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Booze trading and prostitution at bus stop

Mantoetse Maama & Limpho Sello

MASERU – Thibella is a village that never sleeps and residents last week said they are tired of taverns and the illegal sale of beer at the taxi rank in the area. One of the residents, a woman aged 42 (name withheld) said it was unfortunate that such illegal activities were happening right in the central business district.

“Girls as young as 15, spend most of their time at those illegal drinking places. Some are sex workers who are paid with beer. These girls even sleep over at those bars,” she said adding that, one of the girls was ill a few weeks ago.

“She claimed she had nowhere else to go and slept in the open. I offered her food and took her to the clinic. When her health improved, she disappeared.” The woman also said what broke her heart was the tender ages of the girls.

“It is sad that the girls, who are expected to be in school, are wasting their lives in this manner and at times they are sexually assaulted while they are drunk.” Some taxi drivers who also spoke on condition of anonymity said the environment was not healthy and not ideal for business.

One of the drivers said: “We are not happy with the situation. People here are dying because of diseases and alcohol induced fights. There is a lot of fighting over women.” The driver also explained some of the vendors now selling beer used to sell fruits, food and soft drinks. “Maybe beer is more profitable, I don’t know but this practice is affecting our operations because their clients are a nuisance when they are drunk. We are wondering what the council is doing about the situation.”

The Minister of Correctional Services and Law who is the MP for the Stadium Area Constituency, Mophato Monyake said he once visited the area to assess the situation. “I visited the places together with the Maseru City Council (MCC) and police. We wanted to warn the vendors to stop operating illegal businesses,” he said.

Monyake said if the situation remained the same they would have to come up with new strategies to restore sanity in the area. Maseru City Council spokesperson, Lintle Moerane, said they were aware of the situation and were working on a plan of action. “We are planning to visit the place soon to assess activities taking place in the area and see if there are those not abiding by the stipulated guidelines on their operating documentations,” she said.

On her part the council Town Clerk, Mantai Phaila, said the situation was worrisome and an action would be taken soon. “We did not issue anyone a permit to sell alcohol at all the taxi ranks,” Phaila said. She said what made the situation serious were reports that some school children were also buying alcohol at the ranks.

“Some public transport drivers too, we are told, they are also drinking and ferrying commuters under the influence of alcohol, which is illegal.” Police spokesperson Thato Ramarikhoane said vendors were expected to trade in certain goods which do not include alcohol. “We have arrested many such illegal traders during our routine patrols in the recent weeks. This is because such lawlessness creates opportunities for other crimes, such as robberies and sexual offences. Recently, we recovered illegal firearms, knives and other weapons we suspected were meant for criminal purposes. At times these weapons are also used during violent attacks by the patrons,” he said.

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