The tiny mountain kingdom of Lesotho has the sixth highest murder rate in the world, according to a recent World Population Review report.
The global average murder rate is seven per 100,000 people, found the report, and Lesotho had a rate almost six times higher at 41.25. The report ranked Lesotho as only safer than El Salvador (82.84 per 100,000 people), Honduras (56.52), Venezuela (56.33), Virgin Islands (49.26) and Jamaica (47.01).
Lesotho, with a population of just over 2 million people, has more homicides than countries in conflict such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Mozambique. DRC has a homicide score of 13.55, and Mozambique 3.4. Lesotho’s much more populous neighbour, South Africa, has 33.97 murders per 100,000 people and is the only other Southern African Development Community country in the top 10 for highest rates of murder.
In the past three months, six police officers have been killed in Lesotho, three of them in the past three weeks.
Two weeks ago, police constable Mokilane Mokete was gunned down on a Saturday evening in Mapoteng, about 70km north-east of the capital, Maseru. Mokete was killed days after another police officer, Selone Selone, was killed by unknown gunmen in Butha-Buthe.
Earlier this month, Sgt Qetelo Letšela was shot dead in the diamond-rich Mokhotlong district by 10 members of the Kobo-kholo group, who allegedly abducted him while he was taking his 12-year-old son home from hospital.
Letšela’s body was allegedly mutilated before being thrown over a cliff. Four of 10 suspects have so far been arrested in connection with the murder and were remanded in custody last week awaiting trial.
Contributing to Lesotho’s unenviable position are the unresolved killings of women and children that have rocked the country in recent years.
Analysts say Lesotho’s underfunded judiciary is sitting on thousands of untried cases. In May this year, high court and appeal court registrar Mathato Sekoai told the media in Maseru that the government had allocated just 937,366 rand (£46,700) to be shared by all the country’s courts including the high court and court of appeal. The allocation was for April to June this year.
The amount didn’t even cover what the Maseru magistrates court owed for its power bill. As of May this year, the court’s debt to the Lesotho Electricity Company stood at 1.3m rand, accumulated over the past five years.
The paltry allocation was in contravention of section 118(3) of the constitution, which mandates the government to “accord such assistance as the courts may require to enable them to protect their independence, dignity and effectiveness, subject to the constitution or any other law”.
A crippled judiciary coupled with police ineptitude has led to some murderers walking free despite gruesome killings.
Police have often blamed the huge number of unlicensed firearms that find their way into Lesotho from South Africa through porous borders. But analysts say this does not explain why well-known criminals are rarely taken to court; or why, when cases are taken to court, there are few convictions.
Court cases can be seemingly endless. For instance, former army commander Lt Gen Tlali Kamoli is facing a litany of charges relating to murder, attempted murder and bombings. He has been in custody since 2017, but the bulk of the cases are on hold because he and his co-accused have forced the courts to stop the trials using one application after another in the hope of a change of government, analysts say.
“Once a favourable regime comes in, they hope to be pardoned. After all, Lesotho has in the past decade changed governments thrice,” said a court official who did not want to be named. “In the meantime, homicides and other crimes are increasing because perpetrators are not deterred by the punishment of others who commit such crimes.”
Among the ripple effects of these failures is a sense of impunity that has resulted in a high number of domestic violence cases.
“The lack of consequences for these wanton killings is where the problem lies,” said Mahao Mahao, a lecturer at the National University of Lesotho.
“It is even worse now that members of the police are also among the victims of the violence and this leaves the general public wondering what it means to the ordinary man on the street if deadly violence affects even law enforcers who carry weapons all the time. It leaves the public much more vulnerable than ever.
“The well-known reality in Lesotho is that the law does not bite those in higher positions of government when it is expected to. They either go scot-free or frustrate the justice system from functioning as it should,” he said.
Mahao sees no immediate end to the problem without political will, and proper funding for the police and judiciary.
Climate crisis leaving ‘millions at risk of trafficking and slavery’ | Global development
Millions of people forced to leave their homes because of severe drought and powerful cyclones are at risk of modern slavery and human trafficking over the coming decades, a new report warns.
The climate crisis and the increasing frequency of extreme weather disasters including floods, droughts and megafires are having a devastating effect on the livelihoods of people already living in poverty and making them more vulnerable to slavery, according to the report, published today.
Researchers from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and Anti-Slavery International found that drought in northern Ghana had led young men and women to migrate to major cities. Many women begin working as porters and are at risk of trafficking, sexual exploitation and debt bondage – a form of modern slavery in which workers are trapped in work and exploited to pay off a huge debt.
One woman, who migrated to Accra from northern Ghana, used to farm until the land was ruined by flooding and she was forced to move. For seven years she has worked as a porter (kayayie), carrying items on her head.
She said: “Working as a kayayie has not been easy for me. When I came here, I did not know anything about the work. I was told that the woman providing our pans will also feed us and give us accommodation. However, all my earnings go to her and only sometimes will she give me a small part of the money I’ve earned.”
She dropped a customer’s items once and had to pay for the damage, which she could not afford. The woman in charge paid up on condition that she repay her. She added: “I have been working endlessly and have not been able to repay.”
In the Sundarbans, on the border between India and Bangladesh, severe cyclones have caused flooding in the delta, reducing the land available for farming. With countries in the region tightening immigration restrictions, researchers found that smugglers and traffickers operating in the disaster-prone region were targeting widows and men desperate to cross the border to India to find employment and income. Trafficking victims were often forced into hard labour and prostitution, with some working in sweatshops along the border.
