Police rescue women trafficked to South Africa

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MASERU — Two local women who were trafficked to South Africa two years ago were rescued by the police last Wednesday.

Acting police spokesperson ‘Mantolo Mothibeli said the two victims were aged 19 and 20.

Police had interviewed a suspect in connection with the case but could not divulge details as this could jeopardise investigations.

Mothibeli however said most trafficking victims were forced into sex slavery, unlawful adoption and forced labour.

Lack of awareness programmes had worsened the problem of human trafficking in Lesotho, she added.

She cited the case of a 28-year-old woman from Leribe who was promised a domestic job in Rustenburg in South Africa in April this year and ended up being sexually abused.

“She was staying with a 56-year-old man who sexually assaulted her.”

The victim fell pregnant and was taken to Eastern Cape to become the man’s fifth wife when she was about to deliver.

“She said they were eating papa and wild plants that smelt very bad but she had no option,” Mothibeli said.

The United Nations defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation”.

According to rights groups women are the most common victims of trafficking.

Women and Law in Southern Africa, a regional organisation that campaigns for women’s legal rights, says it records at least five cases of Basotho being trafficked to South Africa every month.

‘Mamosa Mohlabula-Nokana, the organisation’s programmes manager said this figure represented a miniscule of the trafficking web as most victims were reluctant to report their cases.

“The victims who have been abused and were able to escape are scared to report to the police because some are illegal migrants,” Mohlabula-Nokana said.

Most of them were from Maseru.

The UN says conclusive data on trafficking is difficult to compile. But rough estimates suggest that between 700 000 and two million women are trafficked across international borders annually.

With almost half of the country’s 1.8 million population unemployed, most Basotho are quick to jump at job offers without assessing the risks, rights groups say.

Meanwhile, a row over a lebetlela (fighting stick) between two teenagers turned fatal in Lekholong last week after one of the boys stabbed his mate.

According to the police, the two teenagers, both aged 17, were involved in a heated fight after one of them, who is a herd boy, suspected that his mate had stolen his lebetlela.

“The herd boy waylaid the other boy on his way back from school and started fighting him. He was then overpowered and stabbed to death with a knife,” said Mokete.

In Quthing, police arrested another 17-year-old for child concealment.

The teenager surprised villagers when after being pregnant for nine months, she suddenly appeared “normal” without a child.

“When the villagers asked her about the pregnancy she told them that she just had heavy bleeding with huge clots.

The women went to her toilet pit and found  a baby wrapped with a blanket,” said the police spokesperson.

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