We normalise lawlessness

We normalise lawlessness

Whilst preparing to write this opinion piece last Saturday, I stumbled across something that caught my attention named the boiling frog syndrome.
It says there is a fascinating 19th century science experiment that was once conducted. As the story goes, researchers found that when they placed a frog in a pan of boiling water, the frog just quickly jumped out. 

On the other hand, when they put a frog in cold water and put the water to boil over time, the frog just boiled to death. The hypothesis is that the change in temperature is so gradual, the frog does not realise it’s boiling to death.

The frog keeps on adjusting to the change in temperature but doesn’t quiet realise that it is dying. This syndrome resonates with a character trait I always observe in Basotho people.

If there is a character trait that I admire about Basotho it is the one named tolerance. Basotho have a high tolerance level. In Sesotho we say, bana le sefuba…. (you might as well complete the rest of the sentence).
Basotho people are able to withstand even the most uncomfortable of circumstances such as a Prime Minister that keeps on postponing his retirement or a first lady that runs government as she wishes.

But if you look closely into this character trait, you will realise that Basotho are more accommodating to mediocrity (lawlessness). They know how to acclimatise to “boiling water” and normalise an uncomfortable or awkward situation.

I remember a time I had a conversation with one gentleman nick-named Ntate Stebo, at a local Herbalife Club. Ntate Stebo made a remark that Basotho never compete in high jump at the Olympics.
Ntate Stebo said according to his observation, one of the reasons could be that Basotho generally set the bar too low in their lives. They never aim high. So high jump would be a senseless sport to contest in at the Olympics.
Well, even though the comment was made to make us laugh, which indeed we did, there was an element of truth in the statement and allow me to demonstrate how.

I want to paint a picture of two examples of how Basotho have allowed lawlessness to consume part of their day-to-day lives. Of-course, not negating a disgusting habit that has somehow become a form of a national sport and it is called passing water or urinating in public, to be blunt.
This habit has become so common and so normal to a point where Basotho do not see anything wrong with it. I always see grown up men taking a pee on the fence of the Cathedral (RCC) in open view of school kids from St. Bernadette or St. James Primary School.

Some of those men, I nearly called them perverts, have created another open view toilet along the fence of the AME Church, on Kingsway Road. I don’t know why churches fall victim to this behaviour but it has simply become acceptable.

Apparently, the Maseru City Council still does not have City By-laws to govern that behaviour. Well, maybe because the behaviour is so common so much that it has been overlooked. However, it must be outlawed especially when it comes to children.

Lawlessness has become part of our DNA in Lesotho. An obvious observation is the way we drive in Lesotho and of-course, not forgetting a cancer named corruption. The standard of driving in Lesotho has deteriorated to the lowest level ever, more so by the 4+1 drivers.

4 + 1 taxis have become a nuisance. Most of them speed, the drivers are rude and most often intoxicated and the vehicles are not road-worthy. It is a mess. I don’t think the government has control anymore. The 4+1 taxi industry is a law unto itself. That’s the reason why the 4+1 taxis are called cockroaches (maphele).

You know, when a 4+1 taxi gets a mechanical breakdown in the road, it is repaired right there and then, in the middle of the road. Other motorists will have to make peace with the situation and try to avert the situation.   
There are lots of contributing factors to lawless behaviour such as lack of regulations/by-laws, lack of enforcement, citizens that choose not to be law-abiding citizens, lack of education and of-late, a compromised judicial system (judiciary). Our judiciary in Lesotho has been reduced to shambles.
I want to quickly jump into two examples of how Basotho have normalised lawlessness.

There is a billboard structure that has been “dumped” along Kingsway Road, in front of the Basotho hat. I regard this as a spit in the face of the authorities.
The story goes that a South African based multinational advertising company was in the process of erecting a billboard in front of the Basotho Hat building. Unfortunately, the foundation was dug inside the road reserve of Kingsway Road and there were plans to expand the road as part of the Mpilo Boulevard road improvement/upgrade.

From what I understand the multinational company had a permit from Maseru City Council, however the road belongs to the Roads Directorate. So, an official from the Roads Directorate ordered a halt on the construction of the billboard citing that the billboard did not have a permit.
But one of the main reasons was that the billboard foundation was constructed in a road reserve where the road had to be expanded into. Construction of the billboard was interrupted halfway into the process.

When the advertising company was ordered to stop, like a spoiled brat, it decided to “dump” the incomplete structure in front of a national monument. It was a case of, “if you won’t allow me to do as I wish, then I’ll just throw my toys out of the cot”.
This was sometime in 2018 and it has been two years. Now, the question is, how can someone be allowed to disregard the laws of a country in such a manner. Well, some people will argue and say, “What laws”?
Would a person be allowed to do the same thing and just dump a billboard in front of the Union Buildings? Of-course not. It would result in immediate arrest. So, why have Basotho normalised the situation?

Why doesn’t the City Council or the Roads Directorate take a blowtorch, dismantle and recycle that steel now that the owner said it’s his way or the highway? This is a clear case of lawlessness but the authorities seem to have normalised the situation.
It looks like building in the road reserve has become some sort of a norm in this country. Take a look at what is happening in Borokhoaneng. A blatant disregard to the rule of law!

Buildings are built right in the road-reserve and trucks off-load goods from the main road. But, the situation has been normalised even though it causes mayhem. No, Basotho have decided to adjust and live with the situation and life goes on.
Lastly, one of our policewomen became an instant celebrity when she posted a video, instructing fellow civilians to stay home and observe lockdown regulations. The video was clearly taken in the car whilst the policewoman was driving around the Cathedral circle.

What made the video funny was the manner in which she told civilians of how essential workers like her, were the only ones allowed to drive around in town. Also all other people should stay home. Civilians were referred to as Bazalwani. The cherry on top was her closing comment that went something like, “halashuuu”.

Now, the video did not have a problem had the poor policewoman observed a few rules. Number one, she was in make-up and lipstick whilst in full police uniform. I remember seeing one comment that said, doesn’t the policewoman observe His Majestry’s Crown (korone ea Motlotlehi), referring to the National Police emblem on the cap.

Secondly, the policewoman was clearly shooting a video whilst driving. Whether there are by-laws that regulate the use cell-phones whilst driving or not, it is not only wrong to shoot a video whilst driving but very dangerous.

You see, the world will always be harsh when it comes to policemen and women because they are the ones held accountable to protect the law. They are custodians of the law. So, they will always face harsh criticism when they are in the forefront of violating the law. In a similar manner to the way the Minister of Police was highly criticised.

Like in the syndrome of the boiling frog, Basotho people are very accommodating and know how to adjust. Some of the Facebook comments defended the policewoman because she looked beautiful in her make up and was just simply funny.

But what does the law say about the conduct of policemen and women? Should we bend the law in order to be accommodating to comedy?
As a closing comment, laws are made to set basic standards and boundaries in which people have to abide by. They are also made to regulate the way of life. A lawless nation does a great injustice to itself because no one can ever invest in a lawless state. Investors are very sensitive towards lawlessness.

We have to learn to fix the small things. It is in the small things that we learn to adjust our behaviour and move in the right path. However, I still maintain that the Covid-19 aftermath is yet to give us very harsh lessons. The question is, will we ever overcome our bad habits?

‘Mako Bohloa

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