Women snatch civil so­ci­ety lead­er­ship…what next?

Lesotho Times - - Leader - So­fonea Shale

Un­told suf­fer­ing and blood­shed and yet the fes­tive, or killing sea­son if you may, is not over yet.

the po­lice on tues­day this week re­leased dis­turb­ing statis­tics of the may­hem which took place through­out the coun­try be­tween 20 and 25 de­cem­ber.

Th­ese fig­ures, it should be em­pha­sised, were only those re­ported to the po­lice, which could sug­gest they might be but only a tip of the ice­berg.

At least 27 fa­tal car crashes, and 29 sense­less mur­ders in less than one week is hardly the ideal news at a time peo­ple are sup­posed to be en­joy­ing them­selves and at peace with them­selves fol­low­ing a hec­tic year.

Yet noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth and as pointed out by Po­lice Spokesper­son Se­nior In­spec­tor le­bona Mohloboli else­where in this is­sue, this vi­o­lence should not be hap­pen­ing in a civilised so­ci­ety such as ours.

Se­nior In­spec­tor Mohloboli sug­gests a new ap­proach to polic­ing could help bring th­ese shock­ing statis­tics down— which also in­clude 23 sex­ual of­fences, 19 cases of house­break­ing and two of armed rob­bery, over the pe­riod un­der re­view.

Yet while a new modus operandi by the po­lice might de­ter the crim­i­nal el­e­ment among us, what is even more dis­turb­ing is the fact that some lead­ing mem­bers of our so­ci­ety, such as busi­ness­peo­ple, have un­wit­tingly be­come ac­com­plices in some of th­ese crimes.

Most of the mur­ders the po­lice say took place last week, hap­pened in public drink­ing places which had no right to be op­er­a­tional at the time of the com­mis­sion of the crimes.

In their ef­forts to cash-in on the fes­tive sea­son, such busi­nesses dis­re­gard their stip­u­lated op­er­at­ing times and re­main open till the last pa­tron stag­gers home in the wee hours of the day.

Sadly, some of th­ese cus­tomers do not make it home as they fall prey to crim­i­nals who prowl such tav­erns in search of easy quarry.

Be­cause the busi­nesses will be op­er­at­ing out­side the reg­u­lated hours, the po­lice would not be around to en­sure law and or­der, leav­ing in­no­cent peo­ple vul­ner­a­ble to cut­throats who never hes­i­tate to take a life in their pur­suit of un­de­served wealth.

the po­lice have also re­ported that the road car­nage is al­most al­ways the re­sult of in­tox­i­cated driv­ers los­ing con­trol of their ve­hi­cles—an­other in­di­ca­tion that th­ese are crimes com­mit­ted by peo­ple who should know bet­ter but sim­ply don’t care about the wel­fare of oth­ers.

With lengthy and oft costly cam­paigns high­light­ing the dan­gers of be­ing drunk be­hind the wheel clearly not yield­ing the de­sired out­come, maybe the time has come when the po­lice, the courts, our law­mak­ers and other rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers, should be con­sid­er­ing harsher penal­ties for th­ese of­fend­ers.

the same should also be the case with busi­ness­peo­ple who flout reg­u­la­tions in pur­suit of su­per-prof­its.

Cus­to­dial sen­tences with no op­tion of pay­ing a fine would be an ideal start, with the jail terms in­creas­ing pro­por­tion­ally for re­peat of­fend­ers.

Spe­cial courts for such cases would also en­sure the law­break­ers are speed­ily dealt with, un­like the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion where some trans­gres­sors only an­swer for an ac­ci­dent five years af­ter the com­mis­sion of the crime.

Again, the po­lice should also be se­verely pun­ished for ac­cept­ing bribes from such trans­gres­sors and then al­low­ing them to go be­cause sooner, rather than later, they are bound to com­mit a sim­i­lar of­fense once again.

