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Crime, Despondency & Economic Hardships; Dipalametse

Publishing Date : 06 March, 2018

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“crime and criminal activities are not committed in courts of law or prisons; therefore the battle against crime cannot, and will never, be worn in courts of law and prison”

 Dear readers; I suspect most you, like me, have accepted the sad reality that our country is just not the same anymore, it has in fact fast become the opposite of what it used to be. Over the past months Botswana has successfully shifted to the not so desired direction. Most of us, if not all of us, are silently living in a gloomy state of fear and uncertainty. Parents are constantly worried about the safe return of their children and children are similarly constantly worried about the safe return of their parents and loved ones.

This is simply because these days a simple activity like a; -walk to the nearest bus stop, -a visit to the shops or a trip to the farm have become horrific and life threating engagements.  Incidents of various crimes, committed by young people, have become appallingly rapid and common in our once tranquil republic. Shocking and devastating incidents of murder, rape, robbery, illegal drug trading and many other social and/or economic ills have slowly but certainly become the order of the day.

News Bulletins, Social Media Newsfeeds, Front Page Stories and Public Discussions are dominated by these horrific and regrettable developments. Nowadays most funerals are a direct result of these devastating incidents. These days Botswana Television News (BTV) news bulletins are incomplete without a story or two of young criminals arrested for one form of crime or the other.

Weirdly these crimes are no longer exclusively perpetuated by young males; young females are briskly becoming a strong component of these horrific actions and activities. These days Rre Nunu Lestedi of Botswana Police Service (BPS) and his good friend ‘Boots -the black sniffer dog’, are more famous than the Youth Development Fund (YDF) and other economic initiatives. These days a week is just too long to pass without announcement of a tragic and brutal murder of a fellow compatriot by, unidentified and sometimes identified, young habitual criminals.

As if these sad developments are not devastating enough, another devastating trend of youth suicides is slowly creeping into our troubled and devastated societies. These have been largely attributed to a massive silent killer known as ‘Depression’. By the look of things these horrific developments have caused huge concern among many key sectors in our country: -Faith based movements have risen to the occasion; -Law enforcement institutions are doubling their efforts; -The long arm of the law is being extended and expanded by the day; -Community leaders are raising their voices; -Communities are uniting to protect one another at all costs.

These are indeed commendable efforts, they highlight our collective concern and rejection of the direction our country is clearly taking. Nonetheless it is evident these good efforts are mainly reactionary and are over powered by the prevalence of these incidents. There are many sound perspectives circulating on what needs to be done to deal with this devastating situation. Our faith based friends strongly and persuasively argue that we need to spread the word of God more aggressively and actively.

They believe it is through the word of God that these young ragamuffins will be rescued from the life of crime. They have a valid and very strong case; as a matter of fact most countries with minimal incidents of crime put huge emphasis and inspiration on religion.  Similarly, our learned friends strongly argue and believe the law needs to be further tightened to deter criminals and criminal activity. They give strong living examples of countries that have successfully reduced their crime statistics through stiff and strict legal doctrines.  Likewise, law enforcement personnel strongly believe and argue that there is need to put more resources into their operations to enable them to combat and eradicate this growing trend of criminal activities.

They also submit great case studies where increased resources directly resulted in reduced crime incidents and overall crime statistics. In all honesty these submissions are very credible and necessary for our nation’s uphill battle against crime. We need these interventions if we are to win this battle. But, these interventions are largely correctional and reactive, they don’t speak to the root cause of this devastating reality. I religiously subscribe the ‘systemic thinking’ school of thought and problem solving.

I strongly believe the growing incidents of crime, and associated social ills, in our country are a direct result of difficult economic hardship faced by our people. I do not believe it’s a coincidence that joblessness, underemployment and crime are simultaneously escalating. The legendary Rre Log Raditlhokwa (MHSRIP) and other distinguished thought leaders spent most of their professional lives trying to guide and warn us against this impending catastrophe.

They long predicted it and saw it coming, they wrote about it widely and spoke about it intensively and extensively. Further afield this hypothesis has been proven empirically, theoretically and otherwise. Therefore strengthening of the suggestions outlined above won’t really deal with or solve our country’s battle against crime. In all honesty, crime and criminal activities are not committed in courts of law or in prisons; therefore the battle against crime cannot, and will never, be worn in courts of law and prisons.

Crime and criminal activities are largely propelled and stimulated by social and economic wellbeing of individuals, households and communities. Majority of the ruthless criminal activities and social ills are committed by individuals and/or groups with akin attributes; -unemployed, -economically deprived/disadvantaged backgrounds, -weak family and social fabric, -school drop outs or low education standards and, -poverty stricken area dwellers. These are mainly individuals that simply have very little in a land of with plenty.

A distinguished scholar once persuasively illustrated, ‘crime is simply an act of affirmative reposition’. We know the story of our country’s devastating equality- the gap between the have and have nots. Despite being one of Africa’s economically praised countries, our Gini coefficient stands at shocking 60.5, making us one of the most unequal countries in the whole world. At the same time we haven’t been doing very well in terms of; -retention of students, -job availability and job access for job seekers and, -job security for those in the working class.

A combination of these adverse economic realities has propelled a mode of survival among, mainly but not exclusively, the downtrodden and deprived young   citizens. Simply put; I subscribe to the school of thought that believes crime and economic emancipation are closely linked. It is ruthless economic deprivation and marginalization that ultimately pushes otherwise innocent citizens to crime and unethical practices for survival, Affirmative Reposition as mentioned earlier.

We should not shy away from admitting that our economic development policies and practices have propelled the situation we are currently facing. We have: -delayed genuine and sustainable economic diversification; -deferred universal access to basic education; -rejected education with production; -failed to strategically discourage rampant rural-urban migration; -failed to motivate and create sufficient and decent jobs for multitudes job seekers; -failed to timely allocate land to land seekers -failed to inspire hope and national unity/responsible through master frameworks such as Vision 2016 and Vision 2036. As a nation we owe it to our founding fathers and future generations to decisively deal with this issue of growing crime among our young citizens in particular, and our societies in general.
* Taziba is a Youth Advocate, Columnist & Researcher with keen interest in Youth Policy, Civic Engagement, Social Inclusion and Capacity Development (7189 0354/gtaziba@yahoo.co.uk)



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