Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

LESOTHO: Tier 2 Watch List

Lesotho is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking, and for men subjected to forced labor. In Lesotho and in South Africa, Basotho women and children are subjected to domestic servitude, and children—both boys and girls—increasingly endure commercial sexual exploitation. Basotho women and girls voluntarily migrate to South Africa seeking work in domestic service and upon arrival are detained in prison-like conditions or forced to engage in prostitution. Some Basotho men, who migrate voluntarily, though illegally, to South Africa for work in agriculture and mining, become victims of forced labor; many work for weeks or months before their employers turn them over to South African authorities for deportation on immigration violations to avoid paying them. Basotho are also coerced into committing crimes, including theft, drug dealing, and smuggling under threat of violence or through forced drug use. Chinese and Nigerian organized crime rings reportedly acquire Basotho victims while transporting foreign victims through Lesotho to Bloemfontein or Johannesburg. The trend of foreign nationals subjecting their compatriots to trafficking in Lesotho, first observed in 2011, reportedly continued, although no specific cases were identified by government or NGO stakeholders during the reporting period.

The Government of Lesotho does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these measures, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Lesotho is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a third consecutive year. Lesotho was granted a waiver from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 because its government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, and it has committed to devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan. The government finalized the National Anti-Trafficking in Persons Strategic Framework and Action Plan. However, the government failed to initiate any prosecutions during the reporting period and has not successfully prosecuted and punished a trafficking offender under the 2011 anti-trafficking act. In addition, it did not address systematic weaknesses—including alleged complicity and questions of jurisdiction among courts. The government identified 11 trafficking victims and referred five for care. However, overall efforts to protect victims remained minimal, as the government did not develop formal referral procedures or establish victim care centers—key elements of the 2011 anti-trafficking act that remained unimplemented for the fifth consecutive year. The government continued its reliance on NGOs to identify and assist victims, without providing funding or in-kind support for these services; during the year, this led to one NGO suspending its shelter operations.


Enact implementing regulations for the 2011 anti-trafficking act and address jurisdictional issues impeding the hearing of trafficking cases in the Basotho court system; increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses under the 2011 act, including both internal and transnational cases; provide care to victims of trafficking via government-run centers or in partnership with international organizations or NGOs; develop a formal system to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations and refer them to care, in line with the 2011 act; differentiate the process of victim identification from the prosecution of trafficking offenders; provide adequate resources to support anti-trafficking efforts, especially provision of protection services such as victim witness support; increase oversight of labor recruitment agencies licensed in Lesotho; implement the national action plan and strategic framework; investigate and prosecute complicit officials; and initiate use of a data collection system to analyze data on victims identified and assisted, trafficking offenses investigated and prosecuted, and trafficking offenders convicted and punished.


The government sustained minimal anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, effective January 2011, prohibits and punishes all forms of trafficking in persons. It prescribes penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment or a fine of one million maloti ($82,850) under Section 5(1) for the trafficking of adults and up to life imprisonment or a fine of two million maloti ($165,700) under Section 5(2) for the trafficking of children; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. However, a provision allowing offenders to pay a fine in lieu of serving prison time allows for a penalty that is not proportionate to the crime and does not provide an adequate deterrent to potential perpetrators of trafficking offenses. The Child Protection and Welfare Act, enacted in March 2011, prescribes penalties of life imprisonment or a fine of one million maloti ($82,850) for child trafficking. Labor recruiters who knowingly recruit workers for forced labor are liable for the same penalties as those who hold them in servitude. The government completed the National Anti-Trafficking in Persons Strategic Framework and Action Plan; however, it did not complete its draft of implementing regulations necessary to enforce the anti-trafficking act. The government has never convicted and punished a trafficking offender under the 2011 anti-trafficking act and failed to initiate prosecution of trafficking offenders in 2014. The prosecution of one suspect initiated during the previous reporting period was dismissed, while the prosecution of two alleged offenders, also initiated in the previous reporting period, remained pending. In one case, the investigation was completed and the accused remained in custody because she was unable to post bail. The court date was delayed due to a “go slow” labor action by correctional officers. In the other case, the accused was charged with murder and a possible secondary charge of trafficking. The investigation had been completed and a trial was pending at the end of the reporting period. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses. Despite reports of complicity, including suspected traffickers exerting influence to facilitate the arrest of victims to prevent them from testifying in 2012, no investigation was conducted into these allegations. In partnership with an international organization, in June 2014, the Ministry of Home Affairs conducted a five-day training for 25 police and immigration officers, 10 labor inspectors, and 16 additional staff.