Fran Witt, a climate change and modern slavery adviser at Anti-Slavery International, said: “Our research shows the domino effect of climate change on millions of people’s lives. Extreme weather events contribute to environmental destruction, forcing people to leave their homes and leaving them vulnerable to trafficking, exploitation and slavery.”
The World Bank estimates that, by 2050, the impact of the climate crisis, such as poor crop yields, a lack of water and rising sea levels, will force more than 216 million people across six regions, including sub-Saharan Africa, south Asia and Latin America, from their homes.
The report is a stark warning to world leaders in advance of the Cop26 UN climate summit in Glasgow in November and calls on them to make sure efforts to address the climate emergency also tackle modern slavery. The report says labour and migrant rights abuses are disregardedin the interests of rapid economic growth and development.
Ritu Bharadwaj, a researcher for the IIED, said: “The world cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking that’s being fuelled by climate change. Addressing these issues needs to be part and parcel of global plans to tackle climate change.”
Putin faces test of popularity in Russian election
Russians head to the polls on Friday for parliamentary elections in a test of authority for president Vladimir Putin, whose United Russia party is polling at a near-historic low of just 30 percent. There are few legitimate international observers, after the ODIHR, a Warsaw-based European monitoring body, declined to go because authorities refused to give them proper access. But some pro-Russian MEPs, such as France’s Thierry Mariani, are going anyway.
‘It helped me get away from crime’: Cape Town’s College of Magic – a photo essay | Global development
To fans of JK Rowling’s books, the story may sound somewhat familiar: a young boy living in difficult circumstances is enrolled in a mysterious school far from home, where his life is changed for ever by the transformative power of magic.
Anele Dyasi’s story is no fairytale, though, and the school in question is not Hogwarts, but the College of Magic in Cape Town, a unique institution that has been training some of the continent’s most skilled illusionists since the 1980s.
Dyasi, who grew up in the sprawling township of Khayelitsha, where violent crime is rife and opportunities are few and far between, was 10 when the college began to train him in the ways of magic and sleight of hand. Within four years he was representing South Africa at magic competitions as far afield as Las Vegas and Beijing and had become a role model for a new generation of budding magicians.
“I think of it more as a college of life,” says Dyasi, now 23, and a teacher at the college. “It helped me get away from the crime and gangsterism.”
Dyasi says the most important things he learned in his six years as a student at the college had less to do with magic and more to do with self-confidence and effective communication: skills that he feels have left him in a good position to face life’s challenges.
On this particular Saturday, clad in a flamboyant polka-dot blazer over a plain white T-shirt, he is teaching closeup card magic to a class of fifth-year students who scrutinise every move of his fingers as they try to figure out the trick. Outside the window, younger students are juggling with batons and doing circuits around the car park on unicycles.
Less research has been done on the educational benefits of learning magic than other performing arts such as music, dance or circus. But the studies that do exist have linked it to physical and psychological benefits such as improved focus, a greater ability to solve problems and think laterally, better interpersonal skills, increased self-worth and an enhanced aptitude for teamwork.
“When we started out we never thought of all the spin-off benefits,” says David Gore, founder and director of the college. “We didn’t realise just how powerful magic was as a tool.”
The college’s students frequently give public performances at local venues, and Gore says he has observed how, within a matter of months, first-year students who arrived at the college shy and recalcitrant routinely end up being confident enough to perform on stage in front of hundreds of strangers.
Gore was just 19 when he and a colleague marched into the offices of a local newspaper wearing top hats and tailcoats and announced that they were starting a school for magicians. The newspaper published a story and before long 34 children had signed up. In the 40 years since, several thousand more students have come and gone through the hallways of the ramshackle Victorian mansion that houses the college.
Built in the late 1800s, the building has a distinctively Hogwarts-esque feel, replete with crooked staircases, secret doorways hidden behind bookshelves, and a special enclosure for the rabbits and doves occasionally used in performances.
“It’s a lot more fun than my other school,” says Duma Mgqoki, a fourth-year student and aspiring magician, who says he enjoys wowing the other children in his neighbourhood with the tricks he learns at the college.
While many of the college’s alumni have careers in magic and its associated arts, performing at children’s parties or corporate functions, or becoming TV entertainers, others say the college helped prepare them for a range of non-magical careers.
“Growing up, I went through a lot of trauma and depression. But here I felt free,” says Anela Gazi, a recent graduate of the college from Mfuleni township, who is starting her own shoe-cleaning company.
“This place prepared me for everything. It made me grow. It made me strong. I didn’t even know I could become the person I am now,” she says.
At the college, students from some of the city’s most underprivileged townships are learning alongside others from the wealthiest suburbs.
Twenty-seven years after the end of apartheid, Cape Town remains one of the world’s most divided cities, and many schools, indeed whole neighbourhoods, offer little in the way of ethnic diversity.
“We believed what we were offering should be available to everyone, and we did that from day one,” says Gore, who flouted the laws of the apartheid regime in the 1980s by insisting on teaching multiracial classes.
The college operates as a nonprofit organisation, and helps to find sponsors to cover the fees of those who could not otherwise afford the courses. It also arranges transport to enable those from more distant areas to attend.
“This is the rainbow nation,” says Dyasi after his class, pointing up at the building behind him. “We don’t judge each other here. Everyone is here to achieve the same thing: to become better magicians. It brings out the best in everyone.”
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