Lesotho takes on human trafficking

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By Lerema Pheea

Today, Basotho have come to hear of some of the worst cases of how a sister trafficked her sibling into sex slavery under the pretext that she was hooking her up with a lucrative job in South Africa, Gauteng.

A safe house for victims of Trafficking in Persons, Beautiful Dream Society’s Jeniffer Crow shared a story of one of their human trafficking survivors story named Mpho Petetsane published here.

Crow says Petetsane, a double orphan was sold into sex slavery after being taken all the way to Gauteng where she was continually drugged and raped by various men at a compound where she was only rescued after a fellow Mosotho who had come to the brothel she was sold to tipped off police.

Petetsane contracted severe sexually transmitted diseases and after her rescue, she was told she is seven months pregnant, but she also discovered she may have been also used as a drug mule at one point during her enslavement whose events she could not clearly recollect as she was constantly drugged.

Petetsane’s horrific story is among many that have mounted pressure on the Lesotho government to address the country’s challenges of trafficking in persons.

In an effort to fight against this heinous crime of trafficking in persons, the Ministry of Home Affairs has undertaken a nationwide campaign led by its Minister Motlalentoa Letsosa.

The Modus Operandi of traffickers has been discovered to be a promise for a lucrative job that is used to entice unsuspecting victims into human trafficking.

In one of the commemorations of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Day Letsosa, under the theme “victim`s voices lead the way,” said his ministry is on the drive to sensitive every Mosotho about human trafficking as he explained how it manifests itself.

Some of the campaigns under the theme Victims voices lead the way were held at five border posts: Mafeteng district’s Van Rooyen`s gate, Maseru Bridge border post, Ficksburg bridge in Maputsoe town, Caledonspoort border post in the northern district of Botha-Bothe and Sani pass in the highlands of Mokhotlong.

The campaigns led by Letsosa were intended to raise awareness on human trafficking alongside stakeholders.

He explained to key stakeholders and travelers the specific actions to be undertaken whenever a suspected case of human trafficking is identified.

Letsosa advised the Lesotho border management team to scrutinize every movement at the borders and ask a few questions when needed in order to identify suspicious cases.

The ministry recently apprehended and returned three Chinese nationals who arrived at Moshoeshoe I International Airport.

The trio was attempting to enter the country illegally using fraudulently acquired entry documents.

The Minister said it has been observed that foreigners are the major players in the human trafficking crimes and some use Lesotho as a transit to other countries, mainly South Africa.

In April this year, the ministry in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the European Union (EU), and the United States of America launched the national strategic framework and action plan to combat trafficking in persons.

On the occasion, Letsosa said that the effort was undertaken to combat, prevent, protect, care for victims and ensure prosecution and punishment of perpetrators.

He said that the key strategic objective of this framework is to ensure effective national coordination and cooperation among relevant stakeholders.

“As a result of this coordination and cooperation, we have successfully amended the Anti-trafficking in Persons Act, 2011 which is in line with international norms,” said Letsosa.

He added that the government of Lesotho in partnership with Love Justice International has strengthened possible victim identification at the borders by monitoring ports of entry

He added that the project started at Maseru bridge then introduced at the Moshoeshoe I Airport (MIA).

“We have intercepted over 35 possible victims of trafficking and hope to intercept many more.

“We have denied entry through MIA for those presented questionable documents and we will continue to do so,” said Letsosa.

He further indicated that after intensive evaluation and coordination, and notwithstanding the impact of covid 19, Lesotho has been moved from tier 3 to tier 2 watchlist.

He further stated that Lesotho is counted among the countries whose governments do not fully comply with the trafficking victims protection act, 2000 (TVPA`s) minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance.

“Our law enforcement efforts remain insufficient compared to the problem, as a country we still lack training and experience necessary to conduct a complex multi-jurisdictional investigation.

“We need to invest more in investigations of allegations of Basotho trafficked to South Africa,” said Letsosa.

He added, “most importantly, as a country, we need to provide regular training to avoid law enforcement and frontline responders retraumatizing potential victims”.

He also government’s aim is that by the end of the year 2021 the country should have made tangible strides that will help to move the country to tier 2.

He pleaded with all stakeholders to continue to work together to ensure the successful implementation of the strategic framework.