Cleric in sex, forgery scandal

 

Denies out-of-wedlock paternity, falsifies DNA test in court

PUBLIC EYE REPORTERS

MASERU –  Lesotho Evangelical Church in Southern Africa (LECSA) clergyman, Reverend Limpho Makhoalinyane, faces a probe by church authorities after he was caught up in a case of child support in the Mafeteng Magistrate Court. Makhoalinyane is a minister at Tebellong LECSA in Qacha’s Nek, and Public Eye can report that after he fathered a child with his then Mafeteng girlfriend the clergyman denied responsibility.

He went on to falsify a DNA test report after he was hauled before the court for child-support by the girlfriend when the child was born. This, according to the paper’s inquiries, has left the mother traumatised as she continues to seek justice and maintenance for their one year and three months old baby. She describes the minister’s conduct as abuse. The paper has the names and details of the mother of Makhoalinyane’s child, which have been withheld to protect the mother and the child.

Clergymen who father children out of wedlock frequently refuse to accept responsibility and pay child support, forcing their victims to fight for years and even decades. Officially untold stories of irresponsible clerics who abandoned women and children as a result of sexual abuse are commonplace. Reproductive abuse in the context of the clergy is often spoken of in hushed tones in communities, yet there is a significant number of cases in which clerical sex offenders impregnate their victims and force them into hiding, sometimes abortion, or adoption of their children.

This is a phenomenon commonly referred to as reproductive abuse. While most victims of reproductive abuse are adults, even among minor victims of clerical child abuse, a significant percentage may have experienced reproductive abuse though there are no pertinent studies. But as in Reverend Makhoalinyane’s case before court, clerical and secular misogyny remains a social ill, which appears to be largely responsible for the silencing of victims as well as for the impunity of perpetrators and leads to the invisibility of this phenomenon, despite the high importance attributed to reproductive issues in most church establishments.

Public Eye has found out that in 2019 around July, when Makhoalinyane’s girlfriend found out that she was pregnant and told him, he denied having fathered the child which forced the girlfriend to approach the court for redress after she gave birth to the child. After Makhoalinyane’s refusal to take responsibility for the infant, a paternity test was ordered on January 5. Part of the summon reads: “You are hereby summoned (you and your witness), in terms of Section 6 of Proclamation 60 on the 23 day of February 2022 at 8:30 o’clock to show cause (if any) why you should not support (name of child withheld).”

The court stated that if the DNA test proved that Makhoalinyane is the father of the child, he would have to pay M1 500 per month as maintenance for the child. The first payment was supposed to be made in March. Makhoalinyane denied being the father of the child before court and both parents and their young daughter were requested to carry out a DNA test to prove the child’s paternity. The DNA test positively identified Makhoalinyane as the father but no maintenance has been paid to date.

According to the child’s mother, the DNA test was done at Pathcare Laboratories in Maseru, and the results were released on the July 28. The DNA test results, which Public Eye has seen, are positive that Makhoalinyane is the father of the child in question. The DNA tests were done and approved by a Dr B Van Biijon. However, on Monday when the duo presented their results to the court as requested, Makhoalinyane and the child’s mother presented different versions of the DNA test results.

The mother had in possession an original copy of the positive results that confirmed Makhoalinyane as the father her child, on the other hand, the clergyman had in hand a copy of the results stating that he was not the father of the child. “I do not know what happened with the results. All I know is that I collected the results at Pathcare and they are positive. I believe there has been foul play in the results that Makhoalinyane submitted,” the mother told Public Eye this week.

Her results are positive from an original copy issued from Pathcare Laboratories. Following presentation of these conflicting results, the Mafeteng Magistrate Court took both with a promise to look into the matter. The parents were ordered to report back in court on August 16. The mother believes that her ex-partner forged the results so that he can avoid paying maintenance as required. Contacted to comment about his relationship with the child’s mother and the conflicting DNA test results, Makhoalinyane confirmed that the results were not the same, claiming that he has no idea how that happened.

He also confirmed that he submitted a copy of the results to court, further stating that he did not receive any email from Pathcare. When asked to respond to being the claimed father of the child Makhoalinyane cut off the call and refused speak to this paper again. On the other hand, while they would not comment on a client’s results Pathcare Laboratories stated that there is no way the couple could have received different results for the same test. They said both partners were sent their results via email, while also given original copies which they sign for during collection at their offices.

Public Eye spoke to the LECSA national moderator, Reverend Mojaki Kometsi, over Makhoalinyane’s appearance in court and the nature of claims against him but he said his office is not aware of the matter. He, however, stated that once the presbytery under which Makhoalinyane works has reported the issue, the church will do thorough investigations and will use its findings during an eventual disciplinary hearing.

Reverend Kometsi would not be drawn into discussing possible punishment for Makhoalinyane if that would be the case. Another LECSA minister to whom Public Eye spoke on condition of anonymity revealed that when a clergyman is under training, he is expected to marry following the church’s processes. He said in a case such as when a clerical trainee impregnates a woman, his training is suspended to give him a chance to sort out the issue.

Interviewed on these developments in light of the protection of women and children’s rights, Basotho National Party Propositional Representative, ’Machere Seutloali, said there are numerous similar yet unreported cases in which men show their disrespect towards women’s rights and innocent children that come as a result of their relationships.

She said for a person to be involved in a sexual relationship with another until a child is born, only for him to run away from the responsibility shows not only disrespect towards women but also how much men undermine women’s intelligence. Seutloali said what is even worse is tempering with DNA test results in order to duck the responsibility of taking care of a child. She called for harsh punishment for this cleric as a deterrent for other irresponsible men.

She further stated that there is need for change of mentality by men, especially when it comes to taking responsibility for their actions, articulating that amicable communication between the mother and father of the child is always the best option. Human rights lawyer and activist, Lineo Tsikoane, on the other hand, says it is very unfortunate that men still father children that they are not ready to raise. She said this is also very unfortunate for society as it has no choice but to raise children that are heartbroken, anxious and insecure.

She said acts such as Makhoalinyane’s lead to building a society with no values which ends up raising fatherless children. Tsikoane said as society we need to introspect and strive to be better parents for a better future. She also stated that it is high time women take responsibility for their sexual health rights, articulating that it makes no sense that women still fall pregnant for men who are not prepared to take the responsibility of raising their children while there are different types of contraceptives they can use.

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