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Call for victim-friendly justice system


court-hammerBrian Chiwanza and Motsamai Mokotjo

LESOTHO Correctional Services (LCS) Director of Rehabilitation, Lineo Khalema, has called for a review of the justice system so that it caters for both victims and offenders.

In an interview with the Sunday Express on Friday, Ms Khalema said the judicial system was overlooking the trauma endured by victims of rape, robbery and other crimes. Ms Khalema also expressed concern that most victims have to pay for counseling, while offenders get the service free of charge in prison.

“I always get very emotional when talking about victims, especially of sexual offences, which top the list of offenders in our prisons,” Ms Khalema said.

“Victims didn’t apply to be raped and infected with HIV or robbed.

“Eventually, so much focus is given to offenders as they are entitled to food and other basics while in prison, yet the plight of the victim is ignored.”

Asked why sexual offences rank highly among crimes committed in Lesotho, Ms Khalema said: “We live in an era of HIV/AIDS and rape, and I think sexual crimes are not a result of poverty.

“It is just bad behavior and reflects badly on the offenders’ state of mind. Some of them think, or have been told, that they can be cured of HIV/AIDS after engaging in sexual intercourse with virgins.”

Ms Khalema further said rehabilitation centres around the country use psycho-social treatment programmes for inmates, adding they first interview the offender to establish the reason for their imprisonment.

“Most of the offenders are very apprehensive about being interviewed, and don’t realise that we are just trying to help them,” said Ms Khalema.

Thereafter, she said, officials go into communities to inquire about the offender’s history and establish the veracity of their claims.

“Our rehabilitation programmes are not only implemented in prison; we go as far as interviewing the victims, their families and the surrounding community at the end of the offenders’ sentences to ensure their reintegration into society.

“Our greatest challenge, however, has been the limited resources at our disposal which are already overstretched,” Ms Khalema said.

Meanwhile, in a recent interview, Crime Prevention, Rehabilitation and Reintegration of ExOffenders Association President, Mothobi Mothobi, accused the LCS of not doing enough to cater for prisoners’ welfare, especially after serving their sentences.

Mr Mothobi said: “There are no clear rehabilitation programmes. Since 2010, nothing has materialised from submissions we made to the authorities.

“Instead, warders are discouraging prisoners from learning new skills. Such vocational programmes as vehicle mechanics, which would help the offenders become useful members of society when they come out of prison, are disregarded.”

However, in her response, Ms Khalema accused Mr Mothobi of “taking whatever opportunity he gets to tarnish the image of the LCS.

“It is not true that warders discourage inmates from participating in vocational programmes,” she said.

“I don’t understand what he’s talking about. He always wants to give the media something juicy.”

Ms Khalema said there were a number of vocational programmes set up for the benefit of the 2 041 convicts in Lesotho’s prisons, although their main mandate was rehabilitation.

“In large centres such as Maseru, Mohale’s Hoek and Leribe, we offer agriculture, stone-cutting, carpentry, welding and other training courses as a way of helping inmates earn an income after leaving prison.

“We have examples of ex-offenders who have gone on to utilise the opportunities we offer them while in prison. Funds permitting, they go through trade tests by the Ministry of Education,” she said.

“You can take a horse to a stream, but can’t force it to drink. By giving the convicts skills, we are empowering them. It’s up to them to utilise the skills they acquire.”

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