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Sordid allegations at varsity must be investigated



What an unwelcome start to the New Year! No sooner had the fireworks stopped and the bubbly been put away that reports of a gruesome murder started circulating. The victim? A promising male lecturer at the National University of Lesotho, a young man who was about to get his doctorate with a promising future ahead of him. Of course murder in Lesotho is an everyday occurrence, one expects it as one expects the cold in July but there is always something particularly sad when a life holding such promise ends in such a barbaric way. It was no wonder then that the whole Roma community took to the streets to petition that whoever had done the foul deed be apprehended and as luck would have it a suspect was soon brought into custody. Of course that the police need to see public outrage before committing to action is suspect but that is a story for another day. The celebrations however were short lived. Rumours began circulating across social media that the suspect in question might not be the villain in the story. Tales of the deceased penchant for aggression and sexual abuse set the streets on fire as it were. Students have come forward alleging rape and harassment at the hands of the deceased. More people have come forward also sharing screenshots of conversations between the deceased and themselves in which he was offering them a night out with the expectation that it would end in carnal pleasure. Now I am a firm believer in communicated expectations. As has been proven by the screenshots the deceased was very clear in his expectations. Drinks followed by a roll in the proverbial hay. He was an adult man asking other adults for sexual intercourse and while that may be a little gauche to some, there is no crime in an adult asking other adults for sex. If anything that is how it should be done. Let people know that you want to buy them drinks and you expect sex thereafter. They have the options to take you up on the offer or decide not to. They would rather be thirsty. No harm, no foul. There is thus no reason for the screenshots to be circulating. If anyone of us was to publish the messages in our inboxes they would be much the same. Adults wanting to have sex. The matter that should have been at the forefront of the public’s mind however were the allegations by students, both current and former that the deceased had been using his position to coerce them into sexual intercourse and even going as far as rape. That such could occur at a public institution of higher learning and have everyone turning a blind eye should have infuriated even the most nonchalant person. It has yet to be proved whether the allegations are true. This might be a witch hunt. For myself and others who held the deceased in high regard, it is hard to believe that of him but we cannot stand against these allegations on the basis that he was a nice person. Everyone in the world is a nice person to someone. What has been surprising is seeing people who have built a name for themselves on a platform believe that anyone who alleges sexual abuse should be held credible until an investigation is performed and be painfully quiet now that someone they hold dear is in the proverbial hot seat. It is true that we do not owe anyone activism, but to build a name on a platform of activism, to be publicly lauded for it and to keep quiet when there is need to stand up against your friend who speaks of a disingenuous activism that can be altered by fear or favour is a sad path that many of us have chosen today. I will be honest and admit that I too am the allegations are false. I believed the deceased to be a wholesome young man. The truth however is that we have spent years insisting that due to the nature of sexual crimes and the dynamics that force those who are victims to stay silent we must at all times believe the victim first and then launch an investigation. This standard and ideal cannot now change simply because someone we love or like is the subject of the allegations. We must maintain the same energy even when we hope with everything in us that it is not true. To keep pointing how good a person the alleged perpetrator was when the matter is raised amounts to silencing the alleged victims and is downright evil on our part. It is still a tragedy that a young promising life was cut short. No one can take away that the deceased was a nice young man who helped many. He was a man with a big heart, one of perseverance in spirit and he will be sorely missed. This is the legacy that he left. It would be sad to discover that his legacy included rape and sexual abuse but should these be true they will not be tarnishing his legacy. Simply reflecting it in is entirety and we owe it to both the alleged victims and the deceased to investigate and find the truth or lack thereof in these allegations once and for all. There seems to be only one way to clear the matter up once and for all. That is for the university to launch an investigation into the allegations that a lecturer at the university could have been sexually abusing students. It is quite shocking that at the time of writing this article the university had not offered any public comment on the matter. Especially as this is not the first time that reports of sexual misconduct at the university have made the rounds. Thakane Rethabile Shale

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