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A surge in violent crime



It has been more than a year since Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdowns that followed came into being. We have all learned to live with constant threat of death and sickness but one thing that we did not anticipate, or perhaps anticipated but underestimated, is the crime wave that would follow. With Covid-19 and lockdowns came retrenchments and loss of jobs and what was the general populace with no other source of income supposed to do to put bread on the table when the powers that be forced business closures with no plan? It was only a few months if not weeks when the Naleli-Khubetsoana area was fast becoming an ungovernable gangland worthy of military intervention. The reason for that was simple really. Leave a group of teenage boys alone long enough with nothing to occupy their minds and their thoughts will soon turn to crime or sex. The latter of course saw a surge in teenage pregnancies in the months following the lockdowns. Breakings and entering also saw an upward surge, people simply needed a way to feed their families. Here we are almost close to two years since the introduction of Covid-19 into our lives and Maseru has become a hijacking hotspot. The fact that people are getting hijacked at gunpoint almost daily in Maseru is all the more strange when one remembers that not even four years back hijackings were unheard of in Lesotho. There was a time when we would travel to South Africa and have to be told to lock our windows by the locals because we were too relaxed as being hijacked was not even something in our minds. Today getting hijacked at 5pm along a busy neighbourhood street has become part of everyday life. The reason again is still quite simply that without jobs, public aid or any other source of income people will always turn to crime and the crimes are getting more desperate by the day. Of course, this does not at all mean that I personally condone crime, but we cannot pretend that the recent surge in crimes happened in a vacuum. The other thing that is easy to do is simply to blame the lockdowns and business closures that followed as the sole reason for the problem. It is true that with everything that happened unemployment and poverty got worse. What is also true is that we have as a country grappled with unemployment for years. Covid-19 simply exposed how deep the problem ran and drove people to levels of desperation that we had not felt before. There is a third wave looming in the horizon, one that might lead to another lockdown if not managed correctly. If history is anything to go by, we are scarcely competent at managing Covid-19. From overly porous borders to people who simply refuse to stay out of harm’s way because they either believe themselves to be immune or because there are no actual enforcements for deviation. Of course, not everyone will suffer loss of income as a result of Covid-19 related closures but if anything can be learned from the spate of crimes that we are now dealing with, those losses are fast becoming everyone’s problem. The fact that you can be driving home from your safe and secure job at a reasonable hour and get hijacked in full view of other motorists is a reality that we must now live with because we failed, collectively, to administer the public coffers well enough. Unlike other countries where there are social grants and unemployment cheques to tide over those affected by the economic implications of Covid-19 until they find other means of income, the other means of income for the destitute is our property. I always believe our sorry administration to be a matter of collective failure. It is collective because we kept leaving our administration in hands that were less than capable long after we realised that truth. It is also made collective by the fact that even in all our individualities we never strove for integrity. We have administrators that loot because we also loot and steal and thus find it an acceptable trait. So while the fact that crime is up is squarely the fault of criminals, we cannot begin to pretend that the whole landscape of this country fosters an environment where there are people who must either steal or die. It is an environment that we have created and whose fruits we must now bitterly harvest. Sadly the time has ended when driving around in our capital was a safe exercise, we must now live with the reality that safety is a thing long past and we must therefore act accordingly. Insure our cars, property, look around and try to spot danger on every corner. Even that might not be enough in the coming years if we do not start to be more aware of who and what we let close to the public purse. Thakane Rethabile Shale

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