By: Thoboloko Ntšonyane

MASERU – Maseru based woman is in custody over human trafficking charges.

According to the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) report, the 32-year-old appeared before the Magistrate Court on charges of human trafficking. The police report that she was granted M2 000 bail which she failed to pay and was subsequently sent to correctional service.

The LMPS further reports that Woman Police Constable (WPC) ‘Makopane ‘Mota from the Anti-Human Trafficking and Immigration Unit said the suspect went to Rustenburg, South Africa on deception that she is going to look for a school for her 16-year-old relative, only to pimp her upon arrival.

The reports indicate that men would take turns engaging in sexual activities with the victim and paying the alleged trafficker.

The victim according to the LMPS reports was rescued by a good Samaritan who upon seeing her dispirited took interest to enquire about her well-being and upon recounting her story, the said Samaritan offered her transport fare to return to Lesotho. The police said the victim reported this crime back in 2021 and the police had been on the lookout for the suspect since then until they arrested her during the festive holidays early this year.

Human trafficking also sometimes referred to as trafficking in persons in accordance with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime:

“The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, or receipt of people through force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them for profit.”

This crime is also reportedly a gross violation of human rights and also considered a modern-day slavery.

In a move to tighten screws around and deter future incidents of human trafficking, the government has amended the 2011 Anti-Trafficking in Person Act. This piece of legislation criminalises both labour trafficking and sex trafficking.

If one is found guilty by the courts of law, the penalties attract up to 25 years imprisonment for trafficking on adults and life imprisonment for the tracking of minors.

Lesotho is reportedly facing human trafficking challenges and at a certain stage she was on the brink of losing America’s associated opportunities and benefits. The United States has placed Lesotho in tier 2. There has however been progress to improve the situation and upgrade the country’s status.

 “The government did not report any prosecutions or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking crimes, however, corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns.  Government officials were allegedly complicit in the illegal entry, transportation, and harboring of foreign nationals, which the government investigated in two cases during the reporting period.  

“The government continued implementing a rotational system for immigration officials to deter participation in illicit activities, including human trafficking.  In an effort to ensure accountability, observers reported law enforcement required training on appropriate conduct and mechanisms to ensure victims are treated respectfully during investigations,” reads the 2023 TIP report produced by the United States Department of State.

Last year the World Vision Lesotho launched the project which is envisaged to fight human trafficking while also advancing the rights of people with disabilities (PWD) in Mohale’s Hoek.

The European Union (EU) sponsored project seeks to strengthen social protection systems in monitoring, preventing and responding to human trafficking and promoting and protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.

According to the World Vision Project Coordinator, Tankiso Motipi this project will capacitate the community structures in order to effectively fight this crime.

Motipi intimated that they are going to train 200 children clubs from World Vision, 300 congregation hope action teams and 10 auxiliary social workers from the Ministry of Gender and Social Development.

“We will be starting at the community level, and upon strengthening the community level, then we move to the district level; that is where we are going to capacitate the existing multi-sectoral committees,” she then said.

Meanwhile, the accused’s next court appearance is set for January 16.