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DPP’s snail-pace pushes crime pain deeper

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…as minor awaits greenlight for prosecution of her sexual assault case since last year

Ntsoaki Motaung

The police say they are more than ready to continue with their case in court but are unable to do so as their progression with the matter is dependent on office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) since the suspect is a public servant (or was at the time).

However, the DPP Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane has on several occasions told this publication that her office is not a platform for addressing the media and or updating cases’ progress, but that cases can be followed by the media when they get to court.

Police Spokesperson Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli had confirmed to this paper shortly after the alleged incident, that the matter had been reported to the police and a case subsequently opened against the suspected sexual offence perpetrator while affirming that its going-on was beyond the police purview.

“Since he is a public servant, the date for his case has not been set because his docket is now at the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP),” he said.

The suspect, an alleged pedophile masquerading as a teacher, is accused of fondling a minor who was also his high school English Language final year pupil. His name is known to this publication but will not be mentioned until he appears before court to answer for his alleged crime. However, for the sake of this piece he shall be named Mosuoe Mabeta.

It would seem that it had been a long time coming for the 17-year-old to fall victim to the sexual advances by the teacher whose plan to deflower the youth, about half his age, appears to have been well-orchestrated long before he actually unzipped his adult man pants and menacingly approached the adolescent as though to a fully-grown woman.

The Penal Code Act Number 6 of 2010 states that it shall be considered an offence for an adult to sexually engage with a child. Section 48 (1) of the Act, states that “…an adult who has sexual intercourse with a child commits an of­fence, and the consent of the child is irrelevant” and subsection (2) further states that a child is in this case considered to be someone below the age of 18 years.

It further states in section 52 a person who has unlawful sexual act with another person, or causes another person to commit an unlawful sexual act, commits an offence. A sexual act is unlawful if there is an application of force, whether explicit or im­plicit, direct or indirect, physical or psychological against any person.

According to Moronngoe Rannali* 17, never in her wildest dreams would she have thought that she would find herself wrestling for her knickers as she attempted to protect invasion by one intent on taking away her innocence, more so her teacher whom she saw as a parent more than anything.

“I was shaken, and to a great degree I think I still am, as I continue asking myself what I could have done to lead him on into thinking about and seeing me as more than just another regular pupil in his class” she says sheepishly.

Rannali who has had to live with the memory of the events since that fateful day in October last year when she was forced to come face-to-face with her teacher’s nakedness, says she is rather growing tired of waiting for the wheels of justice to move progressively for the matter to be dealt with to finality.

She recalls how the last days at school were difficult for her having to see and meet her tormentor and interact with him as though nothing sinister had happened, while at the same time having to amass the presence of mind to prepare for a decider secondary school leaving examination and contends that “…it was not easy at all.

“However, I had to be so much bigger and try to focus on my upcoming exams while also following the police officers’ counsel that I should play cool and not give-away any hints that I had or was on the verge of doing anything about what he had done to me,” she says almost tearfully.

*      *     *

It is 2021 and life is going on under the new normal influenced by the global Covid-19 pandemic which has disrupted the way of life in most sectors of life and schooling is no exception. Butha-Buthe, situated some 64.6 km north-east of neighbouring Leribe which contributed a lion’s share of the 600 deaths brought about by the pandemic, is actually deserving of worry and concern for what the outbreak could do.

An analytic preview of the Covid-19 situation in Lesotho by the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that, owing inter alia to the wanting health services situation in the country, death toll would reach unprecedented levels. The number was actually projected at 6000 by 2020 (although it has thankfully stayed at a little above just 10% of the projection almost two years since the first case was recorded in the country on May 13, 2020).

As part of the Covid-19 mitigation, schools were to operate under unusual remote conditions. Social media came in handy where most teachers resorted to such applications as WhatsApp which is accessible on most smart mobile phones, to continue teaching.

According to the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) the telecommunications regulator in the country, there are over one million mobile phone subscribers in Lesotho, of which 800 000 of them utilize smartphones.

In their case, the teacher had opened a WhatsApp group for all members of the class in a move to ease their communication and to share lessons.

“Later on, sir asked if there are any of us who would volunteer to lead on tasks he gave us as a class so I became one of the people who volunteered. Understandably, we the leaders, would be in direct communication with him via his inbox in order to get instructions on how we should lead the others on the tasks he had given us. Like others, I in-boxed and he gave instructions and we were talking just like a teacher and a learner,” she recalls.

She says, however, that as time went, she seemed to get the feeling that Mabeta was talking to her more than he did with the other pupils as she would pick from some of his remarks.

“For instance, he would send voice notes in the group for all pupils and then go on to send me direct messages saying random things like that I should enjoy the voice notes. I picked this sudden change but then brushed it off by thinking that maybe I was over-thinking things and that maybe that was how he was talking to all of us leaders, by taking extra interest to our understanding of tasks in order to effectively play our leadership role. This was cemented by when he would send tasks in the group then ask me on the side if I understood the instruction,” she says.

Rannali says this went on throughout the time they were depending on social media entirely for the progression of their learning which was basically most of that year. And then later on when towards end of August some of the pupils, particularly those in the final year, started physically going back to school.

“On August 27, 2021, when we returned to school physically, he was not at school, and he had sent one of the teachers to fill-in for him, then later when I got home he had sent a message asking if I had enjoyed the lesson. This was to later be an on-going thing where I knew that upon arrival home from school I would be greeted by sir’s texts enquiring about my day and school work. This went on to a point where he would sweet talk me by calling me such names as ‘babe’, ‘baby girl’, ‘my little girl, ‘daddy’s little girl’ and the like.

