By Matṧeliso Phulane
Police at Mantṧonyane in the Thaba-Tseka district are perturbed by a string of criminal activities conducted by herd boys, with sexual offences on young girls and old women topping the list.
In an interview with theReporter this week, the Police Constable ‘Matli Makosholo of Mantṧonyane police station’s department of Child and Gender Protection Unit (CGPU) observed that the herd boys are lured into committing crimes are peer pressure.
Makosholo said the police have noted an increasing rate in criminal activities which are meted out to young girls, old women and children.
He outlined that villages which are hard to reach are the ones which are prone to illegal activities. They are Lesobeng, Ha Khotso and Ha Mokotane.
He said this year alone, eight cases of sexual offences have been recorded.
“Herd boys tend to commit such offences in groups unaware that the things they do with collectively might land them in jail. They do that all the time even when they are not drunk,” he said.
Section 51(1) of Penal Code 2010 says “a person who, without the consent of another person touches that person in an indecent manner, commits the offence of indecent assault.”
“Currently, I am working on the case of a two-year old toddler who was raped by a 14-year old herd boy. This happened on June 13, and the suspect has even fled,” he showed.
Makosholo said another tormenting challenge in the rural community like Mantṧonyane is that parents and children share the same room and even sleep together.
As a result, he added, if parents engage in sexual activities in the presence of the children, “they end up growing with the curiosity to practice what they have witnessed at night.”
He observed: “The reason why we always have endless rape cases and physical assault is that, children will want to copy whatever they hear or see their parents doing with others. Therefore, the culture practised in rural communities and family issues such wife beating also contribute to the situation. Parents should learn not to resolve their difference through violence, especially in front of the kids.”
He stated that adults and parents are the ones who fail to report criminal offences to the police officers “because they want to cash in from such crimes.” As a result, they will condone their 14-year daughter getting married because they want to get the lobola, he noted.
He added that in other circumstances, being raised by a single parent might lead to children misbehaving and wanting to control themselves. Due to services accessed far away from home, herd boys take advantage and sexually attack women by raping them on their way home from receiving social grants.
Makosholo said they aim to battle crime in that area through holding campaigns and holding public gathering with the help of the chiefs.
“We normally start our campaigns at primary school level with the aim to spread information about how to stop crime since the children are still at an early age where they can understand what is right and what is wrong. For example, we teach that that if they practise unprotected sex, they will fall pregnant. In that case we have noticed the rate of crime declining.”
He said the CGPU police were going to work hard to end such criminal offences, working hand in hand with the ministry of social development and local NGO Help Lesotho. They encourage the children to join youth clubs where they will keep their minds busy by advising one another as well as revealing their talents such as acting.
In conclusion, he urged the courts of law to complete criminal cases in time before they get stale. Apart from that, the government should also implement strict laws such as denying criminals bail. Again, he said lack of resources such as transport contributes to the delay of working out cases in time.
On behalf of the chief of Mantṧonyane Ha Toka, Mojela Pshatlella told this publication that in his village the only crime which herd boys commit was violence emanating from love triangles. He said they also fight a lot when under the influence of. Again, he said theft and robbery were also on the rise. As for child marriages, he said their occurrence is not so high.
“The use of drugs such as alcohol and dagga when they are back home from the cattle posts plays a huge part in influencing them to commit crimes. They buy alcohol with the money they are be paid as wages.
“However, we work hand in hand with the police officers, especially during the festive season when we know there will be more incidents of crime. We ensure that owners of taverns close as early as possible. Apart from that, we hold public gatherings more often with organisations such as Help Lesotho and social development.
In an interview with theReporter, Khothatso Lekhoaba, one of the herd boys who attended the Sexual Reproductive Health Rights outreach which was held by Help Lesotho in Mantṧonyane Ha Toka last week, admitted that herd boys do get involved in criminal acts.
“We find it easy to lure the girls with money and alcohol in order for them to agree to our proposal, but such things bring negative consequences. By having unprotected sex under the influence of alcohol we end up impregnating them, and their parents force us to marry them or commit unsafe abortions,” he said.
It was observed that majority of herd boys avoid taking the responsibility of caring for their unplanned babies by fleeing to the cattle posts.
Khothatso concluded: “Again, through unprotected sex we end up contacting sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS.”