THE Leribe District Administration office will hold a joint cross-border human trafficking awareness campaign with their South African counterparts on 11 May this year in Maputsoe.
The joint awareness programme comes against the background of increasing reported cases of trafficking in persons (TIP) between the towns of Maputsoe in Lesotho and Ficksburg in South Africa.
The most recent case is that of a 42-year-old Maputsoe man, Letsie Shoaepane who is facing human trafficking charges. He was remanded in custody after failing to pay a M30 000 surety last week on Monday.
Letsie Shoaepane stands accused of contravening the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2011 after luring a 20-year-old Thaba-Tseka woman with promises of a job in the Gauteng province of South Africa.
The 20-year-old TIP survivor was transported from Thaba-Tseka after being told she would be a domestic worker in South Africa.
Police spokesperson Clifford Molefe said Mr Shoaepane informed the woman that he had secured employment for her at his mother’s place in Gauteng.
“After agreeing to travel with him, the suspect took the survivor to his home at Ha Shoaepane, Leribe where he allegedly raped her repeatedly,” Superintendent Molefe said.
Three months ago, 23 Basotho were trafficked to Kwazulu-Natal in South Africa were they were exploited at a factory in Newcastle together with other survivors from Swaziland.
In another development, a Maputsoe woman was jailed last year after selling her newborn child to a South African woman; claiming that she did not have the financial means to raise the child.
Leribe District Administrator Mokhabelane Morahanye said police from both countries were worried by the increasing number of human trafficking cases, hence the decision to hold the joint campaign.
“The event will be held on 11 May and we have arranged with human trafficking survivors to attend and share their personal experiences with everyone,” Mr Morahanye said.
He said although cross-border human trafficking acts were escalating, it was important for Leribe and Vicksburg residents to be aware that there were also internal acts of trafficking.
“It must also be stated that even men are being trafficked under the pretext of employment in another place and when they get there they are exploited. Some even leave without proper documentation, further putting their lives in danger.
“As we speak we have a case of a woman who was trafficked to Durban, South Africa on the pretence that she was going to work as a domestic worker.
“She stayed in her ‘employer’s house’ for some time before the man who had facilitated ‘employment’ came to the house demanding to have sex with her before shipping her to a place where victims of human trafficking, turned into sex slaves, are allegedly staying.
“The woman allegedly refused and managed to escape. She is currently in Lesotho and probably one of the people who will give testimonies on 11 May,” Mr Morahanye said.
He urged people to approach authorities including his office before leaving their homes and accepting job offers.
He said the labour and DA offices were strategically placed to help people to make the right decisions on job offers, adding quite often the jobs did not even exist and people were later turned into slaves whose identity documents were taken away from them.
The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2011, defines human trafficking as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, legal and illegal adoption, sale, supply or receipt of persons within and across the borders of Lesotho.
The act states that this is done by means of threats, force or other means of coercion, abduction, kidnapping, fraud or deception, the abuse of power, law or legal process or a position of vulnerability or debt bondage.
The United Nations’ 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report on Lesotho states that the country continues to be a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking and for men subjected to forced labour.
“In Lesotho, Basotho children are subjected to domestic servitude and forced labour in animal herding; children, especially orphans who migrate to urban areas, are increasingly subjected to sex trafficking.
“Basotho women and girls seeking work in domestic service voluntarily migrate to South Africa, where some are detained in prison-like conditions or exploited in sex trafficking,” reads part of the report.
The report further states that some Basotho men who migrate voluntarily, although illegally and often without identity documents to South Africa for work in agriculture and mining become victims of forced labour; working for weeks or months before their employers turn them over to South African authorities for deportation for immigration violations to avoid paying them.
It further states that foreign nationals, including Chinese, subject their compatriots to sex trafficking in Lesotho.
The report also states that government had not fully met the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking despite making significant efforts to do so.
“The government made progress in the prosecution and protection, including instituting new systems to build capacity for improvement in these areas.
“The government convicted a sex trafficker and sentenced him to 15 years’ imprisonment (10 years suspended), identified more potential trafficking victims, issued implementing regulations for the 2011 anti-trafficking act.
“Government signed an agreement with South Africa aimed at increasing protection for Basotho workers employed there, and established a multi-agency taskforce to coordinate the investigation of trafficking cases.”
It however, said despite all these measures, Lesotho’s anti-trafficking law still did not comply with international law and that government did not provide funding for the Victims of Trafficking Trust Fund or sufficient resources for anti-trafficking law enforcement and protection efforts.
It said Lesotho continued to rely on non-governmental organisations to assist trafficking victims.
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