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The ‘hit and run daddies’

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MASERU-FOR two years, ’Mapoone Mongoako* was head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Ramatla Bese. He seemed to feel the same way, and frequently showered her with gifts and praises that got her completely smitten.

Then, she fell pregnant.
“The man I fell in love with turned into a monster,” Mongoako told thepost.
Things turned sour the day she informed him of the pregnancy.
“He blamed me for the pregnancy saying I was supposed to have been on pills,” Mongoako says.

Despite numerous campaigns urging people to be responsible to avoid unplanned pregnancies, and for men to take responsibility, Lesotho is still blighted by the scourge of unwanted pregnancies.
For years, the courts have been jammed with cases of women demanding maintenance from such men.

The Maseru Magistrates’ Court alone recorded an average of just over 700 maintenance cases annually between 2016 and 2019.
This year alone, the court has already recorded 347 maintenance cases. Countrywide statistics were not readily available.
For many women such as Mongoako, pregnancy marks the beginning of a hellish period.

Her boyfriend denied paternity, claiming she had been dating other men besides him. He blocked all forms of communication.
“My parents didn’t take that well and my mother even said I should go to his home to force him to marry me,” she says.
“I knew I had disappointed my parents.”
Her frustration grew when she later learnt that he was already married and had two children.

“It was so painful to learn that I had been played for a fool for such a long time,” she says, tearfully.
Mongoako says she waited until she gave birth to tell him about their twins.
“I bought a new SIM card and called to inform him and he still maintained they were not his children.”

More trouble awaited Mongoako. Her family insisted they could not afford to take care of her and the twins.
“They were so furious but at least I was still welcome to stay with them.”
She says she will not force the father of her twins to take responsibility.
“I have been through a lot and I am not going to waste my energy forcing a grown-up man to take care of his children.”
Bese still insists the children are not his.

“Indeed we were dating but I didn’t impregnate her,” he says when approached by thepost.
“This could ruin my marriage if my wife finds out. I was having harmless fun just like other men,” he says, before claiming he is willing to pay for the twins’ upkeep if he finds a “stable job” on condition the matter is kept secret from his wife.

Another woman, ’Malillo Tlhaku says her boyfriend Temoso Rameno suggested that they abort the baby. She refused.
She says “part of me” hated him for that but that did not stop her from pestering him to be part of their now two-year-old daughter’s life.
“He only saw her once when he brought the clothes I had asked for. She was only three months then,” Tlhaku says, adding she accepted the clothes because she was desperate.

She says he now calls her during odd hours claiming to want to see his child.
“I refused and now he is using that against me saying I denied him access so he won’t help anymore,” she says.
“He fails to accept that it is over between us and the focus should be on the child only.”

The baby’s daddy said Tlhaku was “too independent and that made me feel less of a man”.
“She always said hurtful things and disrespected me,” Rameno says, adding he is hopeful things will work out eventually.
“I believe we can still make it work but I need her to help me in making that happen. I know I have wronged her but she should stop hurting my feelings as well. That way it will be easier for me to be in my child’s life if she no longer wants me in hers,” he says.

Other “hit and run” daddies said they were being denied a chance to be with their children despite their best efforts.
One such man is Thaabe Lerotholi. Lerotholi claims he is not supporting his child because his ex-girlfriend and her mother ordered him to stay away.
Lerotholi says the mother of his child had asked to be married “but she started throwing tantrums. Following that I went to inform her parents but that ruined our relationship even further”.

“I was told to back off,” he alleges. “As his father I still wish to spend time with him. I am waiting for him to grow older so that he will be able to tell me what he needs,” Lerotholi says.

Maseru magistrate’s court senior clerk, Matšeliso Selai, says the law stipulates that such absentee fathers should pay for their children’s upkeep up to the age of 18.
Selai says many men were defaulting on their maintenance obligations, even when they hold permanent jobs.
“We use garnish orders. Should someone fail to pay, the court issues a warrant of execution and their valuable assets are auctioned and the money is given to the mother,” Selai says.

Many understate their income to avoid paying for their responsibilities in full.
“They will mention a small amount yet they are capable of paying more and since the court doesn’t investigate they succeed,” she says.
Selai says some men prefer to buy items such as clothing and food than give money to the mother.
“It is a good thing because maintenance is not all about money but they still fail to comply.”

She says people taking care of children can seek an upward variation of the payment after every 12 months depending on the costs of raising the child.
Those denying paternity have the responsibility to pay for a paternity test.
“If the results are negative, the mother refunds him,” says Selai.
Taelo Lentša, the police’s Child and Gender Protection Unit (CGPU) Officer at Hlotse Police Station, says “a week does not pass without women reporting men on maintenance issues.”

Lentša says 90 percent of men do not proffer any meaningful reasons for refusing or failing to take responsibility for their children.
He says there are a few who are denied access to their children.
“Men should refrain from this habit of fathering children and later denying responsibility,” Lentša says.

The Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (LCN)’s Democracy and Human Rights Commission Coordinator, Advocate Lebohang Leeu, says people should refrain from violating children’s fundamental rights by refusing to admit their responsibilities.
Leeu says the Children’s Protection and Welfare Act of 2011 aims at promoting and protecting the rights and welfare of children.
“When parents make decisions about a child, it should always be for the benefit of the child to enhance their development and participation in society”.

She says support should not only be about material things.
“Children need love from both parents,” Leeu says. “It is the duty of both parents to maintain a child as it takes two people to have one. Support can be in kind or cash,” Leeu says.
Advocate Kuena Thabane, a prominent family lawyer, says many women do not consult lawyers when taking maintenance issues to court.
“Clients or complainants often approach the children’s court without seeking the help of lawyers,” she says.

Tearing into irresponsible fathers, Advocate Thabane says: “Men don’t support their children because they are men. They won’t even support their own parents. They don’t have paternal instincts.”
Psychologist Calvin Motebang says growing up without the support of both parents can be detrimental to a child’s future as they could be affected emotionally and mentally later in life.

“They can turn out to be bitter and angry adults,” Motebang says, highlighting that this could affect the child’s school performance, “and even the direction of their future” due to low self-esteem and confidence.
“They link everything that happens to the absence of a mother or father,” he says.

Another psychologist, Tšepiso Sesioana, says some children who grow up neglected by one or both parents often lack trust and struggle with anger issues.
“If it’s a female she can be hostile towards men and not trust them,” Sesioana says.

Even after she gets married, she will always work to over protect herself and her children in case history repeats itself. At times they don’t enjoy or live their lives to the fullest because they are always on guard,” he says.
He says if it is a male, he will express his anger through being abusive towards women and not taking relationships seriously.
“Both of them fear attachment as they still think they will go through the same thing,” he said.

He says such men grow up with psychological problems such as depression which may affect their work.
“This will result in a lack of stability.”

’Mapule Motsopa

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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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