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Exclusive: Breaking chains of trafficking, child marriage and forced labour

Young women, girls and other vulnerable groups are today in Lesotho faced with a plethora of wicked problems that force them into the streets to prostitute themselves and further leaving them vulnerable and prone to trafficking where they are turned into sex slaves.

Traffickers throw their victims into the quagmire, forcing them to prostitute themselves while they rake in mountains of cash while in some instances victims are sold into hard labour servitude in farms or elsewhere.

Upon realising the soaring cases of women and girls trapped in brothels, our Centre found it necessary to roll out a programme in which a series of stories shall be compiled on a yearly basis with a view of exposing traffickers modus-operant and creating awareness about human trafficking and its effects by telling real-life stories of victims.

The Centre hopes these stories will be found to be of utmost importance especially to the youth.

Starved and forced to sex work

Two Zimbabwean sisters were ensnared and forced into prostitution in Maseru, putting under the spotlight the challenge of porous borders in the Southern Africa region where migrants use fake passports and bribe corrupt officers to enter recipient countries.

Without passports, the girls, aged 21 and 24, of Chitungwize Zimbabwe entered Lesotho using other people’s passports, after paying police officers M100.

The duo was lured to Maseru under the guise of being sponsored to study at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) only to be sexually exploited and coerced to strip at nightclubs by a fellow Zimbabwean who also happened to be their other sister’s boyfriend. Click to read more

Of whoring, rape and Pregnancy

Shepherded into a brothel distant from home and repeatedly raped by a foreign national and subsequently falling pregnant, such as been the traumatic existence of a 17-year old Angie* who has since cut herself from even once trusted friends.

Forced to fend for herself after scraping for a decent pass to attain her primary schooling leaving examination in 2016, the already double-orphaned Angie found herself renting a flat in Maputsoe after moving from her home in Matlameng, in the Leribe district, hunting for both textile factory and domestic work.

Angie had toughly managed a third-class pass at Matlameng and through peer pressure, she was made to believe her schooling future was bleak. Click to read more

Housemaid trafficked and pulped over theft allegation

Details of how Relebohile Koaeana ended up shackled and locked up in a garage for three days without food by her bosses in a foreign land are nothing short of shock.

The domestic worker from Maseru was being forced by her employers in Brackenhurst, Alberton South Africa, to admit she stole R800 000 and reveal the money’s whereabouts in August 2015.

Following souring relations with her bosses, the then 33-year old Koaeana had decided to unceremoniously leave her job and came back to Lesotho on June 21 the same year, but this did not sit well with the Tshabalalas who came hunting for her in Maseru, hardly two months later. Click to read more

 

Child bride flees from arranged marriage

When 17-year old Ntsoaki Lenka was tricked by her parents into marrying a 72-year old South African sangoma (traditional healer) in 2014, she was perplexed.

The girl who had barely completed her secondary education had other things on her mind, and getting married to a total stranger was definitely not on her to-do list, not to mention the fact that the “eligible bachelor” was old enough to be her grandfather.

In fact Qomaphi, as the traditional healer from Limpopo in South Africa was only known, was old enough to have fathered Ntsoaki’s father, Lebohang Lenka, who is in his early 50s. Click to read more

Teen trafficked into prostitution

Lineo*, just seventeen (17) — tempted by the promise of a luxurious life in South Africa — found herself agreeing to date Charles*, they connected through social media, later agreeing to a first romantic get-away that turned out to be a gateway to being trafficked into prostitution.

She told MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism in an interview she still fears for her life even after her rescue by police.

Lineo said it was May 2017, when she met a young man online who enticed her to sneak away for a weeklong romance in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Click to read more

Poverty blamed for Lesotho-SA trafficking

Poverty-stricken Basotho usually fall prey to scams and deceptions which see them lured into trafficking traps which result in forced sex work and labour, dashing any hopes of greener pastures in the comparatively rich South Africa.

MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism has uncovered these misdeeds are not only performed by outsiders, but fellow Basotho are used as recruiting agents who entice their own into leaving their homes to South Africa where they find themselves stranded in brothels and farms.

With Lesotho (according to 2018 Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook) producing less than 20 percent of its needs for food and importing more than 85 percent of goods it consumes from South Africa, the latter has turned into a ‘small heaven’ for destitute Basotho. Click to read more

Sold into slavery: A lifetime of abuse

One day, Lipuo woke up in Johannesburg, with no memory of how she got there.

