… the victim’s family kept the rape a secret until the victim fell pregnant
…incident highlights crimes against women and the girl child
A FORMER Minister of Law in the former seven parties’ coalition government was arrested on Friday and spent the 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.
Police Spokesperson, Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli, recently told the Sunday Express that “the police have arrested a middle aged man in connection with allegations that he raped a 17 year-old”.
“I can’t disclose whether or not the suspect is a politician or not but I can only confirm the arrest and that he is at the Police Headquarters,” Supt Mopeli said.
However, sources within the police headquarters, said the suspect was a former minister and he will soon be charged with rape.
The sources said that the suspect 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.
“The former minister (name withheld) is in police custody for interrogation. The police are questioning him on allegations that he raped a 17 year-old orphan who is originally from Thaba-Tseka. At the time of the alleged rape, the orphan was staying with a female National Security Service (NSS) officer who is related to the accused,” one source said.
The source further said that the police preliminary reports indicated that the alleged victim was raped “sometime in January but her family decided to treat the matter as a ‘family secret’”.
Another source said that the matter was swept under the carpet until 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 case was first reported at the Mohale’s Hoek Police Station soon after it came to light (in March) and why the matter was never investigated until the matter was reported on the social media last week,” the source said.
A source at Mohale’s Hoek Police Station confirmed that the matter was first reported there but said he did not know why it was not investigated until now.
The Sunday Express’ efforts to obtain comment from the officer commanding the Mohale’s Hoek Police Station, Senior Superintendent Khethisang Koro, proved fruitless as he did not answer his mobile phone after initially promising to do so.
Sr Supt Koro initially promised to respond to the Sunday Express inquiries after finishing his meeting with the District Administrator of Mohale’s Hoek.
Another source said that after the failure by the Mohale’s Hoek police to investigate the rape allegation, the case was then reported to the Morija Police Station who 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. We have asked the police to speed up the investigations into the case,” Ms Doti said.
Contacted for comment yesterday, DC spokesperson Serialong Qoo said he was not in a position to confirm whether or not the DC member and former minister had been arrested on allegations of raping the minor.
“I am in Malingoaneng, Mokhotlong and the normal procedure is that the matter will be reported to the office of the DC secretary general who will in turn inform me so that I can respond to questions like this. But as of now, the secretary general (Semano Sekatle) has not said anything to me,” Mr Qoo said.
The allegations come out at the time Lesotho is working on the Domestic Violence Bill of 2018 which Gender Links Country Manager, ‘Manteboheleng Mabetha, describes as an endeavour to counter the rampant acts of Gender Based Violence (GBV) that have rocked the country.
She said the new bill comes after the previous one was not enacted into law. She said the bill has been discussed with stakeholders that include the Ministry of Gender, representatives of police from Child and Gender Protection Unit (CGPU) and non-governmental organisations.
“Although the proposed Domestic Violence Bill 2018 has not yet been tabled in parliament, the pressure is mounting to ensure that it is tabled and implemented before the end of the year.
“The bill will be implemented at an opportune time as Lesotho is in trouble with the high rates of GBV in the country.
“Although Lesotho has made some efforts to attain gender equity and equality, however there are still glaring challenges facing the country. The notable gaps in Lesotho’s national legislation pertain to the discriminatory traditional and cultural laws and practices of early child marriages, inheritance and succession to chieftainship.
“The (new) bill incorporates a multidisciplinary approach to addressing violence against women such as provision of collaboration between the police, social services and health providers. The proposed domestic violence bill goes beyond the limited approach of criminalising violence against women and takes into account a range of areas of the law, including civil, criminal, administrative and constitutional law.
“The absence of domestic violence legislation has created a major gap in addressing GBV in Lesotho. Not a single week passes without the police reports revealing cases of domestic violence. These reports are an indication that the Bill and its subsequent implementation are long overdue in Lesotho,” Ms Mabetha said.