Trafficking in persons: PS Raboletse upbeat

IRENE SEME

MASERU – Human trafficking continues to haunt Lesotho’s social fabric with many challenges involved but the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Home, Tumelo Raboletse, says government’s effort to curb its continued spread will soon bear fruit. According to reports, victims of trafficking in persons (TIP) are extremely vulnerable and largely hidden from the public, making it particularly difficult to find them or obtain accurate statistics on the number of people trafficked per year in any given country.

The United Nations defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, or receipt of persons by improper means such as force, abduction, fraud, or coercion for improper purposes that include forced labour or sexual exploitation.”

Speaking to Public Eye following the brutal killing in Polokwane, South Africa, of a Lesotho national working as a domestic worker in that country, Raboletse said the government of Lesotho is working hard to eradicate human trafficking acts and ensure citizens are not preyed on by criminals.

The deceased, Moleboheng Mothibeli, is reported to been led to her death on promises of a better and more lucrative employment while in Polokwane by a man she met on social media. The suspect has since been detained by South African police, where he has been charged with Moleboheng’s murder and the murder of six other women who he had kidnapped and killed.

Raboletse further said that the Minister of Home Affairs, Motlalentoa Letsosa, is continuously and tirelessly leading awareness campaigns across the country. “Last week the honourable minister was in Qabane warning and creating awareness on people’s slavery after being employed and not getting paid. The ministry is also creating awareness in schools, putting more focus on girls as they are the main targets and easy to catch by being promised job and being deceived through online dating,” Raboletsi explained.

He further noted that only last week the American Embassy and the government of Lesotho presented and shared progress on recommendations from the Department of State’s 2021 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report on the country’s TIP status.

He outlined that there were several areas that the discussed focused on, with the progress report covering each recommendation. The first conviction, sentence and imprisonment of a trafficker in four years was noted and welcomed. Raboletsi said the national campaign by the minister is expected to bring out positive results such as reduced numbers of those who fall victims to TIP.

“Our hope is that through these campaigns, people will be more knowledgeable about the signs of TIP. The expectation is that the numbers of those who become victims of TIP will drop greatly and that Lesotho will eventually move to Tier 2 and finally to Tier 1.

“We need Lesotho to move from the current status of Tier 2 Watch list, the aim is to bring back the image of this country and as government work together with stakeholders to completely eradicate it,” he emphasised.

According to the 2021 TIP report, Lesotho’s status is on Tier 2 watch list which means that Lesotho does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.

In an effort to increase awareness on TIP and to improve coordination, the governments of Lesotho and South Africa are working hand in hand beginning last week Friday with the meeting in Welkom Free State with Majakathata Taxi Association, Basotho diaspora, Mine Workers, South African Police Services (SAPS).

The focus is on five regions in RSA where most Basotho live in large numbers. Raboletsi remains firm and confident that through the awareness campaigns, Lesotho’s status will soon improve.He said last week’s meeting in Welkom went according to plan and the focus is now on other provinces.

“The plan is to carry out the awareness campaign in all the provinces of SA; we’ll go to Kwazulu Natal, Gauteng, North West and the Western Cape. The plan is that beginning next year we’ll do the rest of the provinces including Limpopo,” he said. On Monday last week, the US Ambassador to Lesotho, Rebecca Gonzales, hosted a bilateral dialogue with Lesotho’s ministries to discuss the country’s progress on TIP.

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