The ‘hit and run daddies’
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.”
The beauty queen of Lesotho
MASERU – WHILE many children her age were still adapting to the early years of school after kindergarten, Reatile Molefe was already plotting her life goals. Barely 10-years-old, Molefe already knew exactly what she wanted to do in life.
“I was already geared towards being a model at that early age. I was already portraying fancy and modest moves linked to modelling,” said the beauty queen, now aged 22.
It didn’t take time for her mother to identify the potential and found a need to sharpen it further.
“My journey in beauty pageantry started at the age of eight in 2009. The reason my mom thought I should hop into pageantry was because I was active and smart. I also had role models from the industry by then. I mean, I had an ambition of every little girl’s dream of being a star or being dressed in cute ball gowns so I also had a strong desire to be like that,” she said.
“I started my cat walking lessons at Little Miss Lesotho Companies but didn’t win. Not winning gave me motivation to work more towards my craft, it pushed me into wanting more as I couldn’t settle for less,” she said.
Molefe now boasts of 14 tittles to her name. She has donned the beauty pageant crowns in all stages of her life.
“I was crowned Queen in my two previous schools. I was Miss New Millennium High School in 2012 and Miss Lesotho High School in 2017. The 14th title I scooped made me believe in myself even more as I got to gain experience competing with people from different countries,” said Molefe, who has also made a bold statement by competing at the international level.
Molefe attributes her prowess to her high levels of confidence.
“Pageants create a bonding experience where women lift each other up, but what gives me an upper hand is being comfortable, secure with myself and being me throughout,” said Molefe, adding that her favourite category during pageantry competitions is when models are asked to strut the ramp in evening wear.
“That’s when the audience and the judges get to see the creativity, the poise and eloquence of the queens,” said Molefe, who believes that the audience’s response can destroy or build a contestant’s confidence.
“The audience can play either of the two roles during a contest. They may make a positive impact on females taking part because they teach them how to be resilient thus prepare them for real world situations. On the other hand, the audience may also make a negative impact and lead to a whole host of mental issues among participants who may be worried about their image and appearance. This can lead to harmful side-effects,” stated Molefe.
Like other women in the modelling industry, Molefe has come across some challenges.
“An example is trying to get enough support from the general public on my first international contest,” she said.
Another was the cost of competing in beauty pageants as well as evolving body changes, she said.
“Being a beauty queen is not a walk in the park, especially when being judged by the community. And, yes, pageants do help women grow in confidence but without proper mental health support, they can also create insecurities. But through all the struggles, I am thankful to my family and friends. They are my biggest supporters. I may have gone through it all but their unbending support has kept me going,” she said.
Molefe says she considers being crowned second runner up in the Miss Culture International competition held in Johannesburg in 2021 as her most outstanding achievement. She was also crowned Miss Culture Lesotho in 2018.
“What was intriguing to me about this contest was the fact that I was the youngest among the contestants. It proved to be a learning experience for me and it deepened my knowledge about what the modelling world really entails.
“I never doubted myself but I thought I wouldn’t make it as I was the youngest. I got to compete with people of different races, which got me even more motivated. I learned a lot in participating in a multi-racial event,” she said.
Pageantry isn’t just about looks, according to Molefe.
“There is to more to it, like being able to embrace glamour. Beauty is subjective and it can be interpreted in different ways according to the perception of individual viewers. I consider being beautiful as an inside and out perception but the golden rule is to brim with confidence to make it in pageantry,” said Molefe, urging parents to enroll their children in pageantry schools at an early age “even as early as three-years-old”.
“This gives them ample time to develop because the young ones are able to easily learn from others to improve their skills and boost their self-confidence,” said Molefe, who dreams of a day when a beauty queen is considered a legendary woman in Lesotho.
One of her goals is to assist in educating the youth, especially young women, about menstrual health and other sexual and reproductive health issues.
Her target group is mainly girls that live in rural areas and small towns.
“Pageants promote goal setting, encourage us to value personal achievement and community involvement,” she said.
The stock-theft menace
MASERU – IF you recently enjoyed a nice beef stew at a restaurant in Lesotho there is a high possibility that the slaughtered cow might have been stolen from a farm in South Africa.
