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The hot debate on contraceptives



MASERU – WHEN Lirontšo’s father died in 2018, things began to fall apart. She was just 15. She dropped out of school and at home, her mother, a textile factory worker, was struggling to put food on the table.
So when a friend suggested there was a quick way to earn some money, Lirontšo listened. Her journey into the sex work field had begun. But she couldn’t tell her mother so she has been taking contraceptives in secret for the past three years.

“I was reluctant to go to the clinic for contraceptives because I didn’t want to be seen by people who might know me and might report back to my mother,” she said.
She said she recently learnt of other means of contraception apart from condoms at the Lesotho Planned Parenthood Association (LPPA) when she had a yeast infection.
“It was then that I started using the family planning monthly injection as encouraged by a nurse to protect myself,” she said. “My mother doesn’t even know.”

“I opted for it because I knew I could sneak to the LPPA without her knowledge as she is against teenagers using contraceptives outside marriage.”
“She always encourages abstinence unaware that I am already sexually active,” said Lirontšo. “When I come home with money I always tell my mother that it is from laundry services that I offer to some families in town.”
Unlike Lirontšo, ‘Malisela of Thaba-Tseka said she knew nothing about contraceptives until her pregnancy that led to marriage at the age of 19 after she wrote her Grade 12 examinations.

She said her parents then encouraged her to use a three-month injectable contraceptive to avoid having a second baby.
“I wish they had told me earlier,” she said.
She said she was afraid of discussing sex with her parents before she got married.
“But communication became easier after marriage.”
She advised sexually active adolescents to use contraceptives “to avoid the same mistake I made”.

“And if your parents are as uncomfortable as mine were to discuss such things, at least confide in someone you trust for assistance,” ‘Malisela said.
A parent, ‘Makonosoang, said she finds it difficult to discuss contraception with her daughter.
“It’s a matter that triggers shame and I would rather deal with a pregnancy than tell her to use those things,” ‘Makonosoang said. “It’s still hurtful but I think it’s better than knowing that she sleeps around because she thinks she is safe.”

‘Mabohlokoa Monyane, a nurse at the LPPA Thakaneng Clinic, said they are targeting 10-24-year-olds, although most of their clients’ ages range between 15-19 and 20-24. Most of them come mostly for family planning, antiretroviral treatment and sexually transmitted illnesses.
“Very few aged 10-14 show up for contraceptives. The children who come prefer the injection, pills, and very few opt for the loop,” said Monyane.
Monyane said working with youngsters is challenging because “they are arrogant” and “impatient.”

“Sometimes they join their friends and demand the injection and they get offended when I tell them to wait for their menstruation,” Monyane said.
“We are very strict on that one because when they aren’t on their periods, I can’t determine whether she is pregnant or not,” she said.
The lockdowns resulted in many people defaulting, she said.
“Some came back pregnant. They used to adhere to their appointments,” said Monyane.
She said they encourage contraception methods as they have a range of benefits other than their primary purpose of preventing pregnancies.
She said it reduces the rate of unintended pregnancies and the need for unsafe abortions, while condoms also prevent transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.

The LPPA spokesman, Tlali Matela, said their clients rarely visit the clinic with their parents.
“They often come on their own and at their own time and they mostly show up on Mondays and Wednesdays,” said Matela.
He said Thakaneng, the LPPA’s youth corner, had clinical services, entertainment and educational rooms when it was first established.
“The idea was to make young people comfortable as their visit should be known by them and their service providers only,” Matela said.

“We were trying to fight discrimination and parents would allow them to come. It was always filled and this centre was very helpful.”
The Adolescent Health Program Manager at the Ministry of Health, ‘Mathato Nkuatsana, said the ministry has established some programmes to scale up family planning services among adolescents and young people.
Nkuatsana said the ministry supports social behavioural change messages and condom distribution done by civil society organisations.

She said adolescent health corners were established in 2006 in all hospitals in the country except for the Quthing district to deliver Adolescent and Youth Friendly Health Services.
She said the centres provide a package of health services that includes family planning, HIV testing, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, and sexually transmitted illnesses management services to girls and women aged 10 – 24.
“Seeing how uncomfortable and impatient youngsters are when assisted by older people, we saw it fit to bridge that gap,” she said.

She revealed that there are no adolescent health corners in some clinics, because of the lack of infrastructure, but they use a different model to accommodate youngsters such as halls or pick specific days to assist most of them along with a few elders.
Nkuatsana said they also do outreach campaigns with peer educators at the community level.
She said most girls get married when they are as young as 13 and many of them don’t use contraceptives.

“They access them when they have information but we still have unmet needs,” she said.
However, since the rate of teenage pregnancy is still high at 19 percent “we are still expecting them to use contraceptives to prevent unintended pregnancy but we still have a challenge that some still don’t use them.”
She said some of the reasons children do not use contraceptives is topography. Most health centres are inaccessible and teenagers depend on their parents for transportation.
Some facilities do not offer such services and “this compromises recipients.”

She said they also use community distributors, but many of them are older people.
“It’s still not easy for adolescents to approach them and access all Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) services,’’ said Nkuatsana, adding: “Information is important for youngsters to make informed decisions.”
She said in other districts, parents are unhappy about their children accessing family planning pills.

