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We are no longer safe

by Lesotho Times
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ON Sunday, the managing director of Sun Bakery, formerly known as Astoria Bakery, was kidnapped from his home by unknown gunmen.

A few hours later Thabo Phohleli’s lifeless body was found dumped along Phuthiatsana River.

He was only 40.

His killers have not been arrested.

Two days earlier a member of the United States Peace Corps was also gunned down in Maseru.

His killers have also not been arrested.

The killers of the two men have succeeded in sending a message to all of us — no one is safe.

That’s a chilling prospect.

The killers have succeeded in smashing the myth that Maseru is a haven of peace and stability.

We are convinced that these murders are a mere microcosm of what is happening around the country.

Numerous other murders are quietly taking place elsewhere.

When life is snuffed out in such violent manner we are certainly justified to ask about the direction this country is taking.

We expect the authorities to provide answers and reassure everyone about their safety.

It cannot be business as usual.

We expect the government and law enforcement agencies to rise to the occasion and deal with the scourge of violent crime.

Sadly, statistics about the number people who are violently murdered in Lesotho are not readily available.

We would like to believe this is not a deliberate attempt by the state to create a “black-out” on crime statistics in a ploy to paint a rosy picture about the state of the nation.

We would like to believe there has been a surge in crime if the stories that we carry every week are anything to go by.

The weekly briefings that we have with the police paint a gory picture of a violent society that is at war with itself.

We have nurtured citizens who have no respect for human life.

This needs to be reversed.

While Lesotho may not be the most violent place on earth outside a war zone, the crime wave shows we indeed have a problem on our hands.

The violent killings should give the authorities something to think about.

Basotho must demand answers from the government of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.

It is our right to demand that the government clamp down on violent crime.

In fact, we are of the opinion that fighting crime should be top of the government’s agenda.

It should be a key election issue for the next general election in 2012.

But the government cannot fight crime unless it first understands the reasons behind the surge in violence.

This means the government should start compiling credible statistics on crime.

Based on these statistics, the government can subject the crime data to rigorous scientific analysis in the search for remedies.

Admittedly the government cannot address the issue of violent crime without addressing the socio-economic conditions that are feeding it.

It must deal with the rampant poverty gripping the majority of our youths who are jobless.

This means creating jobs for the youth to take them off the streets.

This means creating an enabling environment for business, whether foreign or local, to create jobs.

Crime is a by-product of poverty.

The government can only fight crime by comprehensively addressing the issue of poverty.

Our policing strategies are also in need of a jerk-up.

We need better-trained police officers to investigate and ensure that criminals are successfully prosecuted.

Too often we have seen the police bungling investigations leading to criminals literally getting away with murder.

The judiciary must also co-operate in this fight.

The courts must ensure that all cases involving violent crime are expeditiously handled.

This has not been happening.

We still have our courts dealing with murder cases that happened in the early 1990s.

Some of the suspects have long since died.

This does not instil confidence in the justice delivery system.

In fact, it encourages victims to take the law into their own hands in pursuit of justice.

Only when the police reclaim the communities from the violent thugs lurking in the dark alleys of our villages will we sleep in peace.

We need to feel safe in our communities.

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