Faith leaders call for national month of prayer
Seek divine intervention to curb escalating killings
MASERU – Growing crime rate in the country, in which people are assaulted, raped and murdered is so alarming that religious leaders have appealed for a month of national prayer. According to latest reports published by the Bureau of Statistics (BOS), the between January 1 to December 31, 2020, the Lesotho Mounted Police Services (LMPS) recorded 898 murders in the country, which averages 2.5 murders daily, at the rate of 44.7 murders per 100 000 people based on the 2016 population census.
The international homicide average rate is seven per 100 000, putting Lesotho in the top six of the most murderous countries in the world. According to the ranking of the most dangerous countries in the world in 2021, by murder rate per 100 000 inhabitants, El Salvador was the most dangerous country worldwide, with a murder rate of 82.84 per 100 000. The ranking was published recently by Statista, a German company specialising in market and consumer data.
In July last year, it was reported that South Africa had a rate of 35.8 murders per 100 000 people. Commentators who spoke to Public Eye in recent interviews say the alarming murder rate was probably the consequence of a combination of factors such as declining police performance and high levels of police corruption. Results of the Afro Barometer survey published in 2019 revealed that police and business executives were perceived by Lesotho citizens as the most corrupt categories of officials or leaders.
The commentators also said the main driver of murder might also be the availability of illegal firearms, which is often interlinked with organised crime networks. Covid-19 which first reached our shores in May last year, has not killed half the number of people who were reported murdered in 2020. At a press conference held under the auspices of the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) on Tuesday in Maseru, several religious bodies took a swipe at the escalating reports of brutal killings across the country.
Speaking on behalf of the CCL, Reverend Ishmael M. Mqathazane announced the Christian organisation’s pleas for God’s intervention in the escalating killings, urging the public to unite in prayer for the whole month of November. Mqathazane said the church cannot become a spectator watching from the side-lines as the nation tore itself apart. On behalf of the Seventh Day Adventist, Pastor Tsebang Khoeli said: “We are pained by the number of people we lose each day due to killings and abuse, and we humbly request the nation to introspect and put value on other people’s lives, the same way that they value their own lives.”
Khoeli reiterated that prayer remained among key solutions to curb this prevailing situation. Speaking directly to political leaders, Bishop Daniel Rantle stated that apart from prayer “politicians should stop spreading hate speech and using one others’ mistakes to gain political mileage as such utterances drive a wedge between voters from different parties, which results in hostility and killings.” Rantle said this was a recipe for chaos in the country.
Individual political parties have also joined the fray in the campaign against the rampant brutal killings of fellow citizens, with the leader of HOPE, ’Malichaba Lemphane Letsie, this week similarly raising concern for the apparent disregard of the sanctity of human life by most Basotho. She, however, expressed shock that in several of these heinous acts elements of law enforcement agencies are found to be the perpetrators “while they are supposed to be protecting the civilian population.”
She singled out, in particular, countless cases of suspects getting killed while in police custody. Therefore, Lemphane Letsie said, the “government should seriously consider implementation of necessary measures to deal with criminals found guilty of murder.” The HOPE leader called on law enforcement agencies to uphold the discipline that is the basis of their training so that the nation can emulate their good traits other than being found among criminals and law breakers.
She continued: “Murder suspects should be denied bail because when victims’ families get in contact with offenders after being granted bail they always suspect foul play in the judiciary – and in turn take the law into their own hands.” Female activist, Thakane Shale, holds the view that law enforcement agencies and the courts of law should be equipped to do their work efficiently, and to take a hard line when dealing with criminals without prejudice.
Shale intensely stated that the taboo of men reporting abuse should be an awakening for the entire nation that some men may not complain of abuse but that they will definitely lash out in anger and possibly kill in the process, therefore, “it is wise to be a support system for each other as a nation.” Shale explained that society has to have a change of mindset when dealing with abuse and harassment – which are sometimes instigators of violence and murder.
“A prey and predator mentality has been created in our society where females are deemed to be inferior to men. This has led to some men prying on women which needs to stop immediately because all people are equal and they are entitled to their opinions.”
In 2020, most serious reported cases comprised of armed robbery, assault with intend to cause grievous bodily harm, attempted murder, car theft, fraud, house breaking, human trafficking, murder, robbery, sexual offence and stock theft,” it said. A total of 12 144 serious crime cases were reported in 2020, 898 of which were murder cases. This represents a 11.53 percent decrease from the year before (2019) when 1 015 murder cases were reported nationwide.
The BOS crime statistics report also provided an overview of how murder cases were reported in various policing districts across the country. It reads: “The LMPS classified their operational areas into 11 policing districts, namely; Maseru Urban, Maseru Rural, Thaba-Tseka, Berea, Leribe, Botha-Bothe, Mokhotlong, Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek, Quthing and Qacha’s Nek.”
Aligning with the population distribution in Lesotho, most murders take place in the most populous districts of Maseru, Leribe and Berea. Reported murder cases were observed to be higher in Maseru urban at 21.8 percent, followed by Leribe at 15.1 percent and Maseru Rural at 14 percent. Berea and Maseru followed at 11.1 and nine percent, respectively. Quthing reported the least percentage of murder cases at 3.5 percent.