The government failed to address systemic weaknesses in its anti-trafficking response that prevented it from holding traffickers accountable. Judicial sector officials contend Lesotho’s high court—which has the jurisdiction to hear trafficking cases—should not be the court of first instance, and magistrate courts—where judges have attempted to hear cases—lack jurisdiction to appropriately sentence convicted offenders or refer trafficking cases to the high court. The Directorate of Public Prosecutions, with four prosecutors assigned to handle trafficking cases, failed to initiate any trafficking prosecutions during the year. The Child and Gender Protection Unit of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service, with 116 officers and responsibility for the enforcement of criminal law pertaining to child labor, was without funding dedicated specifically to the enforcement of child labor laws and did not conduct any investigations or prosecutions of forced child labor in 2014.


The government maintained its minimal efforts to protect victims during the reporting period and continued to lack formal victim identification procedures or a process to refer victims to appropriate services. The Child Gender and Protection Unit (CGPU) identified 11 potential trafficking victims and referred five to care. The Ministry of Home Affairs referred one additional victim to an NGO for assistance. The government failed to directly assist these victims or provide support to NGOs that did so during the year, despite its previous pledges to provide such NGOs financial support. As a result of the government’s failure to provide such support or coordinate systematic referral of trafficking victims to these organizations, one NGO suspended its operations in Lesotho during the year, leaving the country without any assistance available specifically for trafficking victims. During the reporting period, the government did not establish victim care centers or a fund to protect and rehabilitate victims, as required under the 2011 anti-trafficking act. Medical, psychological, legal, and life skills services were accessible to victims of crime, including trafficking, free of charge at government hospitals and clinics, and the CGPU had the capacity to provide limited counseling to such groups; it is unknown how many victims received such services in 2014. The 2011 anti-trafficking law protects victims from prosecution for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking, provides foreign victims with permanent residency as a legal alternative to their removal, and encourages victims to assist in the investigation of traffickers; however, the government unevenly applied these provisions during the reporting period.


The government increased its efforts to prevent trafficking. In July 2014, the Multi-Sectoral Committee partnered with an international organization to complete the National Anti-Trafficking in Persons Strategic Framework and Action Plan, which identifies each ministry’s responsibilities in combating and creating awareness of trafficking through 2016. The Ministry of Gender produced anti-trafficking pamphlets, sponsored television and radio spots, and led door-to-door campaigns and outreach at border posts, schools, and churches.

As of August 2014, the Ministry of Employment and Labor (MOEL) conducted approximately 1,330 inspections. However, the effectiveness of these inspections in identifying forced child labor was limited since they focused on the formal sector. Forced child labor was most prevalent in the informal sector where children work as domestic workers and herd boys. The government did not train labor inspectors to identify child labor and inspectors did not identify any child labor violations in 2014. MOEL issued 40 licenses to labor agents recruiting workers from Lesotho for farms and construction companies in South Africa. Although returned Basotho laborers report complaints about their working conditions abroad, MOEL only filed complaints against and suspended the permits of these companies when the violation involved many reported victims or extreme violence. There were no such suspensions in 2014. Nonetheless, the government continued to institute its agreement with the South African Ministry of Labor to cooperate on dispute resolution and information sharing on labor issues. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex or forced labor. The government did not report efforts to provide anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel.