Police and judiciary have let women down: Doti

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Herbert Moyo

“LESOTHO has become a dangerous place for women and children to live due to the police and judiciary’s failure to protect them from blood-thirsty criminals who continue to murder, rape, assault and subject their victims to all kinds of violence.

“And if the police and judiciary are unable to do anything about a high-profile case such as mine, then what more can ordinary Basotho women and children expect? It is really a hopeless situation.”

These are the words of Social Development Minister ‘Matebatso Doti, who survived a July 2019 horrific knife attack by unknown assailants in her Lithabaneng home.

Lesotho has become a killing field. Week in, week out, the country’s soils are continuously drenched with the blood of victims, mainly women and children who have either fallen at the knife of guns of marauding male killers.

The Lithabaneng legislator is lucky to be alive after being stabbed five times by eight unknown assailants in what she said was an assassination attempt at her home.

Ms Doti, who is also the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC)’s deputy spokesperson, is one of those few victims fortunate enough to have survived gruesome attacks to tell the tale.

At the time of her attack, ironically a few days shy of women’s month which is commemorated to raise awareness on women’s rights, eight masked men stormed her house.

They stabbed her five times. The attack came at the height of the power struggles within the ABC pitting the party leader and then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane against his party deputy Professor Nqosa Mahao.

The assailants told Ms Doti that they had been sent to kill her for siding with Prof Mahao in the ABC power struggle. They also robbed her of M4000 that was deposited in her bank account and two guns that belonged to her late husband who had retired from the army by the time of his death in 2017.

Although the police and the then government suggested that Ms Doti was merely a victim of a robbery, the legislator and her ABC allies remain convinced that the attack, which left her in a pool of blood, was a politically motivated bid to eliminate her for siding with Prof Mahao.

Ms Doti relieved her ordeal in an interview with the Lesotho Times at her offices this week.

“Up to now the assailants are still at large. I don’t know if there is any progress in the police investigations. They are not saying anything. No one is saying anything to me.

Even my guns which were taken as exhibits are still with the police. Nobody is saying anything to me.

“So, if they (police) are not able to do anything in such a high-profile case involving a minister, what more can ordinary Basotho women and children expect? What more? What more? It is really a hopeless situation,” Ms Doti says with an air of resignation.

The irony of the horrific attack, just a few days before women’s month, was not lost on Prof Mahao at the time it happened.

He later told a Matsieng rally that local women should take the cue from their South African counterparts who bravely challenged oppression by successive Apartheid governments until the advent of majority rule in that country in 1994.

He urged local women to stage protests against gender-based violence.

“If you are able to, ladies please go out there and call all women across the country to join you in telling the government that enough is enough. We can no longer stand and watch these heinous crimes that our mothers, daughters and sisters endure. Some have been murdered mercilessly. This has been going on for far too long and there are no signs of it coming to an end.

“I know that you are great worshipers but God helps those who help themselves. It is now time to confront the government and remind them that their one of the major mandates is to ensure the wellbeing of the citizens so that a Mosotho woman like Mme Doti can sleep soundly in her home.

“Police should tell us how many criminals have been arrested since the beginning of this (2019) year. They should tell us how many have appeared in the courts of law and how many have been incarcerated. You (women) must stop talking and take action. You have our support as men,” Prof Mahao said.

It is just under 100 days since Prof Mahao was appointed Law and Justice Minister. Perhaps he will perhaps use his position to fight in the victims’ corner.

But for now, a year on from his call to action, the body count of slain women and children continues to rise with each passing day.

Despite her own scars and fears, Ms Doti, who was reinstated to her portfolio by new Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro, continues to soldier on and speak out in defence of the rights of women and other vulnerable sections of the population.

But she feels the police and judiciary are be a big let-down due to their failure to either investigate crimes or expeditiously deliver judgements when suspects are brought to court.

“Just last week, I was in Mafeteng, deep in the villages at a place called Seberekoane. They had killed a 74-year-old lady because it was her payday and they were going to grab that money.

The elderly receive their monthly pensions of M800 per person from the government and that is the money the killers were after.

“Unfortunately, when they shot her, she was carrying her 7-year-old grandchild who was also killed in the shooting. That is sad. I am only giving this example so that you understand the problem which is facing this country. The policing system is very bad, it is too poor.

“The police will tell you that they don’t have the facilities, they don’t have transport to follow up on crime reports. They will be just seated in their offices. This is why a month ago we ended up giving the police nine scooter vehicles you meant for social workers to the police. We hope this will go a long way in assisting us especially when we report cases of child abuse.

Again, in October or November 2020, we will open a toll-free line to report shocks and other social problems. We want it linked to the police’s children’s protection unit so that where there is a problem, they can also communicate with our social workers,” Ms Doti said.

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