Soldiers for hire

Soldiers for hire

MUCKRAKER is still recovering from the terrible dinner she ate at a local upmarket hotel on Christmas day. True, the food was edible but hotels are not in the business of making food that passes that easy test. That is the standard of Muckraker’s mother in Mafube.

Hotels should focus on pleasing the taste buds, not loading tummies. The hotel seems to be now in the business of catering at funerals where people are too heartbroken to mind the taste of food.
The meat tasted like rubber. The vegetables looked like they had been cooked in January 2018. It was a hotchpotch of tosh masquerading as dinner. You winced as you chewed what they called starters.

The dessert was vile (at least the waiters are still decent people).
Muckraker will tell you today that she will never sleep at the hotel again. Even if it’s the only available hotel Muckraker would rather sleep in a tree than endure what they serve as food.
If theirs is their only food Muckraker would rather join cows in the pastures.
We all know that the hotel would never serve such crap at any other hotel in the world. They do it in Lesotho because we don’t have standards.

Muckraker has a funny story to tell about the police. Here it goes. Mapoteng is Lesotho’s matekoane field. They make the most potent weed in those valleys. So it was no surprise that the police recently caught one villager with three bags of dagga.
They shoved him and his contraband into the back of a bakkie and drove to Maseru. But along the way the man decided he was not going to do time for owning bags of a weed everyone owned and smoked. So he pushed the bags out of the moving car.

By the time they got to Peka the man was banging on the window, demanding to speak to the police officers. Irritated, the officers stopped the car and asked why the suspect was being silly.
The man calmly explained that he didn’t know why the police were taking him to Maseru.
“Ntate, stop trying to be clever. We caught you with three bags of matekoane,” said one of the officers.

“You lie officer! Where are the matekoane bags you are talking about,” asked the man, now confident that he had gotten rid of the exhibit.
The officers realised they had been played but did not seem overly concerned.

“Oh, so you threw out your matekoane. Just wait and see,” said one of the officers as they got back into the car.
They drove to Khubetsoana where they passed through one of the officer’s house. There they loaded ten bags of matekoane into the car and drove to the central police station.
They then tortured him until he admitted that he owned the ten bags.

But the police were not content with extracting his ‘confession’. That night they brought the suspect’s wife, father and chief to the police station for torture.
The wife was being clobbered for sleeping with a matekoane grower, the father for raising a matekoane trader and the chief for allowing the land to be used to grow matekoane.
By last week the police were looking for the suspect’s goats and cows. You can be sure that those animals will be tortured until they agree to be witnesses in the man’s trial.
They should admit that their shepherd was paid with drug money. They have to tell the judge that indeed they ate good fodder because their owner is a drug dealer.

The man’s nyatsi is also on the run. The police want to know why she was receiving gifts from a drug dealer. That might sound like an outlandish story but such things happen in Lesotho. They have to happen because we have some of the most vicious officers in the world.

Ironically, it is such brutal officers who get promoted up the ranks. You can be sure that police officers who pummelled villagers in Kao will be rewarded with good ranks. They have to be rewarded because they are doing exactly what Uncle Tom instructed.
He said police must beat suspects. So now they are always in the hunt for suspects to flog. That’s how we roll as a country.

Defence Minister, Tefo Mapesela, is a man on a mission to redefine the word ‘outrageous’.
And he is doing a splendid job of it. One day he was telling soldiers to shoot to kill criminals. The next he was meting instant justice to people whose cattle had strayed into his wheat field.
Muckraker will not say much on his instigation of soldiers because he was preaching to the converted. Our soldiers are already killing. Perhaps we should give Mapesela kudos for telling them to kill ‘criminals’ because that might stop them from killing innocent people.

In any case, there is always a chance that if the instruction is to kill criminals they would start within their own ranks because the army is overflowing with criminals.
Muckraker is not trying to justify the minister’s silly comments but to put them into some context. Someone has to make sense of this madness. It’s impossible to believe that there is no method in such tomfoolery.
It’s too deliberate and elaborate to be a mistake.

The truth is that nothing the minister says changes the sad reality that ours is an unprofessional and trigger-happy force. Nyoe, nyoe, nyoe SADC reforms! My foot!
None of our soldiers have been in real combat so they take every minor dispute as a war.
That’s why most of the fights between soldiers and civilians are triggered by minor issues.

He called my mother names, insulted my girlfriend, he stole my woman, he said soldiers are illiterate and blah, blah, blah.
If you want to confirm that our army is beyond repair or reform look at how Mapesela used some of them as bulldogs in his fight with some villagers.
The story, as told by villagers, is that some naughty herd boys let loose their cattle into Mapesela’s wheat field.

Muckraker was not there but she can assume that the boys were dancing while their animals munched the minister’s wheat. It’s possible that one of them might have said they were merely giving their animals a merry Christmas.
Having herded cattle in Mafube, Muckraker knows that herd boys are a malicious and unrefined lot that act and then think later.

It might not be a wild exaggeration to speculate that one of the boys could have quipped that their animals where having Mapesela’s bread. It was wrong and cannot be condoned but the minister’s reaction stole the whole cake.
He is said to have loaded a battalion of soldiers into a truck and took them to the villagers who sired or employed the rascals. There he acted as both judge and prosecutor to extract the justice he thought he deserved.

He is alleged to have strolled to each kraal and demanded instant compensation.
If a villager had 15 beasts he would take four. Those with five were ordered to surrender two.

By the end of those sham ‘hearings’ Mapesela had a whole herd.
Those who tried to protest were told to remember that the air they breathe doesn’t come from balimo. The minister could say that because he had brought armed soldiers who had guns that could send any villager yonder. So here are the lessons from this spectacle of an event.

One, anyone who claims that Lesotho is a democracy is an unmitigated idiot. Two, anyone who says our army can be reformed has a morsel of manure in their head.
Three, Mapesela has potential to be Uncle Tom’s problem child. Four, nothing changes in this country. Five, we should be very afraid because we have entered a new era were politicians have unbridled control over the army.
Six, we are just but servants in our own country and there is nothing we can do about it.

Seven, Mapesela is not the main course but pudding we are enjoying from a rotten system. Of course, there will be some who will say the villagers deserve what they got because they allowed their herd boys to be silly.
They are right but they forget that the issue is not whether the herd boys were wrong or right.
What is detestable is the manner in which the minister got his justice. Mapesela would not have done the same thing if he didn’t have the army’s support. The villagers would have spanked him down valleys and up hills.

As fair process could still have found that the minister deserved some compensation for his wheat but Muckraker doubts that the reparations would have been of such hefty magnitude. There is a reason why victims are not allowed to act as judges in their own cases.

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