Lesotho: a kingdom in the jungle?

Lesotho: a kingdom in the jungle?

Lesotho, by virtue of being a member of the African Union, is a signatory to the African Union Agenda 2030: The Africa We Want. This document is driven by seven aspirations. The two that I have interest in are, “an Africa of good governance, democracy and respect for human rights” and “a peaceful and secure Africa.”
These two aspirations seem to tie in with what Lesotho is trying to achieve with its Vision 2020 and currently the national reforms programme even though what is happening on the ground seems to point in a different direction.

There is an old adage that says charity begins at home. This means before going out and doing things for others, we must begin in our own homes. For Lesotho, this means if she is to effectively and meaningfully contribute towards a peaceful Africa that respects human rights, she must first do that in her own backyard.
Unfortunately, what is happening in Lesotho points to a different direction. We are living in a country where killings of people have become a favourite activity for others. We have lost count of people that have died in police custody or have been killed by fellow villagers who no longer have trust in our legal system. In a way, Lesotho is slowly turning into a jungle.
Chetan Mane once stipulated that the first rule of the jungle is, “hunt before they hunt you.” True to the words of Mane, Basotho have now made it their mission to hunt for alleged criminals. Vigilantism is now the new law in our beautiful Mountain Kingdom.

In July, about three people were killed in the Mosalemane area for allegedly killing a woman for ritual purposes. The villagers hunted and killed the two suspects in Mosalemane while the third victim was killed in neighbouring South Africa.
In another incident, the villagers of Tsoapo-le-Bolila a week ago killed two men. These men had allegedly killed a factory worker around Ha Tsolo. Unfortunately they met their fate in the form of mob justice as they tried to run away. These are just a few examples of the acts where people have decided to take the law into their own hands.

Basotho have had enough of the incompetence displayed by our judiciary and the whole legal fraternity. Cases take far too long to be prosecuted. The most unfortunate part is that sometimes witnesses die before the victims are accorded justice. This is perhaps the reason why they want to urgently “deal” with those that have wronged them.
The latest turn of events that is also likely to delay justice in Lesotho, especially for the poor, is the new policy that the government has put into place. According to this policy, the next of kin of a deceased who has to undergo a post-mortem, now have to pay the full fee for the pathologist. On top of that, forensics are taking forever to be sent to South Africa as the government does not have money to pay for the results.
The implication of this is that even those who can afford to pay the pathologists will still not know what happened to their deceased as it is not known when the samples would make it to the laboratory in South Africa.

The samples might even be destroyed and become unusable due to poor storage. Or worse, they may even disappear. In both cases, this would compromise investigations into the case. That situation may lead to the stalling of the case and result in the delay of justice.
There is something that needs to happen and it should happen quickly for justice to prevail and human rights to be respected in Lesotho. It is unbecoming that our courts can spend the whole night deliberating on a political case but take centuries on a murder case.

It is also a very disturbing trend that the bulk of the funds meant for the judiciary are spent on hiring foreign judges to preside on cases of a political nature that should have been dealt with amicably. Lesotho appears to prioritise political cases over those of murder, rape and corruption that affect the ordinary people.
The time is also now for the police and prosecution to treat cases with the seriousness and professionalism they deserve. We need to live in a peaceful and serene Lesotho that is governed by the rule of law.

Kelello Rakolobe

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