“While at it, he said what he did to me was payback since my late father, who was a police officer, once arrested him,” he said.
He said he doesn’t know the identity of the perpetrator, but he can still hear his voice.

“We spent the whole morning in there and he released me in the afternoon with the threat that should I disclose what had happened to anyone he would kill me the same way he killed my father,” he said.
“Knowing well how my father died I got scared.”

At home he came up with a false story when his mother asked him about his whereabouts on the day of the incident.
Thabo said since then he started hating boys and he started dodging school and lying to his mother.
“I was afraid to tell her the truth,” he said.
He said he tried to commit suicide in 2015 but failed.
He said his male friends assumed he was gay or feared girls since he couldn’t ask girls out.

“They tried to prove the point and by doing so my anger towards males increased. I don’t want any male in my life,” he said, noting that the experience is affecting his school performance.
Thabo did not perform well in Grade 12 last year and he is supplementing some subjects in his home district of Mafeteng.
“It’s unfortunate that my school work was affected.”

He said his mother found out about the ordeal through the association and, surprisingly, she has never even asked him how he was coping.
“It’s very sad and I wish we could at least talk about it and maybe I will feel better,” he said.
He said he has been trying to move on and accept what happened but “I just can’t.”

“I don’t know what to do anymore. I am trying but it gets difficult every day because that one session of counseling didn’t help me,” he said.
“I need more of that or maybe join a club of male victims where we can open up freely”.
He said he didn’t report the incident to the police because he has heard that police officers laugh at male rape victims.

However, he said, his association has been supportive since they learnt about it around October last year and they often ask how is he is coping.
Gender Minister Likeleli Tampane said this year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence theme is ‘Abuse Exists in Families and Should be Fought Together’.

Tampane said the aim is to raise awareness about abuse to Basotho so that they can prevent and avoid it as well as report such crimes.
She said she is planning to review and amend existing policies to respond to the rising challenge.
Tampane said the Covid-19 pandemic has led to increased abuse in families because of depression caused by loss of jobs and living together for lengthy periods, which is something not common to many.
She said reports show that rape and the murder of women and girls have increased.

“This shows that the country, especially the gender ministry, was affected as we deal with victims directly,” she said, adding that “we have not rested since the lockdown because of the high rate of murder and rape.”
She said Leribe has the highest incidents of abuse, forcing ministry officials to visit it “numerous” times to comfort affected families.

“We are concerned about millions spent to deal with abuse consequences that include amongst others health services, counselling, law and temporary housing and this is the money that the country was supposed to use for other development issues,” she said.
She urged all Basotho to take part in the fight against gender-based violence.

“Working together we will be able to win this fight,” she said.
Tampane said Basotho men should do away with a custom that views it as wrong for a man to cry, using an idiom that says monna ke nku h’a lle feela (a man is a sheep and therefore does not cry easily).
She said boys and men should learn to open up.

“It is still a challenge for them to speak out though it is their right,” she said.
The Lesotho National Federation of Organisations of the Disabled (LNFOD) Executive Director, Advocate Nkhasi Sefuthi, said people with disability experience violence and abuse in their homes, on the streets and at institutions.
“They are regarded as easy targets by perpetrators,” he said adding that “some of them cannot communicate properly which sometimes leads to inadmissibility of the evidence of such witnesses in court.”
Advocate Sefuthi said they were pushing tirelessly for the enactment of the Disability Equity Bill (DEB).

Police spokesman Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli said currently the law does not specifically define gender-based violence so that there can be a specific charge to it.
“It has to be clarified for us with certain elements,” he said.
He said saying gender-based violence is high in the country is a statement without a basis because there is no legal explanation of the term.
“The challenge for us is we don’t know how to differentiate it from other crimes.”

He added: “Our statistics are not accurate as each case is dealt with using available laws and this makes our job difficult.”
He said the police usually hand out posters with contacts, conduct awareness campaigns on different media and at public gatherings to make people aware of gender-based violence, even though it is not spelt out clearly in law.

He said NGOs do assist with awareness workshops or meetings.
“They are effective but they still need to be intensified for victims to disclose. It’s not easily done as they need time. It is not a once off thing,” Senior Superintendent Mopeli said.

He said there is a dire need for communication platforms, especially for men to be able to open up and refrain from the monna ke nku h’a lle syndrome.

Social Development Principal Secretary, ’Mantšenki Sekete-Mphalane, said the ministry offers psycho-social support that includes counselling to help victims heal.
“While the victim is undergoing counselling sessions, we support them either by giving them advice while the police work on the case,” Sekete-Mphalane said.

