MASERU — More than 200 Basotho were deported from South Africa on Friday.
They were dumped at the Maseru Bridge Border in the afternoon.
Some of them were half naked whilst others were barefooted.
Many of them did not have any luggage because they had been forced to leave everything behind.
They claimed to be victims of xenophobia and exploitation at the hands of South Africans who would hire them and then set police on them before pay day.
’Malephoi Mokati who hails from Mphaki Quthing said that she left Lesotho to work in Rustenburg as a maid after she was recruited by a woman whose husband works in the gold mines. She left Lesotho in January last year.
“After four months of stay with this woman she wanted me to work as a prostitute and I ran away from her house and found myself another job elsewhere as I had now made friends,” said Mokati.
Mokati said all was well until on the night of April 5 when police came knocking at a house she was sharing with her boyfriend.
“When I asked who was at the door they just shoved the door and manhandled me.
“It was around 11.30 p.m. and I was sleeping.”
She says they pulled her up by the arm and told her to come with them to the police station.
“When my boyfriend asked what the matter was, they took him along and bundled us into a police van,” Mokati said.
Mokati said she was detained at the Rustenburg prison until April 20
“We slept on the floor. The blankets were very dirty and smelly. The food was terrible.”
Mokati says each time they were given food it was followed with insults from the prison warders.
“I was then transferred to Lindela where other people from countries like Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Nigeria are kept while waiting for deportation.”
She said at Lindela “things were a little bit better, except for the cold water we used to bath”.
“It was only on Friday that we were deported. On the way we were not even expected to talk and we could not even go to the toilet until we got to the Maseru border.”
Tumisang Mokoai, the Lesotho consular to South Africa based in Johannesburg, said Basotho in South Africa are having a torrid time.
“Each time there is a deportation I have to be informed so that I can make arrangements but with this particular one I was not at all aware until you called me,” Mokoai said.
Mokoai says that one of his many duties is to make sure that Basotho are safe at places like Lindela (which is a refugee deportation centre in Johannesburg).
“But most importantly I have to make sure that these people understand what is happening as sometimes people of other nationalities end up being at the Lesotho borders and Basotho at wrong destinations as well,” Mokoai said.
Mokoai expressed dissatisfaction with the way some of the young and upcoming South African Home Affairs officials at the borders are treating Lesotho nationals.
“The international law on deportation states very clearly that whether a person is legitimate or not, they should be allowed to take all their belongings and accumulated property with them before they leave the place from which they are being deported,” Mokoai added.
“But this is not happening, each time there is a raid this law is not considered and it’s sad.”
“Some of these officials need serious induction as they are mishandling things in a bad way.
“We are not at all happy and these are issues that we are discussing with the Director General of Home Affairs”.
South Africa’s High Commissioner to Lesotho Happy Mahlangu said that these allegations need to be verified because it is not his country’s policy to ill-treat deportees.
“Treatment of people in an inhuman way is totally unacceptable. However we can’t risk having illegal people in South Africa because crime is so rife and they are also subjecting themselves to victimisation and we can’t even intervene as the government,” Mahlangu said.
Mahlangu said they do not have a problem with Basotho being in South Africa as long as they have proper documents. “Human rights are human rights and they need to be respected.”
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