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The ‘demons’ hurting little kids

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MASERU – SHE was only 10-years-old in 2002 when her aunt’s male friend, a trusted policeman, sexually abused her.
Today, 14 years later and now a human rights lawyer, she still struggles to talk about the ordeal.
“It still disgusts me,” says the human rights lawyer, who asked for anonymity.
“Things like these are always there at the back of one’s head and they end up affecting one mentally.’’
Pain and anger have taken a toll on her life.

“In case I bump into him, I will kill him if I am able to,” she says.
She is too embarrassed to talk about the abuse in public but came close during the “shut down” protest last month.
The advocate shared her story with a few protest leaders but quickly regretted doing so “because it is embarrassing”.
“Nobody knew why I was there supporting the protest march, except me,” she says.

The protest was in support of a three-year-old girl who was allegedly raped by a famous Gospel musician last month.
Sexual abuse remains a serious problem in Lesotho despite numerous campaigns to eradicate the vice.
A 2017 research by USAID and PEPFAR titled National Response Efforts To Address Sexual Violence And Exploitation Against Children noted that about 5.8 percent of all households with children in Lesotho had at least one child who had been subject to violence in the year before the survey.

According to the research 4.6 percent of the violence was physical violence, 1.1 percent sexual violence, and 0.1 percent both physical and sexual violence.
“Just less than one out of ten respondents (9.7 percent) noted that in the year before the survey they were personally aware of situations of sexual abuse in their immediate neighborhoods, with figures especially high in urban areas,” read the research.

“This suggests a very high rate of child sexual abuse, approximately 10 000 cases or roughly two to three percent of all households.”
The report noted that while several studies have been conducted to specifically look at the challenges and needs of orphaned and vulnerable children, very little statistical evidence has been collected on the magnitude and nature of sexual violence and exploitation against children in Lesotho.

However, the limited anecdotal evidence available suggests that sexual violence and exploitation against children is a serious issue.
“Poverty and consequent food insecurity, together with HIV, have been identified as the biggest threats to the survival, care, protection and development of children in Lesotho, as they constrain the ability of households and communities to care for their own,” reads the report.

“Without the protection of parents, the lives of OVC in Lesotho are often marred by cruelty, sex for food, cheap or forced child labour, early marriage, child rape and coerced sex work.”
For the human rights lawyer, trouble started when she was only in Grade 5. The perpetrator was a man she knew very well.
He spent a lot of his time at her aunt’s house as a trusted friend before beginning to ask for sex from her. It turned into more as he started patting her on her little breasts.
They were not even breasts but “some two little bumps” on a flat chest, she says.

“I got close to him because he had always been there ever since I stayed with my aunt and I started opening up to him as I trusted him,’’ she says.
She recalls that one day her aunt asked her to go to the village grocery shop with him to change money.
“On our way, he held my hand and started touching my breasts. He then told me not to hesitate asking anything I needed from him. I was young and naive. I had no idea what was happening.”
Two years later, when her aunt was away on a work-related trip the perpetrator called and asked if they needed anything.

‘‘I informed him that we had no electricity. That was when he asked me to go to his house to collect money,’’ she says.
‘‘I went there and he made sure I stayed until it got late. He had promised to accompany me back home but he did not. I had to sleep over at his place.
‘‘When I was sleeping, he sneaked into my blankets and started touching me and I felt his private part between my legs and I tried stopping him.
“I was helpless while that giant forced himself on me. He then told me that nothing will happen to him even if I reported the matter to anyone,” she says.
It was just the beginning of a horrendous experience.

He came for the second time, this time in the aunt’s house.
“I have neither reported nor shared this with anyone because he made me feel like it was my fault, like I owed him and that justified raping me,” she says.
She could not confide in her aunt for fear of being labelled “loose”.
The lawyer’s case is not isolated.

A magistrate sentenced a man, Mzwakhe Chalalisa, to eight years in prison in 2005 for abusing a 14-year-old girl in Tsoapo-le-Bolila in Maseru two years earlier.
The court heard that Chalalisa called the girl while she was playing with her friends. When the girl realised his intentions and tried to retreat, Chalalisa pulled her away from the village beating her with fists. Once they were out of sight of everybody, he forced himself on the girl.
It is a rampant problem, says Tšepang Majara, a local psychologist.

Majara of Mind Liberation Psychology, says “many” men have directly and indirectly sought his help because they are sexually attracted to children.
Majara says the men seldom confess that they had sex with children except in passing when they talk about their sexual experiences.
“It is when you will hear a man saying he has a girlfriend and sometimes that girlfriend will be as young as 14 or 13 years,” Majara says.
He says most of these men are in their late 30s and 40s and experience what psychologists call a “midlife crisis”.
Sometimes cultural factors play a huge role in grown-ups wanting to have sex with children.

“Also there is this unfortunate belief that a man with HIV can be cured if he has sex with a virgin,” says Majara.
But he also says there is a medical problem that needs clinical research and handling by a qualified medical doctor.
A June 2015 article by Frontiers in Human Neuroscience distinguished two groups of perpetrators.

First, those who show no sexual preference disorder but for various reasons, sexually abuse children.
“Reasons include sexually inexperienced adolescents, mentally retarded persons, and those with antisocial personality disorders (ASPDs), or perpetrators within general traumatising family constellations, which seek surrogate partners in children,” according to the article.

“These individuals are most likely diagnosed with various impulse-control disorders, accounting for their engaging in child sexual abuse (CSA) without a specific sexual preference for prepubescent children,” reads the article.
Second, there are those who do display a sexual preference disorder, namely pedophilia (the sexual preference for prepubescent minors) and/or hebephilia (the sexual preference for pubescent minors).

President of the Law Society of Lesotho, Advocate Tekane Maqakachane, said the law is not concerned with the causes of a crime but whether it was committed or not.
“The law will not regard the motive. The motive factor will be dealt with at the next stage of trial when the court will be considering the appropriate sentence,” Maqakachane says.
An Anglican Church of Lesotho cleric, Reverend Maieane Khaketla, describes perpetrators as “demonic”.
“Many people do not realise that there are demons at work. Demons should be cast out of such men,” he says.

Staff Reporter

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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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