MASERU — Rachel’s Children’s Home caretaker, ’Masalemone Molale, 39, appeared in the Hlotse Magistrates’ Court yesterday to answer charges of contravening the Child ren’s Protection and Welfare Act.
The prosecution accuses Molale of physically and emotionally harming 42 children who lived at the orphanage, situated in
Maputsoe about 80 kilometres north of Maseru.
Molale, who was not asked to plead, is out on M1 000 bail.
Speaking in an earlier interview this week, Molale explained how heavily armed police stormed the orphanage in a movie-style raid last week.
She said a band of 15 police officers arrived at the orphanage without notice and started taking the children’s belongings from their cabinets while ordering the children to get into a waiting bus.
She said the police assaulted her when she tried to tell them that her application to stop the Ministry of Social Development from closing the orphanage was in court.
“A police officer hit me with the butt of a gun and pushed me when I tried to block him from entering one of the rooms,” Molale said.
“They said I should release the children because they were taking them away.”
Molale said she had refused to release the children to the armed police and social development employees because her lawyer, whom she had called, advised her not to.
“He said I should tell them that the court was still working on my application for a court order,” she said.
“However, they did not listen to me. They went on to take the children’s clothes from the closets before hurrying them into a white bus bearing a government registration number.”
She said the police then ordered her to go with them to the Maputsoe police station.
“I was surprised when they wanted me to come with them because they had already taken the children. But I said I would follow them in my car,” she said.
She said she was walking towards her car when she realised that two policewomen were following her.
“They stopped me from entering the car and said I had to join them in the bus.”
She said while she was sending text messages to her co-workers her two mobile phones were confiscated from her.
“Two female police officers strangled me when I refused to hand over my phones. They did that right in front of my children,” she said.
At Maputsoe police station they were referred to Hlotse police station.
“I was charged with human trafficking and contempt of court. I was then taken to Pitseng Police Station and locked up there. I spent three nights and was released on Saturday.
“They said I had hid some of the children. That is not true because we had sent younger boys and girls to Mahobong where they were going to participate in the Moshoeshoe’s Day activities. They had spent the night over at one orphanage and were still to be collected later that day.”
Molale said she was not expecting this “rough treatment” from government officials after she held a meeting with officials from the social development ministry.
The officials, she said, told her bluntly that they were going to take the children away but she says she never expected that she would be harassed and embarrassed in front of the children.
Molale said the Ministry of Social Development could have handled the matter in a better way.
“They should have come to discuss their concerns with us before taking the children away like that. There was no inspection of any sort. The home was closed by force of arms. That should not have happened.
“No one has told us where they took my children. I am worried about them. I have their best interest at heart. I have been doing this for the past 10 years. I was giving them the best life I could,” she said.
Meanwhile, another orphanage run by the Ministry of Insured Salvation has also been closed and the children have been sent to three children’s homes in Mohale’s Hoek and Mafeteng.
Efforts to contact Social Development Minister ’Matebatso Doti were not successful at the time of going to print.