If you are in South Africa, it is equally possible that the cow was stolen from a cattle post in Mokhotlong or any other mountainous region of Lesotho.
That is because cross-border stock-theft is on the increase between the two countries. In fact, it has become a thorn in the flesh for farmers on both sides of the border.
Since 1990, 85 percent of livestock owners on the border villages of Lesotho have lost animals to thieves as compared with 49 percentage from non-border villages, according to a study published by Wilfrid Laurier University.
Earlier this month, this problem came into sharp focus when four Basotho men were picked up by the police in Thaba-Nchu in the Free State.
These men, aged between 24-51 years old, were travelling in a car bearing Lesotho number plates. They were transporting cattle that did not have documents.
The SAPS informed their counterparts in Lesotho who rushed to the place to repatriate the suspects.
Maseru Urban Commanding Officer Senior Superintendent Rantoane Motsoela said their investigations uncovered that the cattle crossed into South Africa at Ha Tsolo through the Mohokare River.
Then they were transported from the border into South Africa.
S/Supt Motsoela said they have found that the cattle already had tattoo marks from one farmer in Ficksburg.
But the suspects had no documents to prove that the animals belonged to them.
Both the cattle and the car are still in the hands of the SAPS while investigations are continuing.
S/Supt Motsoela said the suspects are assisting the police with investigations.
In another incident police recovered five cattle of a Mosotho man in Qwa-Qwa, still in the Free State Province.
These cattle were reported stolen in Tšehlanyane in Leribe at the beginning of this month.
Police under their sting operation “Zero Tolerance to Stock Theft” launched their investigations that led to the discovery of the cattle.
The Leribe District police commanding officer Senior Superintendent Samuel Thamae said they were able to recover the animals with the help of the community who tipped them off.
S/Supt Thamae said they stormed Qwa-Qwa with their counterparts in South Africa to identify the stolen animals.
After convincing the SAPS that the cattle belonged to the concerned farmer, they were released to him.
The Mokhotlong District Administrator (DA) Serame Linake says they have been battling cross border stock theft for years.
He says Basotho in Lesotho would go to South Africa to steal the animals that they sell back to South Africa in Vanderbijlparkl after getting fraudulent documents.
Linake says these animals, cattle and sheep, are sold at an auction in Vanderbijlpark.
He says the South Africans on the other hand sometimes also cross the border into Lesotho to steal the animals.
To fight this theft, they have formed good relations with the SAPS, chiefs and councillors.
Linake says when animals are stolen from South Africa into Lesotho, their counterparts simply inform them on this side so that they could waylay them.
“Stolen animals are strictly sold in Vanderbijlpark in South Africa,” he says.
He says in his district animals are not sold in the butcheries like is the case in Maseru and other lowlands districts.
Linake says they are now struggling to control theft that takes place between the northern district and Qwa-Qwa because the perpetrators are Basotho who have now migrated to South Africa.
He says these perpetrators have lived in Lesotho and know all the corridors that they could use to come and steal animals in Lesotho and go back to South Africa.
Police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli says stock-theft is a grave problem in the country.
He says they have formed a special team that is going to reinforce the team that is already dealing with stock-theft in the country.
When there is an alarm that some animals have been stolen, this new team is informed so that it can lend a helping hand.
S/Supt Mopeli says the theft happens within the country’s borders and between Lesotho and South Africa.
S/Supt Mopeli says they are managing to deal with the theft because they arrest the perpetrators and bring them before the courts of law.
He says the public should alert the police when they see animals being stolen so that they can be saved from the hands of thieves.
Army spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Sakeng Lekola says they have registered big successes in curbing cross-border theft especially after having a post in Mokota-Koti in Maputsoe.
He says they usually hold frequent patrols at the borders to fight this crime.
“We also hold frequent crossings with the South African army to share information regarding cross-border theft,” Lt Col Lekola says.
Lt Col Lekola says they sometimes use air patrols as another way to fight stock-theft.
He says they usually erect camps along the borders so that they can stop animals coming out of Lesotho or vice-versa.
“Last year we had a successful collaboration with South African soldiers where we patrolled the borders from Leribe to Mafeteng. The South African army was on their side and we were also on our side,” he says.
He says they were working together with the police and they reaped good results.
Lt Col Lekola says some herd boys report the theft of livestock long after first trying to track the animals themselves.