“This shows that things are being done the wrong way; those children are not given information,” said Nkuatsana. “For one to start family planning requires a long counselling session to prepare that person for anything she may experience.”
The UNFPA Programme Officer for Adolescents and Youths, ‘Maseretse Ratia, said Early and Unintended Pregnancy (EUP) is a global public health concern that has a significant impact on the lives of adolescent girls.

Ratia said the Sub-Saharan Africa region carries the highest burden of adolescent pregnancies both outside and within marriage, many of which are unintended.
“EUP has negative education, health and social consequences on the lives of adolescent girls,” Ratia said.
“It is, for instance, estimated that 25 percent of unsafe abortion cases in Sub-Saharan Africa occur among adolescent girls.”
She said other negative health outcomes associated with adolescent pregnancy include anaemia, malaria, STIs including HIV, post-partum hemorrhage, obstetric fistula, and mental disorders such as depression.

She said early marriage is also linked to adolescent pregnancy, where percentages of very young adolescent mothers already married at 16 are at 32 percent and 67 percent in Southern and East Africa respectively.
She said EUP jeopardises the future of girls as many drop out of school.
“Therefore, preventing EUP is an important component of a wider response to ensuring the right to education for all girls,” she said.
“For girls that drop out of school because of pregnancy, less than 5 percent return to the school system.”

She said the adolescent birth rate in Lesotho is reported to be high at 94 per 1000 girls aged 15-19 (2003-2018).
She said the UNFPA, like other partners supporting the government of Lesotho, supports the Ministry of Health with capacity building of health care professionals.
In addition, she said the UNFPA supports the Ministry of Education in the implementation of Life Skills Based Sexuality Education (LBSE), intended to provide adolescents and young people from Grade 4 to Grade 11 with sexual and reproductive health and rights information and develop their skills in demanding services including contraception.

She said although the Ministry of Education has fully institutionalised the subject, “there is still a gap on training teachers to be fully competent in delivering the LBSE content”.
The EUP campaign report of 2019 says the said lack of information, lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem hinder the progress in getting sexual and reproduction rights services. Also poverty, alcohol and substance abuse, lack of parental and adult care and guidance and absence of regulation for rented houses are to be blamed.
“Many adolescents, especially those from the rural areas, lack information regarding sexual and reproductive health and rights including family planning services,” she said.
“As a result, men and boys prey on them.”

Even where schools try to provide comprehensive sexuality education, many of the teachers who teach LBSE do not possess all the relevant skills and knowledge.
She said they struggle with the cultural and religious inhibitions to a point where they do selective teaching of simpler and not so “sensitive” sexual and reproductive health topics.”
In other cases, where LBSE is taught, parents and caregivers do not support it and this makes it difficult for the subject to succeed.”

She said lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem is perpetuated by culture where parents and adults bring up girl-children to look up to men to provide for them while they satisfy men by giving them sex.
“Many girls have no one to provide for their needs. These girls become victims of men and boys who have cash to spend on them to meet their needs in exchange for sex.”
Ratia further said many adolescents excessively use alcohol at a very early age and others abuse drugs, especially marijuana.

“Under the influence of these, adolescents engage in unprotected sex that leads to unintended pregnancies.”
She said many parents and adults in communities are “unwilling” or “uncomfortable” to discuss issues of sex and sexuality with their children.
“Those who try to do it, do not have the appropriate skills and knowledge,” she said.
“There are also many adolescents who have no parents or whose parents have left them behind to search for jobs in urban centres and in South Africa.”

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Police hunt former minister



THE police have launched a hunt for former police minister, Lepota Sekola, who is suspected of involvement in stock theft.
Police want to arrest Sekola in connection with two cattle carcasses that were found at his grandfather’s funeral in Borokhoaneng three weeks ago.

During the initial interview, Sekola had insisted that the cows belonged to his late grandfather who had kept them in South Africa for better pastures.

The police didn’t arrest him at that time because investigations were still in the early stages. Further investigations have however led the police to believe that the animals were stolen from South Africa.

But when they were ready for the arrest, Sekola could not be found at his home or on his phone.

Police say Sekola will be charged with unlawful possession and illegal importation of two cows from South Africa.

The National Stock Theft Coordinator, Senior Superintendent Mapesela Klaass, told thepost last night that they “have completed investigations but he (Sekola) is nowhere to be seen”.

“We cannot get him on his mobile phones,” S/Supt Klaass said, adding that the police have been “visiting his home but he is not there”.

“His family members are aware that we are looking for him,” he said.

S/Supt Klaass said they are continuing with their search and as soon as they find him, they are going to drag him to the courts.

He said the police suspect the cows were brought from South Africa to be slaughtered for Sekola’s grandfather’s funeral.

Police sources told thepost that one of the cows had new branding while another had nothing. Both had holes on the ears that signalled that they used to have ear tags.

Majara Molupe

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Magistrate saves WILSA boss



A Maseru magistrate, Nthabiseng Moopisa, this week stayed the criminal prosecution of Advocate ’Mamosa Mohlabula who is accused of tax evasion, money laundering and corruption.

