OME years ago a Mosotho woman was lynched by a group of Basotho women in a shop owned by a South African company.
The people’s reaction was as tragic as the incident.
People said: “Lets burn all foreign-owned shops in Lesotho”.
And indeed some foreign-owned shops were burnt and looted while their owners fled for their dear lives.
Let’s recap: a group of Basotho women kill a Mosotho woman in a South African-owned shop and people burn and loot foreign-owned shops.
That absurd story happened when Scrutator was still learning to wear a bra (tricky technique that one) but she was reminded of it last week when she stumbled upon an equally bizarre statement from the army.
The army issued the forceful statement after 10 people were injured during violent clashes between Democratic Congress (DC) members and opposition supporters on Thursday.
“Therefore the LDF will hit very hard on those who instigate violence to destabilise peace,” said the statement.
It was a powerful statement laden with subtle threats that were couched as warnings.
Let’s recap: Ten people are injured at a political gathering and the army threatens to cock its guns. Phew!
o how is the incident of the 1990s related to the army’s strong statement last Friday?
Well, both were dramatic overreactions to unfortunate incidents that the police were perfectly capable of dealing with.
Both were an arrogation of a responsibility bestowed on the police by the constitution.
In the incident of the 1990s the public arrogated itself the police’s duty to deal with a crime.
In last week’s statement the army seemed to arrogate itself the police’s duty to maintain law and order.
Both incidents were driven by a refusal to allow logic to get in the way of emotions.
ut the similarities of the incidents end there.
The big difference between the incidents is that while one involved an emotionally charged mob the other involved a sophisticated organisation called the army.
The way the mob reacted in the 1990s’ incident can be forgiven because it was just a mob driven by its anger against foreigners and, perhaps, many other things.
A mob’s reaction is normally spontaneous.
But we can’t say the same about the army’s reaction to the violent clashes of last week.
The army should never be emotional about things.
Every move it makes must be calculated and thoroughly thought through. That is why Scrutator was alarmed when she read statements like “hit very hard” and “will not be tolerated”.
The statement was as premature as it was misdirected.
irst, it’s prematurity. You see, the police haven’t said they have failed to deal with the situation and they have not asked for “boots” from the barracks to hit the street.
In other words, the situation has not reached a stage when we need a strong word from the barracks.
True, 10 people were injured at a political rally but it’s nothing the police cannot deal with.
The situation got out of hand simply because the police went there unprepared.
They went to a rally like they were attending a wedding.
This was despite the fact that some opposition supporters had warned that they were up to some high jinks.
Scrutator is told that when the fighting started some of the few police officers took to their heels.
I won’t call them cowards because it would have been recklessness of the highest order to fight an angry mob when you are outnumbered and “outgunned”.
What do you do when you are confronted by a violent mob wielding sticks and stones while all you have are your bare hands and a police hat?
Still that incident should not be misinterpreted to mean that the police have failed to deal with political violence.
Their inability to anticipate what happened in Thetsane is a matter for another column but for now Scrutator refuses to believe that we are at a stage when the police should be regarded as helpless when it comes to dealing with political violence.
For that reason Scrutator believes the army jumped the gun when it issued that statement.
crutator strongly believes that the statement was misdirected because the army was addressing an issue that does not fall under its jurisdiction.
You see, in times of peace the army’s role is to defend the country from external threats and keep quiet.
If there is a national disaster soldiers can help but they do so as invited extra hands and not leaders.
They are invited not as specialists but as just extra hands that happen not to be busy with their core business of combat.
Matters of law and order remain the responsibility of the police. Of course the military can intervene in times of serious internal strife but so far Scrutator has not seen anything to suggest there is such a thing in this country.
That is why Scrutator is suggesting that the soldiers drink some water and cool down.
If, in the meantime, they want something more rigorous than dealing with administrative and welfare issues, Scrutator suggests that they help build bridges and roads in the rural areas.
Or they can run some agricultural projects in the rural areas to help feed the many orphans we have in this country. After all, they are the people who are trained to ignore physical pain.
have not forgotten about the political zealots who caused the mayhem at Thetsane last week.
They were way out of line.
If they are so passionate about this election they must organise their own campaign rallies.
Political parties must urge their supporters to behave themselves before their tails grow too long.
Those rowdy supporters need to have their wings clipped before it’s too late.
The political leaders of those fanatics accused of instigating the violence must do more than just disown their mobs.
If they are the ones instigating these fights then they must be warned to keep their ruffian crews under a tight leash.
Yes Scrutator has just described those people as ruffians and she doesn’t give a hoot what the ruffians and their masters will say.
Unlike the DC people who are trying to portray themselves as angels under attack Scrutator can be a thug to people who behave like thugs.
No one has a monopoly over violence.
If someone tries to do anything funny to Scrutator they will get the beating of their lives.
I leave you with a message from Proverbs 18 verse six which says: “When some fool starts an argument, he is asking for a beating”.