He says this gives the cattle rustlers a chance to hide.
He advised the farmers not to erect cattle posts near the borders because they are stolen easily.
“When the South Africans enter Lesotho borders to trace their stolen animals, they make the first encounter with the animals at the cattle posts and drive them away,” Lt Col Lekola says.
He appealled to farmers to work collaboratively with their herders to pay them their dues.
He says some farmers do not pay their herders and those herders usually bounce back to steal the animals in revenge.
“They enter the cattle posts easily because the dogs know them,” Lt Col Lekola says.
Because Lesotho is completely surrounded by South Africa, stock-theft takes place easily between the two countries especially in the provinces of Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.
The porous borders make it easy for the movement of animals to take place between the two countries.
And the theft between these countries has been happening since time immemorial.
The cross-border menace continues to take place despite patrols that are organised by the security agencies from both countries.
A Transnational History of Stock Theft on the Lesotho–South Africa Border, Nineteenth Century to 1994 Journal states that stock theft has long been a problem along the Lesotho–South Africa border.
It says from Moshoeshoe I’s cattle-raiding in the nineteenth century through to the start of the democratic era in Lesotho (1993) and South Africa (1994), the idea that stock theft is both prevalent and an international problem has been generally accepted by all.
According to Farmer’s Weekly livestock theft has a much more detrimental effect on the economy than previously thought, and is becoming more violent.
It says organised livestock theft feeds into other more serious types of transnational organised crimes such as drug, weapons and human trafficking.
And ultimately this results in the creation of illicit financial flows.
Challenges to safety included no fencing along large stretches, and the lack of a suitable roads to enable South African National Defence Force (SANDF) troops to conduct border patrols effectively, Farmer’s Weekly says.
In a piece published in November on the International Security Studies (ISS) website, ISS Today, stock theft was on the rise in South Africa, with 29 672 cases recorded by the South African Police Service (SAPS) for the 2018/2019 financial year.
This represented an increase of 2.9 percent over the previous year.
The ISS said the problem is exacerbated by porous and poorly secured borders, lack of capacity to monitor the border, and mountainous terrain that is difficult to police.
“Such challenges create opportunities and trafficking routes for criminal networks to smuggle livestock, drugs and, at times, firearms across the border.”
The ISS said the transnational livestock theft affects farmers revenue and adds to consumer costs.
It says thousands of animals are stolen and sold through the black market.
And this hurts the economy and goes even further to impact consumers, as these animals could have provided meat.
Matekane to launch microchip project
MAPUTSOE – PRIME Minister Sam Matekane will this Sunday launch a new microchip project designed to combat the rampant stock-theft in Lesotho.
The launch will be held in Peka in Leribe.
Speaking at a rally for his Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) in Maputsoe last weekend, Matekane said the government is weary of the rampant stock-theft that impoverished rural farmers in Lesotho for decades.
“When your livestock leaves your kraals your phones will alert you and your families,” Matekane said amid loud cheers.
He asked the people to go to Peka in great numbers to witness the launch and learn from the livestock microchipping experts how the project will work to combat stock-theft in the villages.
The project was first spearheaded by Thomas Thabane when he was the Home Affairs Minister in 2003.
That year, 120 rams were implanted with the microchip identification system in Masianokeng.
The rams belonged to a company called Mahloenyeng Trading Company (Pty) Ltd.
The then police boss, Jonas Malewa, had microchipped 64 horses at the Police Training College (PTC) a year earlier in a pilot project.
The Home Affairs Ministry had contracted a company called Primate Identity Technology ran by a Jewish man, Yehuda Danziger, to carry out the pilot project.
Danziger was also tasked with observing any side-effects the animals could have after the implantation of the microchip.
The government introduced the microchip implantation technology after realising that stock thieves would easily erase the branding and tattoo marks with red hot metal and acid.
The stock thieves also cut off stolen animals’ ears if they bore the owner’s identification marks.
Microchips are tiny electronic devices, about the size of a grain of rice, which could be stored in a capsule and implanted near the animal’s tail to make it easy to identify and trace lost or stolen animals.
The project however never picked up with successive government not showing any political will to carry it through.
Things are now set to change with Matekane launching the project this Sunday.
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Matekane to launch microchip project
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