“Then the conversations steadily degenerated to sexual content until he had basically made it known to me that he wanted to have sex with me. In fact, on September 12, as we were chatting he had asked if I could make time and sneak out so that we could meet in order for him to kiss, finger and fondle me, he had even asked if I had stretched labia minora (which I had no idea what he was talking about) adding that if not I should find someone to help me stretch it so that he could have something to play with and enjoy what he wants to do to me. It was only at this point that I deduced he was referring to something that should be a part of my womanhood (which upon enquiry he had responded to the affirmative). I then told him that I was virgin and that I was disappointed to hear such kind of comments coming from him directed at me.

“I told him how I used to respect him like a teacher or even a parent but that he had tended to disgust me for all the things he was saying to me. Strange enough he did not quiver or desist but instead told me where to get off saying I better not dare disrespect him if I know what is good for me. It was at this point that I remembered I was due for my final year examination and that I need not sow bad blood between me and the teachers as that could have a bearing on whether or not I proceed beyond high school, so I apologized and he stopped texting me until on October 15, 2021 when we had a farewell party at school,” she says.

Rannali says that on the day, they had gone to school wearing their private clothing as opposed to the usual school uniform which entails wearing dresses, so she had dressed up in denim pants which had provoked Mabeta to cast a lustful gaze at her, because “…when I got a hold of my phone I found his text saying that I looked good further asking if he was ‘getting anything’ clearly referring to sex, to which I swiftly replied in the negative.”

She says that had opened the floodgates once again as she would for the next 10 days have to endure pestering about sex from her teacher which she had ignored, until one day on October 25 when she received a call from him as she was leaving the school compound “a bit later than the usual school-leaving time from preparing an ICT project in the computer lab.

“It would seem he had seen me leaving the school since he had asked to take me home to which I said I did not need to be taken home as I was already walking there. However, he had followed me in his car and upon reaching me, pestered me to enter the vehicle until I obliged in wanting to avert a public spectacle. I took the back passenger’s seat and we drove to where I thought was home but then the car began taking a different direction and speeding,” she recalls.

The youth says the car had driven until it reached an aloof wilderness whereat Mabeta stopped and alighted from his driver’s seat to where she was seated and began caressing and fondling her thighs, breasts and evening reaching under her dress attempting to remove her panties for which they then wrestled-him pulling them down, her pulling them back up.

She continues that Mabeta had then forced himself on her forcefully kissing her allover and eventually resuming the wrestle-for-the-knickers which she lost this time around whence he forced her legs open and began inserting his finger into her vagina.

“I cried both from pain and the shame of what I was being subjected to by my teacher. Then he backed-up and I thought she was done, but no, he undressed and shoved his penis into my mouth as he grabbed me by the head forcing me onto his groin. This happened until he had loosened his grip to which I pushed the door open poked my head out of the car to vomit. It was the most gross thing I have ever experienced.

“The he spread my legs again sticking his head between my thighs as he dart his tongue into my vagina. Then he rose up forced my legs open again and attempted to insert his penis into my vagina to which I struggled and writhed in pain screaming and kicking asking him to stop, but I was overpowered and he menacingly continued in his attempt to force himself into me. At this point I had resorted to pleading as I saw the inevitable rape, thus went to a point of at least asking him to at least use protection, and even asked that he should maybe let me be with the promise that after completing the examination I would let him have his way with me. This I said to dissuade him from continuing, which worked because he left me,” she says reeling in the shock of the memory of that day in October 2021.

She says he had then taken her home where she had arrived so shaken that she went straight to bed and cried herself to sleep that night. She says the following day she lacked the bravery to tell her parents but instead spoke to one of the women church elders who had comforted her until she was brave enough to tell her parents with the church elder’s support on October 31.

“My parents decided that we should report the case at the police, and we went there the following day on November 1. After giving my statement to the police, the officers advised that I should focus on finishing with my exams first before pressing charges just yet because I would lose focus from my exams.

“I was then advised to play along to his shenanigans as he continued to text me in days that followed so that he would not suspect anything which I did as I traversed the difficult journey to recovery while being subjected to seeing him at school throughout the exams,” she says.

Rannali eventually finished with her exams and proceeded to press sexual assault charges against Mabeta. The matter has since been lingering with the police who have said that it is now beyond their power as they await a prosecution directive from the DPP.

In the meantime, the matter was eventually brought to the attention of the school management which proffered disciplinary action against Mabeta who resigned midway into his case, a development which was duly confirmed by the Botha Bothe High School Principal Makoti Thinyane.

The Education District Officer at Botha Bothe Manana Ratau, told this publication that such a matter had not been reported to her office hence she could not comment thereon.

Meanwhile, the Principal Secretary (PS) Higher Education in education ministry, Dr Lira Khama said although he had also not received such a report, there was not much the ministry could do if the suspect had resigned already, adding that he was legally entitled to his terminal benefits since he resigned before he was convicted and was not fired.

Rannali’s is a case in many of young girls sexually assaulted especially by people they trust and confide in. now she feels that the system is allowing Mabeta to continue with his life while she waits to delivery of justice for her.

According to the Lesotho Violence Against Children and Youth Survey (2018), about one in seven females (14.5%) and one in twenty males (5.0%) experienced sexual violence before age 18. The difference between females and males is statistically significant. Among females, 6.3% experienced unwanted sexual touching, 5.3% experienced unwanted attempted sex; 4.6% experienced sex that was pressured or coerced; and 4.1% experienced physically forced sex in childhood. Among males, 4.1% experienced unwanted sexual touching before age 18.

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