She said they are raising awareness through radio programmes and public gatherings.
“Feedback has been positive to date since cases are now reported in larger numbers unlike in the past,” she said.

Advocate Mabela Lehloenya of the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) said it was disappointing that there is no GBV law to date as perpetrators can take advantage of the loophole.
She said they are updated about the causes of the delays by the Gender Ministry “but still there is no specific law for GBV.”

“We still have a long way to go because culprits are not waiting on law,” Advocate Lehloenya said.
Advocate Lehloenya said the absence of a clear law “is very challenging” and forces the use of other laws such as the Penal Code Act, Sexual Offences Act, and Marriage Act or Child Protection Act.
“Things are currently all over the place and it is very unfair to abuse victims.”

She said the enactment of the law would be helpful as it would be a single codified document that deals with gender-based violence.
“We are working on programmes geared towards empowering, counselling and supporting victims.”

’Mapule Motsopa

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Dead on arrival

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My sister delivered a stillborn baby when she was on her way to the clinic,” ’Matemoho Letšela, 23, barely holding back tears.

Letšela says her sister, whose name she withheld, suffered birth-pangs when she was alone at home in Khonofaneng village in Mokhotlong.

She was then rushed down the slopes of a mountain by some passers-by on foot, striding on the slopes of a rocky mountain, crossing deep gorges as she sought to get to the Molika-Liko Health Centre some eight kilometres away.

When she arrived at the clinic, the baby was declared dead on arrival.

Welcome to Mokhotlong, Lesotho’s mountainous region known worldwide for its big and clean diamonds where the people do not have basic services.

Letšela said her sister collapsed when she was on her way to the clinic and was only seen by some passers-by.

By the time passers-by saw her, it was already too late for her and her baby.

She was eight months pregnant. 

“She was still far from the clinic and away from the villages,” Letšela says.

“She had no one to help her until she lost her baby. She was helpless the whole day until it was too late for her to survive,” she says.

 “She had already lost a lot of blood and could not make it to the hospital.”

Letšela shared her sister’s story with thepost during a tour conducted by the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to assess the impact of their assistance in Mokhotlong and Quthing districts a fortnight ago.

Letsela pleaded with the government to provide services in Mokhotlong’s hard-to-reach areas to avoid unnecessary deaths like her sister’s.

“My sister was eight months pregnant so the long walking distance might have been the cause of her early delivery and ultimate death,” she says.

She says there are still some villages in her area that are way far from where she stays, villages like Lichecheng where a patient must travel early in the morning, sleep on the way and reach the clinic the following day.

Cars cannot reach those remote areas, she says.

At Letšela’s area, they only have one bus that travels from home to town at 9am and will be back late at 8pm.

Even though they would love to always catch a ride whenever they are going to the clinic, sometimes they just do not have the money.

Letšela is three months pregnant now and says she cannot wait to reach 37 weeks so she can go and stay at the accommodation facilities provided by the clinic.

 “That is the advice from our midwives and I am willing to take that offer,” she says.

“I don’t want what happened to my sister to happen to me.”

When thepost met Letšela at the clinic last week, she had left her place at around 4am walking alone to the clinic and arrived after 10am.

Relebohile Tšepe

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Doctor tampers with corpse

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THE Mokhotlong Government Hospital has agreed to pay M200 000 as compensation to the husband of a deceased patient after a doctor unlawfully tampered with the corpse.

There is a deed of settlement between the hospital and Jacob Palime, the deceased woman’s husband.

Jacob Palime rushed to the High Court in Tšifa-li-Mali last year after the hospital failed to explain why the doctor had tampered with his wife’s corpse at a private mortuary behind his back.

His wife’s body had been taken to the Lesotho Funeral Services.
Palime lives in Phahameng in Mokhotlong.

In his court papers, Palime was demanding M500 000 in compensation from the hospital “for unlawful invasion, intrusion and interference with” his rituals and rights over his dead wife.

He informed the court that his wife died in September 2020 at Mokhotlong Hospital.

“All requisite documentation pertaining to her release to Lesotho Funeral Services were effected and ultimately the deceased was accordingly transferred to the mortuary,” Palime said.

The court heard that Palime’s family was subsequently informed about the wife’s death.

The family however learnt that one doctor, acting in his professional capacity, went to the mortuary the next day and tampered with the corpse.

The doctor subsequently conducted certain tests on the corpse without the knowledge of family members.

