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Mobile court – good idea, at the wrong time



THE unsanitary, overcrowded mobile court known as IVECO is an incubator for Covid-19 that has so far killed more than 19 people nationwide. I have followed the IVECO and when it is operational it exposes Basotho to greater vulnerability to the virus. It is unfortunate that these conditions have not prompted the government to adopt alternatives to traffic compliance. The issue of this IVECO has made quite a frenzy on social media, and has become somewhat of a joke with people warning others of the location of the vehicle on their timelines and in groups. Facebook is littered with pictures of this vehicle telling others of its whereabouts and there are even groups specifically meant to track the mobile court. This online whistleblowing works such that if for example the IVECO is spotted at Temong, drivers that would have seen it would likely use an alternate route such as Lakeside, to go from Khubetsoana to town. Well this article isn’t about the traffic and congestion this initiative is bound to cause, but rather about the incorrectness of its timing and the general discontent, danger and inconvenience it is bound to cause. Most of the posts I have come across on social media are often lighthearted and mischievous. However, they speak to a dissatisfaction that stems deep and a lack of acceptance of this initiative in the present time. Amidst the humour of tracking the IVECO, there is also a general resistance and confusion over the laws, processes and timing, the mobile court was implemented. Just the other day I was reading posts and comments of people educating one another on the fines the IVECO is entitled to give, and the circumstances that validate these, as well as the rights and options drivers have, if faced with a fine. It also dawned on me that a lot of people were not only confused, but had little comprehension on the activities to be undertaken by the mobile court. I found myself thinking if people shouldn’t be sensitized and educated on this initiative before it is implemented? Especially considering that it isn’t an anomaly for our police to use their authority, and the citizens’ ignorance of the law to make a quick buck. Another factor to be taken into consideration is whether the IVECO is not a vehicle that will drive the spread of the Covid-19. Largely due to the fact that the mobile court cannot function in the absence of interaction between officers and road users, as face-to-face interaction and touching surfaces is necessary, even when drivers are being questioned and vehicles searched. Furthermore this is interaction that every driver on the road has the likelihood of encountering the checks on motor vehicles which are random, unlike with instances whereby a driver is stopped only because of a suspected offence, or all other services open to which they visit only when there are reasons that compel them. During this time in which there is an advocacy for people to limit physical interaction, does it make sense to initiate that which necessitates interaction between officers working in the mobile court, and every citizen they encounter on the road? Again let us imagine how many people an officer assigned to this driving this task can expose, if they are infected with the virus? I also wonder whether the government can ensure that this vehicle is constantly fumigated and its officers are provided with protective gear, and sanitation, taking into account that there are still complaints about the lack of adequate precautionary tools to counter Covid-19, even in services that have long been declared essential. We should also take into account that there is nothing normal regarding the current state of affairs in our country, as the restrictions put in place to curb the spread of Covid-19 have rendered many jobless. These restrictions have had negative implications on establishments such as schools, restaurants, pubs and the entertainment industry. This has caused a lot of businesses to either cut down on staff and working hours or even close down completely. Moreover the closure of borders has had negative implications on businesses that import and sell goods from outside the country, as it is either too costly or impossible to fetch their wares from across the border. In addition precautions against the spread of Covid-19 such as social distancing, ensure people that go to businesses are at a minimal, as it is meant to counter crowding. This automatically results in a decline in the number of customers in such establishments, which in turn prompts these businesses to cut down on staff, as there are fewer clients to cater to. All these conditions ought to prove it difficult for a country such as ours, which is already plagued by high unemployment, even in the absence of Covid-19. Other than the emphasis to stay home and social distancing, the strong kinship ties we have as Basotho ensure that even those who are fortunate enough to retain their jobs, do not have the luxury to dine. This is due to the fact that they have to bear the brunt of supporting family and friends who have lost their livelihoods. I mean how do you enjoy a nice lunch out, when you know your neighbour or immediate family might knock on your door in need of basic foodstuffs? Indeed these are hard times, and this is further exacerbated by the fact that there has been a considerable increase in the price of food, over the past few months. Furthermore despite giving a small allowance to factory workers the government hasn’t done enough to alleviate suffering of our people as a direct result of this pandemic. All these factors beckon the question: Is it fair to impose an initiative that brings new a cost for a nation, already reeling from economic repercussions brought on by curfews and restrictions as citizens are expected to incur costs to buy triangles and fire extinguishers that they never prioritized, or risk being fined? This has created a general perception amongst people that ours is a government that is slow to respond to their plight during this unfortunate time, yet they seem rather enthusiastic to take money from them, under the guise they are bringing law and order. However, it isn’t everyone that is against the mobile court, as some argue this is warranted as it upholds law and order. Proponents of the IVECO suggest it will correct longstanding complaints by the public that we share our roads with cars that have no business being there, as they have inadequate paper work and they breach safety conditions. Furthermore they claim the money the mobile court collects through fines, is revenue that can be used to ensure the upkeep of our roads. However, these suggestions fail to answer the lingering question of, why now? Moreover even if the mobile court might be a commendable initiative, the timing to implement it is still off, considering our current economic conditions. Lastly, doesn’t this bid to ensure road safety, not put the public in danger of contracting Covid-19? I mean we have learnt to live with our questionable traffic system all these years, but Covid-19 is a whole new ball game. Surely the problems the mobile court aims to remedy can wait until we have gotten a grip around the new phenomenon that is Covid-19. It is also only sensible that during this time, the government puts its endeavors on hold like all of its citizens, especially if these plans are problematic to fighting this pandemic. Ramahooana matlosa

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