Few Basotho support amnesty for political crimes

LITEBOHO MOLEKO

MASERU – Basotho want reconciliation but few support amnesty for those guilty of political crimes, according to the Afrobarometer survey conducted between February and March this year.

Afrobarometer is a Pan-African, non-partisan survey research network that provides reliable data on African experiences and evaluations of democracy, governance, and quality of life.

Eight survey rounds in up to 39 countries have been completed since 1999 and Round 9 surveys (2021/2022) are currently underway. Afrobarometer’s national partners conduct face-to-face interviews in the language of the respondent’s choice.

The Afrobarometer team in Lesotho, led by Advision Lesotho, interviewed a nationally representative sample of 1,200 adult citizens in February and March 2022. A sample of this size yields country-level results with a margin of error of +/-3 percentage points at a 95% confidence level. Previous surveys were conducted in Lesotho in 2000, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2017, and 2020.

The study found out that only about one-fifth of Basotho support amnesty for people who have perpetrated political crimes or human-rights violations. In addition to insisting on accountability for political crimes, most Basotho support the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that can investigate and make recommendations on past political crimes and human rights violations.

In August, the 42nd Ordinary Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) urged the government of Lesotho to continue its peace, transitional justice and reconciliation process “to engender national unity and bring about national healing and cohesion.”

Lesotho’s Transitional Justice Commission has drawn criticism for a proposal to stop prosecution of people accused of political crimes investigated by the SADC-sponsored Phumaphi Commission.

The key findings are: More than eight in 10 Basotho (81%) say that people found guilty of political crimes or human-rights violations should be held accountable. Only 18% favour granting them amnesty to allow the country to move forward. Support for accountability is strong across key demographic groups, though below average among older citizens (74%) and those with no formal education (76%).

Furthermore, more than seven in 10 citizens (72%) support the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that can investigate and make recommendations on past political crimes and human rights violations.

Support for such a commission is highest among those aged 18 to 25 years (74%) and lowest among peri-urban residents (68%). While Basotho want reconciliation, they also want to see those who committed crimes for political motives being held accountable.

On amnesty respondents were asked: Which of the following statements is closest to your view? Statement 1: People who are responsible for past political crimes or human-rights violations should be granted amnesty so that the country can move forward.

Statement 2: Individuals who are responsible for past political crimes or human rights violations should be held accountable and face consequences for what they have done.

Secondly, on accountability for those responsible for political crimes, respondents were asked: Which of the following statements is closest to your view? Statement 1: People who are responsible for past political crimes or human-rights violations should be granted amnesty so that the country can move forward.

Statement 2: Individuals who are responsible for past political crimes or human-rights violations should be held accountable and face consequences for what they have done.

Additionally, on Truth and Reconciliation Commission being established, respondents were asked: Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: In the interest of peace and unity of Basotho, the country should establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that can investigate and make recommendations on past political crimes and human-rights violations?

Lastly, on Transitional Justice that Basotho want, respondents were asked: i) Which of the following statements is closest to your view: Statement 1: People who are responsible for past political crimes or human-rights violations should be granted amnesty so that the country can move forward.

Statement 2: Individuals who are responsible for past political crimes or human-rights violations should be held accountable and face consequences for what they have done. ii) Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: In the interest of peace and unity of Basotho, the country should establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that can investigate and make recommendations on past political crimes and human-rights violations?

On the other hand, still on the same study’s findings, it states that gender based violence is a ‘shadow pandemic’ yet to be eliminated. Gender based violence is the most important women’s rights issue that Basotho want the government and society to address, many citing it as a common problem in homes and communities, according to the latest Afrobarometer survey.

A majority of citizens say it is never justified for men to use physical force to discipline their wives, and most say gender based violence is a criminal matter that requires the involvement of law enforcement authorities, rather than a personal affair that should be handled within the family.

But while most Basotho believe that the police take gender based violence seriously, many say a woman is likely to be criticised, harassed, or shamed if she reports such violence to the authorities.

On this issue, the key findings are that, nearly two thirds (64%) of Basotho see gender-based violence (GBV) as the most important women’s rights issue that the government and society must address. A majority (53%) of citizens say violence against women is a “somewhat common” (28%) or “very common” (25%) occurrence in their community.

More than eight in 10 Basotho (85%) say it is “never” justified for a man to physically discipline his wife. Fewer than two in 10 think it is “sometimes” (11%) or “always” (4%) justified while almost six in 10 respondents (56%) consider it “somewhat likely” (29%) or “very likely” (27%) that a woman will be criticised, harassed, or shamed if she reports gender-based violence to the authorities.

But most citizens (79%) believe that the police are likely to take cases of GBV seriously and a slim majority (53%) of Basotho say domestic violence should be treated as a criminal matter rather than as a private matter to be resolved within the family.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.