AN orphaned girl who was allegedly raped and impregnated by former Law and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Mootsi Lehata, has since given birth to a baby boy and is now based in South Africa.
Sources close to the developments told the Lesotho Times that some family members who had initially attempted to sweep the matter under the carpet relocated the girl to a secret location in the neighbouring country. The relocation was allegedly done against the alleged victim’s will and this has negatively affected efforts by officials in the Ministry of Social Development to assist her after her ordeal. The sources said the ministry had been assisting the girl through counselling sessions to get over her ordeal.
It remains to be seen whether or not the victim will be present to testify against Mr Lehata when the rape trial gets underway on 21 February 2019.
Mr Lehata is a member of former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s Democratic Congress (DC) party and he briefly served as Minister of Law in the seven parties’ coalition which lasted from March 2015 to June 2017.
He was arrested on 29 June last year on allegations of raping the then 17-year-old orphan girl in Matsieng early this year.
The girl reportedly fell pregnant as a result of the rape which allegedly occurred in January last year.
The case was supposed to have been heard on 2 July 2018 but it could not proceed as magistrates were on strike to press for salary increments and improved working conditions.
The case was finally heard on 10 July 2018, by Chief Magistrate ‘Matankiso Nthunya who read the charge to the 48-year-old Mr Lehata and 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…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,” Chief Magistrate Nthunya stated.
The former Makhaleng legislator’s case comes against the background 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 offence was allegedly committed in January last year, the victim’s relatives swept it under the carpet and it only came to light in March 2018 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 social media,” 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 subsequently made arrangements for the girl to be taken to a secret location for her own protection and that of her unborn baby,” the source said.
However, in the latest turn of events, the family moved the girl from the secret location and relocated her to South Africa.
“Officials from the Social Development and even the minister (Ms Doti) do not know where the girl is as the family is refusing to cooperate with them on the issue. They have only heard that the family moved her to South Africa with her baby and the family is reluctant to see the rape case proceed,” the source said.
Nevertheless, the Maseru District Prosecutor, Gcinimusi Tshabalala, is adamant that the victim will be available to testify when the trial starts next month.
“The hearing is set for 21 February (2019) and I am expecting the girl to be present in court. I am not aware that she is not in the country but she will have to be here.
“If need be, I will subpoena her and ask the police to track her down,” Mr Tshabalala recently told the Lesotho Times.