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Death penalty debate disingenuous



Living in Lesotho these past few months has been a little rough. With a murder every other day, well at least the publicity thereof because to be honest the murder rate has always been high but now it is just being highly publicised. The solution according to the powers that be is to implement capital punishment which on the face of it seems like the government is finally taking a hard stand on an issue that has made the public live in fear for years now. The fact that this seemingly “hard crackdown” comes just when election season is about to begin may just of course be a coincidence. At no time during the past decade has the death penalty been so lauded in the Mountain Kingdom. Perhaps this spur to put the death penalty firmly on the table has been due to the recent rise in femicide and other gruesome murders in the country. One person who has spoken on this is the Prime Minister Mokoetsi Majoro who called for the implementation of the death penalty. While many echo his sentiments the truth is calling for the death penalty to be carried out is no more than fanfare that does not really address or solve any problems. To start with to carry out any sort of penalty or sentence one must first be convicted. In a country with a backlog of murder cases, some spanning over ten years, there is a bigger chance that a suspect would die of natural causes way before any death sentence is carried out. The problem with Lesotho’s murder rate is not that capital punishment is not carried out. Ranking at number six in the world in terms of murder rates, Lesotho is fast becoming one of the most unsafe places to live. The fact that in recent weeks police officers are also high on the list of murder victims just proves how much lawlessness is abounding in the country. Much of these murders go unsolved for years with no suspects ever arrested. Not that an arrest generally leads to justice in any case. Suspects can gain bail at ease and for cheap. The current bail for murder cases ranks at just M1 000, it is actually more expensive to have a decent meal and drinks at a restaurant than to roam the streets after murder in this place. The factors contributing to this have very little to do with the sentence carried but largely due to underfunding of both the police and judiciary. How are police officers who sometimes do not have the lights on during night shift expected to solve complex murder cases? Lack of vehicles to go to the crime scenes, and a general air of dejectedness abound among those who are supposed to be providing citizens with protection. The situation is even worse when in the courts of law. There is a dire shortage of judges. There has been need to appoint new judges for years now but only two were appointed, with those in charge citing budget constraints. These appointments do not even mean anything as all it did was just replace those who had either died or retired so the shortage remains. So, to get a suspect arrested remains a problem. Even when that suspect has been detained the chances are he will get bail for a paltry sum. Assuming the suspect does not skip the country as our borders are incredibly porous it will still take years for the case to actually be heard in court. So, ten or twelve years later when the case is actually heard, then and only then would this much lauded death penalty be handed. Of course, people who have been sentenced to die are rarely killed the very next day which still leaves space for numerous appeals. So, while the death penalty being called out seems like a scary prospect in theory there is very little that such threat would help curb the rising rates of murders in Lesotho. What the Prime Minister should be doing is making the judiciary and police more effective and that can only happen if they are well funded and well-staffed. No number of theatrical announcements is going to deter criminals from murder when they know they will be long dead before that case ever gets to the courtroom. It is actually both disingenuous and dishonest to promise the public a death penalty when the basics of the components of access to justice are still being denied to them. Thakane Rethabile Shale

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