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Till divorce do us part



MASERU – MADLY in love, many young Basotho are saving for what they hope will be their biggest moment in life: their wedding day. Dreaming of a happy ever after life, they can’t wait to tie the knot. “If only they knew of the disaster ahead,” said ‘Mamoruti Molebatsi from Ha Sephapho in Mohale’s hoek. A divorcee, she is acutely aware of the challenges of marriage, an institution that has turned the lives of many people upside down after realising that all is not rosy. In Lesotho, marriages are an in thing. But so is divorce. Molebatsi said she got married to her husband 17 years ago. She was unfazed by their 10-year age difference. All she cared about was a white wedding with the man of her dreams. All seemed well during the early days that the couple even managed to move out of their in-laws house to rented accommodation before building their own house. “We were living in harmony,” she said, recalling how their taxi business was flourishing so much that money was not an issue. Molebatsi said her father gave her M10 000 to start a business so that they could grow and diversify. She opted to open a bar in Mafeteng town, which started generating profits and it appeared things were off to a good start. With time, a relative of the husband moved in saying he wanted to help running errands in the bar. That was the beginning of her problems. “From that day, I did not see even a cent accrued from the business,” she said. Her husband was the one running the taxi business and did not bother to involve her in the taxi business’ day-to-day operations. Likewise, the relative now running the bar did not discuss anything with her regarding operations. “Everything just slipped out of my hands. I suffered in silence for more than 10 years,” an irate Molebatsi said. The final blow came when her sister-in-law insisted on running her household. “She would tell my husband what and what should not be done in my own home. She was running the affairs of my family. I did not have a say on anything” decried Molebatsi. After years of endurance and agony, she left her husband, who had also barred her from furthering her studies. Soon after leaving her husband, the 46-year-old said her father assisted her to return to school for tertiary education. Life has never been better. “I regret the time I spent in marriage. It was full of abuse. He did not beat me up but he would abuse me emotionally. He would break me down,” she said, also referring to his philandering ways. “His phone was full of names of women that he had adulterous affairs with.” Thabiso Moholo, 43, a Lesotho Correctional Officer, said initially things were going well between him with his wife who was a nurse in Teyateyaneng. Moholo is stationed in Maseru as a ward officer. He said arguments started creeping in, especially over family finances. He claimed his wife did not bring her salary to the table for the family to plan their finances together. Realising that the fights were becoming more frequent, Moholo informed his parents and asked them to mediate. “Unfortunately, my wife blamed my parents and accused them of taking sides,” said Moholo. Moholo said he asked his wife to transfer from Teyateyaneng to Maseru for them to stay together, hoping this could help improve their relations. The situation turned for the worst. “One day I beat her up,” Moholo recalls. “Then I filed the divorce case and she did not oppose. The divorce has given me some peace,” he said. “I will marry again but not now. I need to take my time,” he said. After enduring pain for nearly two years in an abusive marriage, ‘Malimpho Ramajoana decided to call it quits. On the surface, Ramajoana said she looked happy and full of life. “But deep down in my heart I was hurt,” she said. The 26-year-old wishes she could just erase her marriage from her memory. Weeping inconsolably, Ramajoana described her marriage as one of her worst experiences. She said her husband would leave the house each time she asked for money, leaving her to struggle with home expenses that included basic needs for their infant baby. “It was hell,” said Ramajoana, who said she eventually left the marriage with her child to start a new chapter in her life. She said back at her parents’ home in Leribe Moreneng, she met some women selling Botle-Buhle products. They asked her to join them and she grabbed the opportunity with both hands. “Life is much better now,” she said. ‘Makhahliso Taoana, 30, from Mafeteng was married to a man 17 years her senior who seemed to be tired in bed. “Honestly he could not give me a match,” Taoana chuckled. She says she had always wondered why some women would search for other men to satisfy their sexual appetite as soon as their husbands left for work. “Then I got the answer when I married him,” she said, adding that although her husband was not abusive, his failure to perform in bed led her to leave him. “Women want to be sexually satisfied,” Taoana said. She says her husband was also much older than her but did not have experience while in bed. Calvin Motebang, a counsellor, says many marriages collapse due to the fact that couples would be incompatible. He said couples often entered marriage with high expectations that are often not met. The data on divorce in Lesotho relates only to marriages solemnised by civil law and not by customary law as there are cases of customary marriages that go unreported. There could be various factors that contribute to a couple’s decision to dissolve marriage and they include the following: infidelity (adultery), lack of (or poor) communication, non-fulfillment of conjugal rights, emotional and physical abuse, hazardous levels of alcohol consumption, desertion, and perhaps incompatibility as primary grounds for divorce. The latest statistics of divorces are of 2016. The Bureau of Statistics reports that divorces that were granted in 2016 only by the High Court do not cover other important issues such as the educational and employment status of the parties. However, it reports that the highest percentage share of divorces was noticed in Maseru with 48.5 percent. The least percent was observed in Mokhotlong followed by Quthing at 1.2 and 2.4 percent respectively. Mohale’s Hoek, Qacha’s Nek and Thaba-Tseka were at 3.0 percent each. In Maseru, Butha-Buthe, Mafeteng, Mokhotlong, Qacha’s Nek and Thaba-Tseka, there were more female plaintiffs than male plaintiffs. Maseru had the highest proportion of plaintiffs for both male and female than any other district. Mokhotlong had no male plaintiff and had the very low percentage of female plaintiffs at 2.4 percent. The percentage of divorces among males reached a peak at ages 25 to 29 years with 37.8 percent, while that for females was at age group 20 to 24 with 43.7 percent. The cases of divorces began to decline gradually as age increased, with only 4.9 percent for males and 0.0 percent for females. Females filed divorces more than their male counterparts for age groups 15 to 19, 20 to 24 and 30 to 34 and for all other age groups males filed more than females. It is therefore observed that females mostly file divorces at younger ages of their marriage while their counterparts do that at older ages. Almost half (50.3 percent) of the marriages in Lesotho broke down due to adultery. The other half happens between constructive and malicious desertion at 26.0 and 23.7 percent respectively. The major cause of divorce in all the districts was adultery at 50.3 percent. Constructive desertion at 26.0 percent was the next reason for divorce followed by malicious desertion at 23.7 percent. Maseru had the leading percentages for reasons for divorce amongst the reasons given with 48.5 and adultery was most common in Maseru at 21.9 percent. There were no marriage dissolution due to constructive desertion and malicious desertion in Quthing and Mokhotlong indicating that residents of these two districts only end their marriage due to adultery. Amongst all the districts of Lesotho, Mokhotlong had the lowest reasons for divorce at 1.2 percent which is noted as adultery. Majara Molupe

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