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Clutched from the jaws of death

…human trafficking survivor lives to tell tale

Seabata Mahao

The surge of poverty exacerbated by high unemployment rate has come at the very centre of human trafficking.

This was divulged during a welcome ceremony of a 22-year old woman who was trafficked into sex slavery in the neighbouring Republic of South Africa, Johannesburg since 2019.

It is reported that the woman from Thaba-Tseka, had been lured into sex slavery when she was promised a job as a domestic worker by a person she knew from Maputsoe in the Leribe district. However, what was to follow for her, was three years of intense sex slavery regardless of the fact that, at the time of her departure she was a nursing mother to a four months old child.

“We are very proud for bringing our sister home to her family and friends after such a long time from 2019. She was promised a better life but unfortunately fell into the traffickers’ trap and she became the victim to the horrible sex trafficking,” said Tumelo Raboletsi, the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Meanwhile, Consul of Lesotho to South Africa based in Johannesburg Liranyane Thamae, explained that he had received a call during Christmas holidays from the Lindela Repatriation Centre in South Africa where people waiting to be deported back to their countries are kept, about the woman.

He continued that he ordered them not to take her to the Centre but to the Ministry of Social Welfare in South Africa where the office of the Consular General will take her back home as it is its duty in different countries.

Thamae said the victim had explained that upon her arrival, suspect suddenly changed when they got home by threatening her as well as locking her in the house. He added that the victim said on the first day she was sexually assaulted by the suspect then later about six men sexually assault her too.

“From the first day of the victim’s arrival she was being sexually assaulted by the suspect while threatened to give sexual services to other men. She was also told to cook while being locked in the house every day. The victim left had Lesotho with a four months old child who was with her throughout the ordeal.

“As a results of the sexual abuse, she had conceived and borne another child. She said she could not believe how she had survived with her two children in that situation. She was always locked-up in the house until when she was allowed to go outside when neighbours and local people approached her asking what she was doing and how she came to live in that place then she told them,” Thamae said.

It is reported that local neighbours had informed the police who had then raided the place, arresting the suspect.

Thamae said that he is worried about human trafficking crimes as they always involve someone close to the victim. He added that, in almost all cases of trafficking, the victims are lured by the people closer to them by promising them job opportunities then because of poverty as well as high unemployment rate, the victims fall into the trap of traffickers while the people who invited them get paid or benefit.

An overview and Root causes of Human Trafficking in Lesotho written by Jose Miguel Neves from a non-profit organisation, Borgen project published in March 2021 and mandated to addressing poverty and hunger, states that despite the lack of consistently reliable data, recent studies show that Lesotho is principally a country where traffickers target women and children.

The overview continues that the victims are trafficked both internally (from rural areas to urban areas) and externally.

“Due to particular geography of the region, most victims end up in the bordering nation of South Africa. The economic conditions greatly influence the occurrences of this type of crime. Impoverished communities, high unemployment, low levels of education and pronounced gender imbalances overlap with an ever thriving demand for cheap labour, thus generating an optimal environment for the spread of human trafficking in Lesotho,” the overview reads.

It continued that Lesotho offers particular allure to traffickers due to the monetary rewards that human trafficking offer along with Lesotho’s particularly lenient penal prosecutions. Lesotho punishes fines instead of imprisonment. Occasionally, victims themselves voluntarily cross the border on false hopes of employment and ameliorated living conditions only to fall prey to violence and abuse,” the article reads.   

For her part, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Social Development, ‘Mantšenki Mphalane explained that her ministry has good relations with the Ministry of Social Welfare in South Africa. She said the ministry was waiting for children from South Africa after they were taken from their mother as part of the investigations.

She said they travelled to Bobete in Thaba-Tseka to examine the well-being of the family and children. She also said that the second child of the victim is a year and half now while the first child is three years and half.

The Minister of Home Affairs Motlalentoa Letsosa, said it is unfortunate that the incident was performed by Mosotho who led another Mosotho to a sex trafficking trap.

Letsosa mentioned that the month of January is designated towards trafficking awareness urging Basotho to unite and fight trafficking together. He also explained that he is very disappointed in Basotho as they seem to be the middlemen between the traffickers and the victims.

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