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Businessman fights to clear his name

inspector. . . as 20-year-old woman accuses him of rape, slavery and abduction

Tsitsi Matope

A 20-year-old woman from Nazareth claims she was tricked by a friend into coming to Maseru in December last year under the pretext she had been secured a job as a maid — only to find out she had been recruited to become a sex-slave to a 56-year-old widowed businessman.

Mpho Matlala, who is now two-months pregnant, reported the alleged trafficking and rape to Lithoteng police last week, and in an interview with the Sunday Express at the police station, narrated how her 17-year-old friend reportedly orchestrated the elaborate scam that has since turned her life upside-down.

According to Matlala (name changed to protect her identity), her friend had claimed she had found her a job with a Semphetenyane family — only to realise she had been duped the very first night of her supposed employment.
“The very first day I arrived, the man demanded to have sex with me but I made it clear that I was not interested in sleeping with a man old enough to be my father.
“Because I had resisted, the man locked me in the house for several days in an effort to force me into submission, and only relented after I pretended that I had changed my mind and was now interested in staying with him.
“Because of the sexual assault I had already suffered and the fact that I was afraid that I might already be pregnant, I decided to stay with him. I don’t love this man; how can I love him when he is so old?” she said.

However, last Friday (March 14), Matlala said she asked for the man’s permission to visit her six siblings in Nazareth, but all hell broke loose on her return.
“When I returned that night, he chased me away and told me to go back where I was coming from. I had nowhere else to go apart from my friend’s place — the one who lied to me about the job.”

The following day, Matlala said she returned to the man’s residence, who again chased her away.
“I had no choice but to seek help from the police and tell them the whole story,” Matlala said, adding she suspects she was being chased away because of the two-month-old pregnancy.
“One of the tenants at his house told me I was not the first young woman he had stayed with and dumped. Even when I heard this, I could not leave because I was already suspecting that I was pregnant. I am now also sick,” Matlala said, showing the Sunday Express her hospital card.

Matlala further explained she had stayed at the man’s house together with his two children — who are all older than her — as well as his two grandchildren.
“The fact that he was not just old but also a widower, worried me. I did not know much about this man, we never dated. The only thing I noticed was that he usually left the house to attend to his business.”

Matlala said for all the weeks she stayed at the house, the man never promised her anything apart from wanting to have sex with her “every night”.
“There was no talk of marriage even when I told him I was pregnant. Some visitors who saw me were told I was a domestic worker although I was not being paid. The only thing he bought me was a dress for Christmas.”

Matlala, who only went as far as Standard Seven at school, said life has been difficult for her since her father and mother passed away in 2000 and 2003, respectively.
“Life has been very tough for me, and it’s going to be even more difficult now because of the pregnancy. But all I want now is for the police to help me return home since I have no money, and for this man to be charged for what he did to me.”

Matlala further said she has no-one to turn to for help, hence her decision to look for a job.
“The only aunt who used to care for me and my six young siblings, also died in 2010. We have an uncle who is working in South Africa, but he has not been helping us. We have been living on doing some odd jobs for our neighbours in return for some money or food,” she said.

However, the accused friend, who claimed she got married last year, told the Sunday Express she was surprised to hear Matlala saying she did not know she was coming to Maseru to be married.

The friend was also at the Lithoteng Police Station where she was being questioned about the case.
“She was fully aware of what was happening. I had them connected before they started phoning each other. She agreed to come and stay with Ntate,” she said.

On his part, the 56-year-old taxi-operator who also owns a brick making business — and who the police said is currently not a suspect — said he was shocked to hear Matlala claiming that he had forced her to stay with him for sex.
“I’m just a widower who wanted someone to marry and when I heard about her, I thought I had finally found someone to share my life with after my wife was shot dead in 2004 by some assassins sent by some people who were jealous of us. I had even informed her family about my good intentions,” he said.

He also said Matlala’s pregnancy was another shocker for him and was only hearing about it at the police station.
“I am hearing about this pregnancy for the first time; it would be interesting to know who is responsible. You know what, I am beginning to suspect there is something very wrong with her. Honestly after all the pain she put me through while I was staying with her, she must be somehow sick to accuse me of all those things she is saying about me.

“She is the one who used me and not the other way round. She only wanted my money and thought I would just keep dishing it out when she did not respect me at all and never acted like a woman who was ready for marriage.”

He explained after being introduced to Matlala, they had communicated on the phone for close to a month while he made his intentions to marry her known.
“On December 22 last year, we both agreed to stay together while I made plans for the traditional marriage ceremony.
“But when I saw her for the first time, I had a problem with her appearance because she looked very young. However, she convinced me she was old enough and had been with other men before.”

He however, said problems started when he noticed Matlala liked going out to drink beer and returning home late.
“I tried to help her stop that nonsense but she would not listen. The lying became too much and I just could not take it anymore, so yes, I was angry when she returned home late on Friday last week.
“When the late-night outing started, some neighbours, as well as her relatives, tried to help her but I think she is a strange woman who wants to be both married and unmarried. At my age I cannot take that.”
He also said he was happy the police had become involved in the case.
“I need their guidance on this matter; it is stressing me. The thing is, I am not seeing myself taking her back to my house again.”

The Officer Commanding Lithoteng police, Senior Inspector Chadwick Sehloho, told the Sunday Express investigations into the case were in progress.
“The two people involved in this case are here. We have not charged them yet since we would like to understand the circumstances of the case.
“However, from the report we have received from the 20-year-old woman, it highlights elements of sexual offences, human trafficking and unlawful abduction. Our investigations will soon inform us on the course to take,” Sehloho said.

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