22 April 2008

Botswana: Sex for Sweets

Francistown — Underage girl admits to multiple sex sessions, Police fail to bring charges against contract workers

A village girl of 14 has told how she sold herself for as little as P2 to employees of a South African power line contractor so that she could buy sweets and cheese snacks.

In a shocking revelation, the primary school student from Matshelagabedi near Francistown has admitted to sex sessions with at least eight of the men, servicing four in one night.

Despite complaints from the girl's relatives, no criminal proceedings have been taken against the men, although bosses of the company, Babcock Ntuthuko, say that the matter has been 'sorted out' with local police.

A Matshelagabedi pensioner has accused the authorities of shelving a case in which more than eight contract workers from the South African company, Babcock Ntuthuko, defiled her 14-year-old granddaughter.

The 66-year-old granny, who met with teachers, local police, social workers and the management of Babcock, said that no criminal action had been taken against the perpetrators. She said: "A day after our meeting, I contacted the police as agreed, but they referred me to the social worker who promised to contact me and also explained that she would visit my child at school."

That was over a month ago and the old woman is still waiting for information. She is concerned that the matter has been hushed up and the case will never reach the courts. What worries the granny most is that the girl was never taken to hospital for an examination.

She questioned how police and social workers could resolve the case without consulting her. "Surely there is something behind all this. How could the police close a case involving a minor without permission from her parents?" she asked.

She acknowledged that her granddaughter was taking advantage of her old age to move around the village at night and was beyond her control, but that was no reason for the authorities to ignore her.

"It is common knowledge that sex with a minor is prohibited, so I don't understand why the police have not responded to my complaints, nor how the management of this South African company convinced them not to bring charges against the suspects," she said.

Matshelagabedi school head, Boikhutso Lekau, confirmed that the matter had been brought to her attention, saying that the case has been referred to the village social worker. She admitted that she was 'concerned' about incidents of sexual abuse involving her students, but would not comment further.

When contacted for a comment, Matshelagabedi village social worker, Saliwe Joel, flatly denied any knowledge of the case. Her superiors in Masunga, however, said that the case was with the Matsiloje police.

According to Deputy council secretary at North East District, Oupa Mosisane, the case was referred to Botswana police on the 19th March. The officer said it was the duty of police to investigate and make sure the victim was taken for a medical examination. "Normally they invite us when the case is taken to court," said Mosisane.

Local police in the village claimed that the case was handed over to the Botswana police, but Matsiloje station commander, Booker Osupile, commented: "Truly speaking, I am not aware of such a case, but what I can assure you is that my office will do its best to establish the truth about the allegations."

He revealed that an officer recently addressed residents of Matshelagabedi regarding sexual harassment, but there was no mention of the girl's case. He was, nevertheless, adamant that there would be no police cover up of a sexual abuse case involving a minor.

Osupile also learnt with shock that the young girl was never taken for a medical examination.

The company at the centre of the incident, Babcock Ntuthuko, employs over 100 local and South African workers in the construction of the power supply to Tati mine. Project Manager Manie Deysel said from the company headquarters in Johannesburg: "The matter was resolved in a meeting with the school and police."

He revealed that none of the workers concerned were sacked, claiming that the men were never named. Declining to comment further he advised that the police were the ones to be contacted for details. Commenting on the matter Matshelagabedi Chief, Oganne Polson Fox, admitted that there had been problems in the village in the year since the company had been based there. "We thought that they were bringing positive developments to the village, but it seems we were mistaken. Many are involved in fights and some are responsible for wrecking people's marriages. I have had to deal with two cases involving employees of Babcock."

Polson, who was just coming from leave, said he was shocked to learn that some men were even having sex with underage children. He admitted that he was concerned that the men were not taken to task, and promised to call an urgent kgotla meeting to address the issue.

Concerned residents have also spoken of their fears at the presence of the company in the village.

72-year-old Vuyelwa Motlhabi said that people were worried for the safety of their children. "According to our understanding, these people came to develop our village, but now it seems they are hunting for cheap sex, an issue which we won't tolerate. I think it is high time these people are called to book," she said.

Bantu Ratshosa urged the men to respect the community and leave young village girls alone. "A parent is still a parent even in a foreign land. I don't understand how these men could sleep with our children. They wouldn't dare sleep with children where they come from," she said.

Ratshosa argued that in ten years time, the village would be left with orphans, graves and sick people as a result of such people who lacked self-control and respect.

School Girl Tells Her Story

The girl at the centre of the scandal that has alarmed villagers in Matshelagabedi, sees nothing wrong with selling herself for sex.

Telling her story as if relating an innocent adventure with friends, she revealed that she sold herself to different men staying in the workers campsite a stone's throw away from her home and the village kgotla.

The girl, who lives with her aged grandmother, revealed: "The charges varied from client to client; sometimes it was just P2, but it went higher at month end when I got up to P20."

She told The Voice that she got involved with the men last year when she was running errands for elder girls who had affairs with the employees of the company. Some men who saw her at the campsite then asked her for sexual favours in exchange for money, which she gladly accepted.

"The men invited me to the campsite where I spent the night. In the morning I would rush home to prepare for school. "With the money I bought sweets and cheese snacks that I shared with my friends at school. What's wrong with that?" she asked, wondering what all the fuss was about. She revealed that she sometimes slept with 3-4 men, who shared a room, in one night. "After sex the men would pay me and I would go. They never asked me how old I was, and I never told them."

She added that there were many women who entered the campsite at night to sell themselves "I know most of them, some are even married."

Asked how many men she had slept with, the young girl said she couldn't tell since they were too many. She, however, admitted that she had identified eight men to police after they caught her leaving the camp last month.

She said as far as she knew, her case was resolved at school. "After I was caught, the case was dealt with by the police who told me not to set foot at the campsite again."

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