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Politicians must shun famo gangs



THERE is a common theme in two unrelated events that happened in recent days. The first was the brutal killing of a Mokhotlong police officer. The second was the meeting between the Minister of Home Affairs and principal chiefs to discuss ways to help families that have been displaced from their homes. Preliminary investigations indicate that the police officer was killed by famo gangs he was investigating. The villagers who were the subject of the meeting between the minister and the chiefs fled their homes because of violence unleashed by famo gangs. This is not surprising because we have always known that famo gangs are a menace in this country. By some estimates, their battles have claimed more than 100 lives in recent years. Local newspapers often publish headlines narrating the gangs’ gory crimes. At thepost, we have lost count of the number of gang related violence and murders we have reported (we have a reporter who specialises on that bit). We have written editorials imploring the government to decisively deal with the famo gangs. The public has complained and some politicians have spoken out. The police and the army have failed to put out the fires. The common excuse from the government is that it is not easy to catch the criminals because they operate in Lesotho and South Africa, easily skipping the porous borders when the other side is too hot. The police say the problem is the proliferation of illegal firearms. All those are valid explanations. The only problem is that they don’t get to the root of the problem. The real issue here is that there is no political will to go hard on the famo gangs. Political parties and politicians seem to be mollycoddling the gangs instead of punishing them. In fact, some political parties seem to crave the gangs’ support. This explains why Seakhi and Terene, the most notorious famo gangs, openly support political parties. The All Basotho Convention (ABC) recently allowed a prominent gang member to speak at its rally. The Democratic Congress (DC) openly associates with one of the gangs, treating some of their leaders like dignitaries at its rallies. These are governing parties openly hobnobbing with dangerous gangs, some of whose members are wanted for murder. It is therefore not surprising that the gang-related violence continues unabated. There seems to be a quid pro quo between political parties and the gangs. It is probably why some of the gangs persist with the violence and impunity. Their alliances with ruling parties embolden them, making members more vicious and brazen. It is one thing for parties to open their doors to everyone and quite another to willingly embrace known dangerous criminals. Such unholy alliances make it difficult for the police to break criminal gangs and arrest suspects. The ruling political parties are thus complicit in the famo gang violence. They must openly disassociate themselves with the gangs. Only then can they have the courage to go after the criminals that have terrorised people and killed many for decades. It’s about political will.

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