FORMER minister of Law, Mootsi Lehata was this week remanded to 9 October 2018 when he appeared at the Maseru Magistrates’ Court to answer charges of raping a minor.
On that day, the court is expected to set the dates for the commencement of Mr Lehata’s trial for rape. This was after the prosecution told the court that the police had completed their investigations into the alleged offence.
Chief Magistrate ‘Matankiso Nthunya presided over the matter when Mr Lehata appeared before the court on Monday. Mr Qcinumuzi Tshabalala is the prosecutor in the case.
Mr Lehata is a member of former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s Democratic Congress (DC) party and he served as Minister of Law in the former seven parties’ coalition which lasted from March 2015 to the 3 June 2017 national elections.
He was arrested on the 29th of June this year and spent that weekend at the Police Headquarters in Maseru on allegations of raping a 17-year-old orphan girl in Matsieng early this year.
The minor reportedly fell pregnant as a result of the rape which allegedly occurred in January this year.
The case was supposed to have been heard in court early last month but it could not proceed as the magistrates were on strike to press the government for salary increments and improved working conditions.
The case was finally heard on 10 June 2018, before Chief Magistrate ‘Matankiso Nthunya who read the charge to the 48-year-old Mr Lehata and further released him on M500 bail on condition that he does not interfere with witnesses and police investigations.
“The said accused is charged with the crime of sexual offence in contravention of Section 52 (1) (2) (3) (e) read with Section 109 of Penal Code Act No.6/2010,” Ms Nthunya said.
“Upon or about 19 January 2018 at or near Ha Moima Sehlabeng Sa Matsieng in the district of Maseru, the said accused did unlawfully and intentionally have sexual intercourse with the minor – a Mosotho female aged 17 without her consent.”
The former Makhaleng legislator’s case comes on the back of a national outcry against the escalation of rape and other forms of violence against women and children.
Sources close to the matter said that although the alleged offence was committed in January, the victim’s relatives swept it under the carpet and it only came to light in March when some of the villagers in Matsieng began suspecting that the minor was pregnant.
“The victim confided in one of the women in Matsieng who blew the whistle on the alleged rape. It is not clear why the matter was never investigated until it was reported on the social media three weeks ago,” one source said.
Another source said the rape allegation was only investigated after sustained pressure from the Minister of Social Development, ‘Matebatso Doti.
“The minister (Ms Doti) has since made arrangements that the girl be taken to a secret location for her own protection and that of her unborn baby,” another source said.
Mr Lehata is currently out on M500 bail. He was ordered not to interfere with crown witnesses and police investigations. He was also ordered to stand trial to finality.