Gender-based violence is a prominent plague in the fabric of Lesotho. Large infrastructure development projects such as the Lesotho Highlands Water Project Phase II where operations are ongoing, are breeding grounds for more cases of GBV and other human violations within communities living in the project areas. This has increased women’s dependency and vulnerability to sexual exploitation for financial gain. The following story is one of the many cases of women who are left vulnerable and destitute in the name of development.

Mamothepane Thita (not her real name) narrates her predicament, who lives in one of the communities being affected by the Lesotho Highlands Water Project Phase II.

“I got married to a Mr. Khapane Thita (names withheld for victim’s protection) in 1992 under customary law and was blessed with three children, currently aged 30, 27, and 23 respectively. To sustain our living, my family ploughed 5 fields, from which we harvested five large bags of maize,
four bags of sorghum, and one bag of sugar beans. This yield was sufficient to sustain my family for a year or more. Things, however, took a turn, when the Lesotho Highlands Water Project Phase II began implementation in my community. All the five fields from which my family and I sustained a living were affected and as such lost to the project.

Our fears were however allayed when we were informed by the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHWP’s implementing authority) that our household will be duly compensated. Indeed, we got the first tranche of compensation which was issued by cheque. The compensation is however insufficient to cover all basic needs. That is when I decided to go work at the Factories in Maputsoe. As I was working there, my husband called me informing me that LHDA had issued a lump sum of
about M263,500.00 as final compensation for our fields. I instructed him to use some of that money to buy food for our children and other essentials.

Instead, he went and brought his mistress into our home neglecting our children’s needs. I also immediately got a call from my oldest son saying I should come home immediately, there’s a problem. I left work and found my husband living with this woman in our home. I got rid of this
woman, who previously had an affair with my husband but dismissed for the sake of our family.

My mother-in-law then gave my husband a house for him to freely live with this woman. Because we live very close to my in-laws, I was exposed to seeing everything they did with this woman and so I decided to leave and go live with my mother. After some time, I decided to go back to work and this is when I was told that my husband had built a house for himself and this woman, with the same money which was supposed to be of benefit to our family. I left work and came home and discovered that my husband had taken all our furniture with him to the new house. I reported the matter to the Chief, which he called the LHDA to be a part of. We were both taken to open a joint account, but this was
all in vain as nothing was left of the money. My husband was instructed to release the furniture which was destroyed during his violent rage. I took the furniture as is and went to live with my children, who do not have any source of income, and my four grandchildren.

The Thita family home where she lives with her three children and four grandchildren.

As a mother, I felt it was my obligation to provide for my family, which meant seeking other means of income. I eventually met a man who worked at one of the construction companies with the LHWP and we got into a romantic relationship. I was finally able to provide for my family through what this man was offering me. However, the relationship did not prolong as it originated because of the financial benefits it provided. This man had been retrenched and was no longer able to provide for me.
I now must work in other people’s fields to earn an income. Just this month, I was paid with a large bag of maize meal. I have grown vegetables in a small garden so we can have something to eat with that.

Mamothepane (not real name) grows vegetables in her small garden to feed her children and grandchildren.

Rightfully, the LHDA ought to have assisted my husband and me with opening a joint account which gives both of us authority over the compensation money. But this came after my husband had consumed all the money. The LHDA must review its policy or put in place a safeguarding policy to avoid such issues.