MASERU – Between January 1 to December 31, 2020, the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) recorded 898 murders in the country, according to the latest crime statistics report published by the Bureau of Statistics (BOS). This averages out to 2.5 murders each day, 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. This puts 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 the murder rate of 82.84 per 100 000.The ranking was published by Statista, a German company specialising in market and consumer data, last month.
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 this week said 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/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. Since Covid-19 first arrived on our shores in May last year, it has not killed half the number of people who were reported murdered in 2020.
As at Wednesday this week, according to official statistics, Lesotho had 349 confirmed deaths related to Covid-19. The country recorded its index death related to Covid-10 on July 9, 2020. “BOS through Socio – Economic Statistics Division is mandated to report on Crime Statistics in Lesotho. LMPS collects the reported cases of crime across the country,” BOS said in its crime statistics report.
“The data is then forwarded to BOS to be compiled, tabulated and analysed and a yearly crime statistics report is published. The main focus of this report is on crime cases reported across the country from the 1st January to 31st December 2020,” it added. BOS said LMPS classified all the reported cases into two main groups, namely; serious and general cases.
In 2020, the reported serious cases of crime 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.
This decrease was probably due to the severe restrictions on movement and economic activity under COVID-19 lockdowns. “The problem is manhood; the notion that men are entitled. It will not shock me to know that those murder cases are actually femicide cases. Remember in Lesotho there are no femicide cases as they are all clustered as murder,” Seabata Makoae, a social worker and gender activist, said yesterday. Femicide or feminicide is a sex-based hate crime term, broadly defined as the intentional killing of women or girls because they are female.
The worst areas for murder in Lesotho
The BOS crime statistics report also provided an overview on how murder cases were reported in various policing districts across the country. It read: “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 – Maseru, Leribe and Berea. Reported murder cases were observed to be higher in Maseru urban with 21.8 percent, followed by Leribe with 15.1 percent and Maseru Rural with 14 percent.
Berea and Maseru followed with 11.1 and nine percent, respectively. Quthing reported the least percentage of murder cases with 3.5 percent. In May last year, the leader of the biggest political party All Basotho Convention (ABC) in Lesotho Thomas Thabane, formally stepped down as prime minister following months of pressure after he was named as a suspect in the murder of his ex-wife, Lipolelo Thabane.
Thabane’s current wife, ’Maesaiah Thabane, with whom he was living at the time of the murder, was charged in connection with the killing in February last year. The pair has denied any involvement. Gunmen shot and killed Lipolelo on June 14, 2017 – two days before Thabane was sworn in as prime minister. While returning home at Ha ’Masana in the outskirts of Maseru, she was ambushed, shot several times at close range and died on the side of a dirt road. She was 58. At the time, Lipolelo was going through a bitter divorce with Thabane and had been living apart from her husband for years. Thabane appeared in court in February last year for acting in “common purpose” but he has not been formally charged yet.