RAPE-ACCUSED former Law and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Mootsi Lehata, will next appear in court on 24 July 2018 after the Chief Magistrate, ‘Matankiso Nthunya, on Tuesday released him on M500 bail.
Mr Lehata is a member of former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s Democratic Congress (DC) party and he briefly served as Minister of Law in the former seven parties’ coalition which lasted from March 2015 and it was ousted in the 3 June 2017 national elections.
He was arrested on the 29th of June this year and spent that weekend at the Police Headquarters in Maseru on allegations of raping a 17 year-old orphan girl in Matsieng early this year.
The minor reportedly fell pregnant as a result of the rape which allegedly occurred in January this year.
The case was supposed to have been heard in court last week but it could not proceed as the magistrates were on strike to press for salary increments and improved working conditions.
The case was finally heard this week and on Tuesday, Chief Magistrate Nthunya read the charge to the 48 year-old Mr Lehata.
“The said accused is charged with the crime of sexual offence in contravention of Section 52 (1) (2) (3) (e) read with Section 109 of Penal Code Act No.6/2010,” Mr Nthunya said.
“Upon or about 19 January 2018 at or near Ha Moima Sehlabeng Sa Matsieng in the district of Maseru, the said accused did unlawfully and intentionally have sexual intercourse with the minor – a Mosotho female aged 17 without her consent.”
Thereafter, Mr Lehata’s lawyer, Advocate Qhalehang Letsika asked the court to release him on bail to enable him to prepare his defence. Mr Lehata was subsequently released on M500 bail on condition that he does not interfere with witnesses and police investigations.
The former Makhaleng legislator’s case comes against the background of a national outcry against the escalation of rape and other forms of violence against women and children.
Sources close to the matter said that although the offence was allegedly committed in January, the victim’s relatives swept it under the carpet and it only came to light in March when some of the villagers in Matsieng began suspecting that the minor was pregnant.
“The victim confided in one of the women in Matsieng who blew the whistle on the alleged rape. It is not clear why the matter was never investigated until it was reported on the social media three weeks ago,” one source said.
Another source said the rape allegation was only investigated after sustained pressure from the Minister of Social Development, ‘Matebatso Doti.
“The minister has since made arrangements that the girl be taken to a secret location for her own protection and that of her unborn baby,” the source said.
On her part, Ms Doti said the case was a very sensitive matter that needed to be handled with caution to protect the minor and ensure that her rights were not further violated.
“The Ministry of Social Development has sought asylum in a secret place for the girl. We need to protect this child and ensure that her rights are not violated. Mentioning the name of the place that she has been taken to will compromise her security,” Ms Doti said.