Palime said their attempts to get an explanation from the hospital as to the purpose of the tests and the name of the doctor had failed to yield results.

“It remained questionable and therefore incomprehensible as to what actually was the purpose or rationale behind conducting such anonymous and secret tests,” he said.

Palime told the court that the whole thing left him “in an unsettled state of mind for a long time”.

He said his family, which has its traditions and culture rooted in the respect for their departed loved ones, regards and considers Mokhotlong Hospital’s conduct as an unlawful invasion, intrusion and interference with his rituals and rights over his deceased spouse.

“This is more-so because the hospital had all the opportunity to have conducted any or such alleged tests immediately upon demise of the deceased while still within its area of jurisdiction and not after her release to the mortuary,” he said.

Palime said despite incessant demands, the hospital has failed, refused, ignored and neglected to cooperate with him “to amicably solve this unwarranted state of affairs”.

Palime told the court that there were no claims against the Lesotho Funeral Service as they had cooperated and compensated him for wrongly allowing the doctor to perform tests on the corpse without knowledge or presence of one of the family members.

’Malimpho Majoro

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Villagers whipped as police seize guns

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Dozens of villagers in Ha-Rammeleke in Khubelu, Mokhotlong, were on Monday night rounded up and beaten with sticks and whips by the police during an operation to seize illegal guns.

The villagers told thepost that they heard one man crying out for help saying his wife was sick. And when they rushed to his house, they found the police waiting for them.

The police had stormed the man’s house and ordered him to “cry for help” to lure men from the village.

The men and women were then frog-marched outside the village where the police assaulted the men with sticks, whips, and kicked them.

One man said when he arrived at the house, he found other villagers who were now surrounded by armed police.

“At first I thought they were soldiers but later picked up that they were SOU (Special Operations Unit) members,” he said.

He said they were subjected to severe torture.

“They beat us with sticks at the same time demanding guns from us,” he said.

The police and soldiers also raided other nearby villages in Khubelu area but in Ha-Rammeleke villagers say they identified only police from the Special Operations Unit (SOU).

Several villagers who spoke to thepost asked for anonymity for fear of retribution.

This was the second time within a month that the security forces have raided the villages in search of illegal guns after a spate of gory murders in the areas.

The murders are perpetrated by famo music gangs who are fighting over illegal gold mining in South Africa.

The first raid was on Wednesday preceding Good Friday.

Villagers say a group of armed soldiers stormed the place in the wee hours collecting almost every one to the chief’s place.

“We were woken-up by young soldiers who drove us to the chief’s place,” one resident of Ha-Rammeleke said.

When they arrived at the chief’s home all hell broke loose.

A woman told thepost that they were split into two groups of women and men.

Later, women were further split into two groups of the elderly and younger ones.

She said the security officers assaulted the men while ordering the elderly women to ululate.

Young women were ordered to run around the place like they were exercising.

She said the men were pushed into a small hut where they were subjected to further torture.

A man who was among the victims said the army said they should produce the guns and help them identify the illegal miners.

He said this happened after one man in their village was fatally shot by five unknown men in broad daylight.

He said the men who killed the fellow villager had their faces covered with balaclavas and they could not see who they were.

 

The villagers chased them but they could not get close to them because they were armed with guns.

“We were armed with stones while those men were armed with guns,” he said.

“They fired a volley of bullets at us and we retreated,” he said.

The murdered man was later collected by the police.

The army spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Sakeng Lekola, confirmed that soldiers stormed Khubelu area in response to the rampant lawlessness of unlicensed guns.

Lt Col Lekola said their presence in the area followed two incidents of shootings where one man was fatally shot and a child sustained serious gunshot wounds.

“There were reports everywhere, even on the radios, that things were out of hand in Khubelu,” he said.

He said in just a day they managed to collect six guns that were in wrong hands together with more than 100 rounds (bullets) in an operation dubbed Deuteronomy 17.

These bullets included 23 rounds of Galil rifle.

Lt Col Lekola maintained that their operation was successful because they managed to collect guns from wrong hands.

He said they are doing this in line with the African Union principle of ‘silencing the guns’.

He said it is an undeniable fact that statistics of people killed with guns is disturbing.

“We appeal to these people to produce these unlicensed guns,” Lt Col Lekola said.

Lt Col Lekola said they could not just watch Basotho helplessly as they suffered.

He said some people are seen just flaunting their guns.

“They fear no one,” he said.

Police spokesman, Senior Superintendent Kabelo Halahala, said he was aware of the operation in Mokhotlong but did not have further details.

Majara Molupe

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