As she regained consciousness, she came to discover she and her friend, Itumeleng, had been trafficked across the South African border. They were in a brothel.

The two friends and other women from Lesotho and different provinces of South Africa were into drugs, prostitution, stripping and pornography. All earnings went to their masters. Click to read more

SA’s social media trafficking serial rapist put-in-irons

The alleged Fouriesburg social-media serial rapist Mokena Petrus Nhlapo (39) is now facing 46 criminal charges since his arrest by members of the Bethlehem Family violence, child protection, and sexual offences Unit (FCS).

Nhlapo is facing charges of kidnapping, trafficking of persons for sexual purposes, assault, pointing of a firearm, rape, extortion, crimen injuria, and illegal possession of firearm and ammunition.

On July 31, Nhlapo appeared before the Fouriesburg Magistrate Court where his bail application was denied after hearing on July 17. Click to read more

Chinese trafficker off hook

A 42-year old Chinese man was sentenced 15 years in prison with no option of fine but is now a free man after spending only two months in jail.

The Maseru magistrate court had slapped Zheng Chuan Xian with 15-years imprisonment in January 2012, but MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism learned he served two months in jail within that period; he had appealed the ruling and won.

Proceedings in the lower court were found to be marred with irregularities shown by flawed charge sheet among others, with the opposing lawyer denying himself chance to file an answering affidavit. Click to read more

Chief in court for trafficking

Chief Letsie Shoaepane of Ha Shoaepane in Matsieng is facing trafficking charges relating to allegedly transferring a 20-year-old woman from Thaba-Tseka district, harbouring her in his house and subjecting her to forced labour and repeated rape in September 2016.

In this protracted trial, Letsie first appeared before magistrate court on December 12, 2016 and is currently on bail waiting for his next court appearance in October this year; he is facing two charges.

He is charged for contravening section 5(1) of Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act No 1 of 2011 and contravening section 3 (2) read with section 32 of Sexual Offences Act No.3 of 2003. Click to read more

Thirteen-year-old defies family, escapes forced marriage

For Basotho living in the rural parts of the country, early child marriage doesn’t exist — it’s a myth — when a teenager is impregnated, families rush to organise a traditional wedding ceremony and it’s a done deal.

This common, yet cruel practice perpetrated on the girl child continues in rural parts of Lesotho with the unsuspecting victims — socialised to believe it is their only way out of poverty and hunger — married-off in exchange for either a herd of cattle or cash in bride-wealth.

It remains a generally common practice that girls below the age of 18 are wedded-off with the consent of parents amid these practices contravening laws protecting children rights like Children’s Protection and Welfare Act of 2011 and Sexual Offences Act. Click to read more

Traffickers target defenceless ladies of the night

For most victims of human trafficking, they were either recruited with the promise of greener pastures at their final destination leaving their comfort zone and only to be sold into prostitution or hard labour without pay.

Other victims that one may not think about, and yet most vulnerable to trafficking, are the homeless people (street kids) – especially girls who end up as ladies of the night that prostitute themselves to make a living on the streets.

The MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism has learned of a group of 9 girls aged 16 – 21 who were taken with a promise for lucrative jobs in “Africa” from their routine self-prostitution spot in the streets of Maseru and trafficked. Click to read more

Saved from chains of child marriage

Schools in rural communities are faced with high drop-outs as a result of early child marriage or teenage pregnancy, both sad reality that perpetuates the circle of poverty and shutter dreams of many girls.

For Nthatuoa*, falling pregnant in her teenage was the last thing on her mind but when it happened the only option was to elope to avoid being the laughing stock of her village.

When Nthatuoa fled Boribeng, Leribe, her pregnancy had not even started to show, but the thought alone clouded her judgement and she abandoned dreams of being a nurse one day and decided to get married. Click to read more

 The Centre is highly indebted to its partners, OSISA for financial support, individuals, government institutions and non-organisations that helped make the first human trafficking and child marriage stories trench a success. We hope this begins a new chapter where these stories shall not only be buried but shall be used to inform and educate the public about Human Trafficking and Child Marriage through use of Journalism. In the future, the Centre aims to hold those in authority and those profiting from trafficking and child marriages accountable in its reporting.

 

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