Halashuu!

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By Kabelo Mollo

The intention was to include this week’s thoughts in last week’s column, but my fluey haze-which was ultimately overcome by the might of Sankatana syrup-didn’t allow me to think straight long enough to add it. Fortunately, another week is upon us and we are free to opine on what ever we see fit.

Once again I have met folks who offer heartfelt compliments to this column and I must once again express my deepest gratitude. I’m truly humbled by those who take time out of their busy days to read my opinions. I must also congratulate my friend Tsokolo Makeka for starting his own column, and add that I look forward to more of my peers doing the same and adding their views to the general discourse. Assuming these thoughts do anything like influence a discourse…

I had intended to write about the vigilante killings in Ha Matala a fortnight ago. They, more than any other thing happening in the kingdom at the moment jarred my wife and I in the most violent way. Indeed, the violent nature of the mob action was enough to stop anyone in their tracks but the sheer brutality made us more than simply stop for a moment. It made us wonder out loud how we’d got to this point. It made us shudder.

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Really and truly, we felt discombobulated. I’m pretty sure we weren’t the only ones. I have always feared kangaroo courts and their mob justice. I think it has been proved that mob mentality has no rationality. That means nothing is off the table, this is how people can be burned alive. If everything is right, then the worst atrocities can occur without blame. Mob mentality. Once we’ve got passed the fact that actual humans were set alight and allowed to burn to death, we must then investigate the mob psychology. Where does the anger emanate from? Because it must surely be anger that ignites such a furious reaction from a crowd.

 The answer, looks fairly straightforward to me. The  answer looks like an abdication of responsibilities by the authorities has left a gaping hole, and as we know nature doesn’t allow for a vacuum. What do I mean? Well, if crimes are committed daily, and nobody’s ever caught for those crimes, or when they are caught no justice is served, then people are going to react to that. It’s Newton’s law: every action has an equal and opposite reaction. If the police don’t catch criminals, and when they do the judiciary doesn’t exact justice on them, then society will take matters in to their own hands.

It is ironic then that same police force seemingly unable to deal with petty crimes in communities can gather its self to go and “quell an uprising” at the university. A peaceful protest by students with real concerns can see the police arrive brandishing semi automatic weapons with live rounds. One must wonder what became of water cannons and rubber bullets at a time like this? Water cannons specifically because those rubber bullets are as dangerous as the pellets used in the fracas. Surely in a scenario where you’re trying to disperse an unarmed crowd of university students, all that is needed is a public announce system and a couple of water cannons? Surely! The aim must be to preserve human life at all cost, but alas, the last couple of protests at NUL have seen at least one fatality each time. Even during the Bacha Shutdown protests the police used heavy handed tactics to quell the rebellion. There seems to be a pattern emerging…

We seem to have gone a long way from “Leponesa, mothusi, motsoalle” and instead are faced by an authoritarian body that only exerts its self when there’s no danger. When it’s time to fight crime and deliver actual justice (because the police form part of that network) then nothing. A frightening reality that makes one wonder how we will emerge from this reality?

Many of us will remember the video that emerged during hard lockdown with the arrogant policewoman telling us to stay at home as we were not needed in town at the time, she reminded us that we would be allowed back in to the city centre when they deemed fit. That viral video birthed the term “Halashuu”. I was quietly indignant when I saw that the first time, but came to accept That, that was how our security cluster felt about their role in the society versus ours.

I am not by any means promoting an “Us and Them” narrative nor do I seek to incite a rebellion against our boys (and gals) in blue. I do hope though that our relations can normalise, with them going back to being effective and efficient crime busters, and us being a society that trusts and respects the institution. I really do hope!