LESOTHO is by-and-large a relative haven in comparison to our crime-ridden neighbour South Africa. Many Basotho have found comfort in the knowledge that they can go about their business with peace of mind without being mugged in Lesotho. This is unlike South Africa where it is prudent to always look over one’s shoulder, especially if carrying valuables.
However, recent events in the Mountain Kingdom point to a disturbing trend in which criminal offences are being committed with impunity. From murders, hijackings, armed robberies and even cases of suspected arson, it seems some unruly elements are trying to catch up with the ignoble activities more synonymous with our giant neighbour.
It is heartening that elsewhere in this edition, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Keketso Monaheng has come out strongly to warn perpetrators of the full might of the law that would soon descend on them for their dastardly deeds. We couldn’t agree more with DCP Monaheng. Lesotho has enough challenges already, be it economic and political, to contend with a high crime rate.
However, this is not the first time the police have promised to deal decisively with criminal elements, and it’s unlikely to be the last. Beyond emphatic statements, what is now needed are concrete plans and actions to re-establish peace and tranquillity in the country. It goes without saying that the absence of those two components would deal a mortal blow to the tourism sector, let alone foreign direct investment.
A new tack in nipping crime in the bud is not just an urgent priority, but essential to ensuring the country’s stability.
The most common threads in these incidents of crime are the famo turf wars and politics, although other forms of delinquency are also rising. It, thus, does not require a rocket scientist to see the need for the development and implementation of an intelligence-driven, integrated and comprehensive crime prevention strategy to ensure the famo wars are not allowed to continue wreaking havoc. Too many young and productive lives have been lost in this senseless war and the police need to employ a new approach to nip this menace in the bud.
Cases of shootings remain high because, for so long, Basotho have been able to access firearms smuggled from South Africa through the porous border. While the police deserve commendation for going after people illegally possessing firearms, more needs to be done to ensure guns are only in the hands of law-abiding and responsible citizens. A strategy to address substance abuse is also in order since the scourge plays a significant role in the prevalence of serious and violent crime in the country.
On the political front, the police can ill-afford to be perceived as biased in favour of any political parties. The police is a national institution and a refuge of all this country’s inhabitants regardless of political persuasion, and the LMPS needs to be seen as non-partisan in the discharge of their duties. All cases of crime need to be investigated to finality so that there is no perception of favouritism.
To operate effectively, the police would also need to create formal and informal partnerships with communities, business, labour, traditional authorities, the faith sector and indeed all sectors of society.
Only if the police are perceived as professional can the various sectors of society lend a hand and forge constructive bonds with the LMPS in eradicating the scourge of crime and building a more prosperous, safe and secure nation.
The LMPS also needs to be brought into the 21st century to keep up with criminals who are evolving by the day. It might be an expensive undertaking, but it would be well worth the effort considering the number of lives that have and continue to be lost.
With the Easter holiday upon us, it is also imperative for the police to increase visibility with focused patrolling of urban centres, villages and highways informed by identified crime tendencies and patterns. More importantly is the need for our law enforcement agency to respond promptly to calls for assistance as a deterrent to would-be perpetrators and to save the lives of victims.
Here’s hoping we will all have a happy and crime-free Easter holiday.