In her application Advocate Mohlabula, who is the director of Women and Law in Southern Africa (WILSA), said the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) should not charge her pending finalisation of her tax evasion case.

Advocate Mohlabula is out on bail after she was formally charged with tax evasion in July last year.

She told Magistrate Moopisa that the DPP, Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane, was wrong to have agreed with the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) to bring charges against her.

“In my viewpoint, the DCEO cannot be heard to charge me in relation to matters already seized with this Honourable Court,” she said in an affidavit.

She also said there is a pending civil case in the High Court in which the DCEO’s abuse of power is referenced, saying the precise way the case is handled will depend “on the way an alleged offence comes to the light”.

“Before that pending case is finalised, DCEO has no jurisdiction to detail me to court over isolated phenomenon of tax evasion and or over grievances of former employees of WILSA,” she said.
Advocate Mohlabula was charged together with the WILSA’s chief accounting officer.

She argued that it was WILSA that was being investigated, not individuals, further saying that was “a significant safeguard that the DCEO was impartial from an objective viewpoint”.

“To exclude any legitimate doubt in this respect the DCEO returned the items it seized from WILSA,” she said.

“This was a realistic and practical step towards administering justice and to avoid premature embarrassment to the management of WILSA.”

She said the Board of Trustees of WILSA were sent briefing notes which in certain respects reflected that the DCEO returned the properties of WILSA without warning them that they were suspects.

“In any event, we proceeded to fashion our arguments before the High Court. There was, and could be, no evidence to back up the decision of the DCEO to apply for the search warrant,” she said.

Advocate Mohlabula said before they took the matter to the High Court, she cooperated with the DCEO and it conducted an inquiry into the alleged crimes.

“Now that the matter is pending before the High Court, there is no more reason for the DCEO to remand me before the pending cases are finalised,” she said.

Staff Reporter

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Mphaka barred from ABC deputy’s race



THE All Basotho Convention (ABC) has barred former Government Secretary Moahloli Mphaka and three others from contesting for the deputy leader’s position at an elective conference set for this week.
The three are Kefeletsoe Mojela, Katleho Molelle, and Lekhetho Mosito.

Mosito was an MP who was appointed Defence Minister for a day and removed the following day during Dr Moeketsi Majoro’s premiership.
The elective conference is set to be held at the Leqele High School hall this weekend.

A circular from the ABC said the three did not qualify to enter the race because they had not held any positions in the party’s committees.

The decision to bar the three is reminiscent of the same tactics that saw former leader Thomas Thabane block Professor Nqosa Mahao from contesting for the party’s deputy leader’s position.
Professor Mahao subsequently walked away and formed the Basotho Action Party (BAP).

A weakened ABC has never recovered from that split.

Mphaka and his colleagues were vying for the deputy leader’s position until they were stopped in their tracks by the circular which was issued out on Monday this week.
Dr Pinkie Manamolela is the current deputy leader.

She was plucked from the women’s league to replace Dr Majoro who had resigned from the national executive committee after losing the leadership race to Nkaku Kabi in 2022.

There is a high chance that the four could drag the ABC to court to assert their right to contest. The legal wrangles will likely destabilise the party that is still smarting from a thorough thrashing in general elections held in October 2022.

Mphaka this week told thepost that he will challenge the decision to block him in the courts of law.
“They are crazy people,” Mphaka said.

“I will not allow this to happen,” he said.

“I have already instructed my lawyers to launch an urgent application in the High Court to challenge the decision before Friday this week.”

He complained that it was not clear why the party had decided to kick him out of the race after he spent a lot of time and resources campaigning.

Mphaka said the national executive committee “usually allows members to contest for positions without considering whether they were ever in the constituency committees or not”.

The contenders in the race are former Water Minister Samonyane Ntsekele, ex-Police MP Lehlohonolo Moramotse, former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Leshoboro Mohlajoa, and Maseru Star Taxi Association member Sekhonyana Mosenene.

A member of the national executive committee told thepost that “many of us support Mphaka and Kefeletsoe at all costs”.

“We were dismayed when we saw the circular removing the duo from the race,” he said.

He said many ABC members were rallying behind Mphaka because “he has been campaigning even before everyone could start”.

“They know he has lots of followers.”

He said it is unfair that Mosenene has been allowed to run but he has never held any position in any constituency except that he represented his taxi association in the ABC national executive committee.
“Why has he been allowed to contest yet he is just like Mphaka and Kefeletsoe?”

He complained that Sekhonyana, while representing taxi operators in the committee, was eventually made the deputy party spokesman despite not being in any constituency committee after ’Matebatso Doti resigned from the position.

“Mphaka was chosen by the party to lead the 2022 elections campaign teams and develop a party manifesto,” he said.

“He was allowed to do all that without being involved in any party structures.”

The party’s spokesman Montoeli Masoetsa declined to comment.

Dr Manamolela told thepost that “the decision was not made by the party’s national executive committee”.

“I do not want to talk much …but it is not true that the party’s NEC decided to remove Mphaka and Kefeletsoe”.

Kabi could not be reached for comment.

Nkheli Liphoto

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