Letlhakane village is one of the most dangerous areas for women and girl children owing to the prevalence of rape in the area.
Various interventions such as comprehensive public education by the police specifically designed to curb and flatten the rapid upward trajectory of rape in the village, have failed to bear any fruit.
According to police figures, 106 rape cases were registered in the village and its environs last year. From January this year to date, the village has recorded 26 rape cases and it is on a path to maintain or surpass last year’s figures. Six cases were recorded over the last two weeks. Now, due to incessant incidents of rape, Letlhakane has earned itself the moniker of rape capital of Botswana.
Just recently, a man still on the run raped three girls aged between 14 and 17 at Buhe ward on different occasions.
Prior to that, a man raped his 12-year-old primary school-going niece in the village. The 12-year-old was raped on her way from school.
During the same period, two men reportedly raped a 19-year-old girl in the village. The trend highlights the lack of safety of women and girls in the village.
This week Letlhakane police station commander superintendent Michael Maphephu said that the surge in rape cases in the village, as well as its surroundings, need a multi-pronged response. Maphephu believes what strongly contributes to rape is the erosion of social norms, alcohol abuse (especially in low income areas) and poor parenting.
“To alter the growing rape trend there is need for robust conversation around the issue. We have since realised that such conversations have to begin in schools and then go to the general public,” he said.
He added: “School is where behaviours are shaped. In addition, most of those who commit the rapes are school dropouts. That is why it is important for us to engage learners in schools. We want to discourage learners from factors such as quitting school. Quitting could retard their ability to think about important aspects of their lives ultimately leading them to commit crimes such as rape.”
Maphephu said that collaboration within the public space is also important in the fight against rape.
“As the police, we have also started strategic collaborations with members of the public, especially influential figures in a bid to curb the rape trend in the area,” the police chief said, adding: “Rape is a societal issue within our policing area and in order to counter that we have to deconstruct the way sex in the context of rape is understood, and who has the power within sex, through comprehensive sexuality education. We cannot do that without involving members
He noted that last December the police collaborated with a media personality to host a very massive event, with the sole aim of educating residents in the village and its surroundings about rape.
Letlhakane chief Barontshi Kegapetse believes that speeding trials and imposing strict bail conditions for alleged rapists is one of the factors that can help counter rape in Letlhakane and its environs.
“There have to be strategies to make police investigations and trials faster because there are many instances where rape suspects who were granted bail breach their conditions by raping again,” he said.
Kegapetse also believes that strong collaboration between the police and other key community leaders might come in handy in the fight against rape in the village and its surrounding settlements.
“What has also led to the spike in rape cases is that there is little or no education about rape. There is need for the villagers to be educated more on the Constitution of the country as a whole because a majority of them are clueless about laws governing them which is why they end up committing crimes such as rape.”
Another concerned Rrakgongwe ward resident, Monica Seahile believes the community has a strong role to play in the fight against rape in the village and surrounding areas.
“The community should take ownership of the rape issue and assist with coming up with solutions meant to address the growing rape culture in the village. Fighting rape should not only be the responsibility of the police and advocacy groups. Collaboration is needed to win the battle.”
The 69-year-old added: “We live in fear in this village because of these rapists. What is more terrifying is that the rapes even happen in broad daylight”.
Letlhakane Village Development Committee (VDC) umbrella vice chairperson and the chairperson for Central ward Keene Keoarabile believes poor parenting is one factor that has significantly resulted in growing rape cases in the village and neighbouring settlements.
Keoarabile is among the residents who have been against escalating rape cases in the village and its surroundings. Her main concern is that some parents neglect their children, something that ultimately exposes them to rapists.
“Those who commit rape offences are usually acquaintances, friends, family members or friends to family members of victims (especially child victims). This clearly indicates that parents give little focus on creating a safe environment. If children are free from harm this will help reduce rape cases,” she said.