…as cops express concern at increase in human trafficking cases in Leribe district
LERIBE-Maputsoe police are appealing for information that could lead to the recovery of a baby-girl who was allegedly sold by her mother last week.
The child was only nine days old when she was sold to a Johannesburg woman, according to Officer Commanding Maputsoe Police Station Senior, Inspector Mokonyane Kokoliea.
Senior Inspector Kokoliea told the Lesotho Times this week that the mother gave birth to the child at a local hospital and informed a neighbour that she did not want to keep the baby.
The friend then linked her to the South African woman who was desperate for a child, Senior Inspector Kokoliea added.
He would not say how much the child was sold for.
However, the police have since failed to locate the South African woman as she appeared to have given the mother a fake name. Senior Inspector Kokoliea said they would soon contact South African police to help them find the woman.
“According to our investigations, the child’s mother tried to conceal the pregnancy as she didn’t want to keep the baby because she was not married. When she eventually gave birth at one of the hospitals in Maputsoe, she told her neighbour that she wanted to get rid of the child,” Senior Inspector Kokoliea said.
“The neighbour somehow found a barren South African woman who wanted to adopt a child, and arranged that she takes this baby.
“But it appears the South African woman gave the two ladies a fake name because when we called the cellphone number she gave them, she said she did not know anybody by that name. We have completed investigations on this side but until we find the child, we can’t arrest the women. Like I said, we will soon be asking our South African counterparts for help in locating the baby and the woman in question,” he said.
However, Senior Inspector Kokoliea said this was one of several cases of suspected human-trafficking to have taken place in Leribe district over recent months. Senior Inspector Kokoliea gave an example of six suspected human trafficking cases which took place in July alone.
“On 21 July, two men allegedly abducted a South African woman and brought her to St Monica’s where they raped her.
“The suspects have since been remanded in custody. It is alleged they raped the woman as punishment for her brother’s betrayal.
“It is alleged the woman’s brother had angered the men by giving South African police information that they could have been involved in stock-theft.
“One of the suspects, aged 21, is also facing stock-theft charges in South Africa and is said to have orchestrated the revenge after he was released on bail.
“He was also facing robbery charges here in Lesotho and had left for South Africa after he had been released on bail,” Senior Inspector Kokoliea said.
He also said Maputsoe police are investigating a case in which another South African woman was forcibly brought into Lesotho and raped over four days and only released after the payment of a M250 ransom.
“The woman and her friends were from a night vigil in Ficksburg when two men opened fire on them,” Senior Inspector Kokoliea said.
“The three women started running and one of them was caught, and brought into Lesotho where she was raped.
“She was held captive for four days and when her worried parents called her on her phone, the traffickers demanded a M500 ransom for her release.
“The parents said they could only afford M250 and when they paid the money, the young woman, who had been blindfolded all this time, was released,” he said, adding the suspects had since appeared in court and remanded in custody.
Senior Inspector Kokoliea also said they are looking for a South African woman who allegedly trafficked four teenage girls from Maputsoe to South Africa, where she turned them into sex slaves.
The girls are aged between 15 and 17 years and have since been rescued in a joint Lesotho and South African police operation, Senior Inspector Kokoliea added.
“The girls have scars all over their bodies as they allege that they were beaten each time they refused to have sex with men the woman would have brought home for them or the money they brought home after a night-out was not enough,” he said.
“The teenagers said bringing M200 per night would anger the woman as she said this was too little. She would then severely assault them for bringing such little amount.
“The woman is still at large and we are still looking for her in collaboration with South African police.”
Senior Inspector Kokoliea also told the Lesotho Times the increasing human trafficking cases had become cause of concern to the police and Maputsoe community at large.
“I think due to high unemployment, most people travel to Maputsoe seeking employment at the many textile firms and other manufacturing companies in this town. And for those who are unlucky, they end up being promised jobs in South Africa after finding no joy in Maputsoe.
“But soon after arriving in South Africa, they are turned into sex slaves and because they would have crossed the border illegally, the traffickers report them to the police once they are done with them.”
According to Senior Inspector Kokoliea, the police had since started holding public awareness campaigns on human trafficking in the town. The majority of textile employees are women who are easy targets for the traffickers, he added.
“The factory employers give us 30 minutes to address their workers on issues of human trafficking during lunch breaks,” he said.
About human trafficking
Human trafficking is the trade of humans, most commonly for the purpose of sexual slavery, forced labour or commercial sexual exploitation for the trafficker or others. This may encompass providing a spouse in the context of forced marriage, or the extraction of organs or tissues, including for surrogacy and ova removal. Human trafficking can occur within a country or trans-nationally. It is a crime against the person because of the violation of the victim’s rights of movement through coercion and because of their commercial exploitation. Human trafficking is the trade in people, and does not necessarily involve the movement of the person from one place to another.
Human trafficking represented an estimated $31.6 billion of international trade per annum in 2010. It is thought to be one of the fastest-growing activities of trans-national criminal organisations. Human trafficking is condemned as a violation of human rights by international conventions.-Wikipedia