POPULAR Afro-pop musician, Lele Khesuoe, was this week arrested and hauled before the courts to face charges of raping a three year-old female toddler in Ha Foso, Berea on 30 June this year.
The Mamotsatsa hit maker was arrested by Mabote police on Monday and briefly appeared before the Berea Magistrates’ Court in Teyateyaneng on the same day to face the rape charges.
He was however, allowed to walk free after the Chief Prosecutor, Advocate Lesaoana Mohale, prevailed on the magistrate to release him while the police continued their investigations into the alleged crime.
Khesuoe’s release did not go down well with thousands of female protestors who thronged the Mabote Police Station and the Berea Magistrates’ Court to show their solidarity with the toddler’s family.
The alleged rape is the latest in the ever increasing catalogue of violent crimes against women and children. Some of these crimes are allegedly being committed by high profile people, with one such being the case of former Law and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Mootsi Lehata, who was hauled before the courts last week to face charges of raping a 17 year-old orphan girl in Matsieng early this year.
It was a sombre atmosphere on Monday when Khesuoe appeared in court. The accused sat on a bench to the right side of the courtroom with his head bowed down as though to shield himself from the intense scrutiny of the female protestors who call themselves the Total Shutdown movement. The protestors packed the courtroom along with the rest of the public.
The gravity of the situation was such that the normally resplendent Khesuoe did not even have laces for the sneakers he wore for his court appearance.
The toddler was also in court and she kept twiddling her fingers while she rested on her mother’s back throughout the proceedings. Her father followed the proceedings from his position by his wife and daughter’s side.
Adv Mohale however, brought the proceedings to a quick end when he told the court that Khesuoe could not be remanded in custody as there was still some vital information that was missing due to “incomplete” police investigations into the alleged crime.
“There are certain issues that are missing from the information tabled before the court so I have asked the investigators to work closely with the parents to get missing information,” Adv Mohale said.
He further said that Khesuoe should always avail himself to the police whenever they required him to do so.
He also urged those who had information regarding the issue to inform the police and not to post it on social media. He also warned those who had been posting information about the child on social media to refrain from doing so or they would also be charged with obstructing the course of justice.
Adv Mohale subsequently told the Lesotho Times that there was need to verify certain issues including the whereabouts of the suspect on the day the crime was allegedly committed.
“The fact that the child had already been bathed when she was taken to the hospital means that evidence was tempered with.
“On the other hand, the accused claims he was out of the country at the time he is accused of committing the incident. The police are yet to gather certain information but I cannot reveal further details to avoid jeopardising the investigations,” Adv Mohale said.
The toddler was allegedly raped on 30 June this year and the parents only discovered three days later after they took the child to the doctor.
They took the child to the doctor on the 3rd of July after she complained of pain in her private parts. Her mother narrated the story of how they found out about the alleged rape to the Lesotho Times at Mabote police station where the child had been brought to be interviewed by government psychologists.
Fighting back tears, the mother accused the police of delaying to attend to their complaint, saying they reported the matter on the 3rd of July soon after their visit to the doctor. The mother said the case was only attended to last Friday.
“It all started with our child telling her father that her private parts were painful but we took it lightly. The following evening she asked me not to use soap to bathe her as this caused her pain.
“The next day she still complained of pain and her father asked me to examine her. I then noticed a white liquid oozing from her private parts and since it was already late that evening, I only took her to hospital on the next morning (3 July).
“A chill went down my spine when the doctor told me that my child had been raped. The doctor filled a document and told me to immediately go to the police and that is when I went to Mabote Police Station and opened a case,” the toddler’s mother said.
She further said she learnt of the gory details of the alleged rape upon questioning her daughter and her seven year-old sister.
“My child told me that the accused, who is our neighbour, called them to his yard while she was on her way to the shops together with her sister.
“The accused then gave the older girl a bicycle to play with and took the little one into a shack. My daughter said he removed her tracksuit, smeared petroleum jelly on her private parts and had sex with her.
“I asked my older daughter who corroborated her younger sister’s story, adding that the latter could barely walk after the incident. She said the little girl cried out in pain and the ‘rapist’ yelled at her not to make noise. The suspect then gave them M1.20 to buy sweets and told them not to say a word to anyone.”
The mother said even though the police had promised swift action, a week passed without any communication, “not even an SMS”.
“It was only last Friday when the police started working on the case and we told to come back on Monday when my daughter would be interviewed by psychologists. I do not understand why it is taking so long to deal with this case. Now we are told that the information is incomplete but the mere fact of taking off my girl’s pants is enough to constitute sexual abuse.
“It is painful to see the suspect scot-free and roaming the streets as if nothing happened but I will stop at nothing until my child gets justice. I am not afraid of anyone. The best way to protect a child is to ensure that people who commit such crimes are locked away,” the toddler’s mother said.
The family can also count on the support of the Total Shutdown who thronged Mabote Police Station and also packed the courtroom in their trademark red and black attire.
Some of the protestors held up placards with the message “we are fully behind you” while others raised their fists in the air.
One of the protestors, Makarabelo Moseme, said they would continue standing up against all forms of violence against women and children.
“We were already preparing to march against violence against women and children which will take place on 1 August this year. But we came down to support the family as soon as we learned of this (alleged rape) issue.
“We have made noise on social media and broadcast media. We cannot stand back and watch cases of this nature increasing and going unpunished. What we want is for justice to be served regardless of the perpetrator’s status,” Ms Moseme said.
For his part, Khesuoe denied raping the toddler in an interview with a local radio station last night. He said he had never seen the child until the allegations were made against him and it was clear to him that “someone” was out to tarnish his image.
“I will not get into the details and my whereabouts on the day (of the alleged rape) as they are part of the investigations which will be revealed in court. What I can boldly say is that I am not guilty. I had not seen the child or her parents before until we met in court (on Monday).
“I do not drink or smoke and I always spend most of the time on my own because I do not want to get into trouble with anyone. Any experts can be brought in to investigate the matter and they will realise that I am innocent. I have never committed any crime or ever been summoned by the area chief for misbehaviour.
“Two years ago I worked with an NGO in their campaign against the abuse of children and women so I know everything about abuse and there is no way I could commit such a crime.
“I learned that while I was at Mabote Police station there were women from a political party who were chanting outside and therefore it is clear that someone has an agenda to tarnish my image. No wonder why there is so much hype around it. I worked hard to be where I am today.
“Being in that cell was the worst experience I have ever heard and God help me I will overcome this challenge,” Khesuoe said.