WOMEN in Matelile in the Mafeteng district have declared war on criminals and appealed to the government to consider imposing the death penalty to punish offenders and deter like-minded people from criminal activities.
The women said this at a recent public gathering in Matelile that was also attended by some cabinet ministers, the commissioner of police Holomo Molibeli, senior police officers from the district as well as members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).
According to the Death Penalty Worldwide website, Lesotho reported to the United Nations Human Rights Council that its last execution was carried out in 1995.
However, the Mafeteng women have called for the courts to impose the death sentence as punishment and deterrent after a spate of murders that have rocked the district in recent years.
A spokesperson of the women, Mamikia Nkonyana, said they were frustrated and devastated by the killings and criminal activities in Matelile and nearby areas that robbed them of breadwinners and destroyed the futures of their children.
Ms Nkonyana said the judgements appeared to be very lenient to criminals, adding that the death penalty must be imposed to stem the tide of killings.
“To the best of my knowledge, we have the death penalty in Lesotho which the government should impose to bring the offenders to book,” Ms Nkonyana said.
“I’m very sure that if one or two people could be hanged after being found guilty of murder or rape, this would instill fear and deter others from killing people. Surely the murder statistics would go down.
“The people who kill today do so because they have familiarised themselves with the justice system of Lesotho and they have learned that they justice system is very slow and lenient on them even as they kill and commit other crimes.
“The killings have gone on for many years and as women we have been standing back doing nothing. We have too many corpses of the victims of the killings in our graveyards. The gun continues to finish off our children and mess up the future of this country.
“The time is now as women to stand up against the killings that we are faced with in Matelile and the entire Mafeteng district. This (killings) seem to be a virus that has spread in the district and if we don’t fight it now it is going to finish us” Ms Nkonyana said.
Speaking at the same gathering, the Minister of Justice and Correctional Affairs, Mokhele Moletsane, said he understood the community’s frustrations as the court processes seemed to drag for long periods. He said the judiciary needed to be reformed so that it could expedite trials to ensure justice was done.
He said that the issue of the death penalty was controversial and the general international feeling was that it should be abolished.
He however, said that the government was sympathetic to the concerns of the public and as such the death penalty would remain for the foreseeable future. He did not provide a timeframe as to when the government would ensure the death penalty was imposed.
“The death sentence is a debate at the international level and we still uphold it as a country because murders are being committed at an alarming rate in the country and to ours is to ensure that the public is protected,” Mr Moletsane said.
For his part, the Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Mofokeng Kolo, said the police worked tirelessly to prevent crime, protect the community and take suspects to court.
ACP Kolo said it was unfortunate that beyond investigating, apprehending suspects and taking them to court, the police could not do anything else but leave it to the courts to pronounce judgements. He said it was necessary for the laws to be reviewed as suspects often got bail and this caused great bitterness in the community when suspects were freed days after being arrested.