Se­nior In­spec­tor Mohloboli has also said mem­bers of the le­sotho de­fence Force would join the po­lice in pa­trolling the coun­try­side to en­sure law and or­der dur­ing this fes­tive sea­son. This col­lab­o­ra­tion, which is not the first time it is hap­pen­ing, is al­ways wel­come as it al­lows peace-lov­ing res­i­dents and vis­i­tors alike, to en­joy them­selves in peace.

there is noth­ing as dis­con­cert­ing as com­ing face to face with an in­truder in what should be the com­fort of one’s home and the pres­ence of the army and po­lice on the streets gives one that serene sense of se­cu­rity.

Af­ter an event­ful 12 months—par­tic­u­larly on the po­lit­i­cal front where the coali­tion gov­ern­ment fell apart, re­sult­ing in a snap elec­tion in Fe­bru­ary 2015—the year 2014 has fi­nally come to an end.

Will 2015 be any bet­ter? only time will tell. When ‘Mam­pho thulo, the Man­ag­ing direc­tor of Ru­ral Self-devel­op­ment As­so­ci­a­tion (RSDA) re­turned un­op­posed for the pres­i­dency of the le­sotho Coun­cil of ngos, the apex of the civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions in le­sotho at its 25th An­nual Gen­eral Meet­ing, this was seen as a re­sound­ing state­ment that women have a lead­er­ship place in the civil so­ci­ety move­ment.

how­ever, the elec­tion of ‘Mankhatho Selepe of devel­op­ment for Peace ed­u­ca­tion (dpe) as deputy Pres­i­dent, thu­soana nt­lama of the Fed­er­a­tion of Women lawyers (FIDA) as trea­surer, which made the whole ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee fe­male, sends a mes­sage that needs to be un­packed.

Be­sides the trio who make up the core lead­er­ship, there are other six elected mem­bers act­ing as Com­mis­sion­ers for dif­fer­ent sec­toral com­mis­sions of the Coun­cil.

the democ­racy and hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion is led by Palesa ntakat­sane of the Pa­tri­ots Vi­sion As­so­ci­a­tion (PAVA), while ‘Mase­bueng Ma­jara of the Blue Cross thaba-bo­siu Cen­tre leads the Women and Chil­dren’s Com­mis­sion. ‘Man­thuseng hlopho com­ing from Cen­tre for em­pow­er­ment and So­cial Anal­y­sis (CESA) will lead the dis­as­ter and hu­man­i­tar­ian Com­mis­sion.

Ben Von­toder of the le­sotho en­vi­ron­men­tal Jus­tice Ad­vo­cacy Cen­tre who is to lead eco­nomic jus­tice Com­mis­sion, thabo Cha­bat­sane of le­sotho Forestry As­so­ci­a­tion to lead the Agri­cul­ture and en­vi­ron­men­tal Com­mis­sion and Masenyetse of the le­sotho na­tional league of the Vis­ually Im­paired Per­sons to lead the So­cial devel­op­ment Com­mis­sion are the only males in the board.

the 66 per­cent of women rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the lcn lead­er­ship is ap­plauded yet the com­pelling ques­tion is what the sec­tor and women in gen­eral are go­ing to make out of this lead­er­ship? Will the num­ber of women in the lead­er­ship of the lcn make this coun­cil a pro­gres­sive plat­form that is equal to con­tem­po­rary is­sues?

Will this mean any change for the sit­u­a­tion of women in this sec­tor? What about in le­sotho?

the wave of tri­umph of lib­eral or­tho­dox on the world since the demise of the Soviet Bloc and the sub­se­quent end of the Cold War, has not only cor­nered African states to shift from dic­ta­tor­ship to elected gov­ern­ments but more prac­ti­cally to in­tro­duce civil lib­er­ties and free­doms in the oth­er­wise cus­tom­ary so­ci­eties.

By es­ti­mates, Sub-sa­ha­ran Africa, where south­ern Africa and le­sotho in par­tic­u­lar is lo­cated, is home to more than 22 of the 33 mil­lion peo­ple of the world living with HIV, and where women and chil­dren ex­pe­ri­ence un­told suf­fer­ing from stigma and dis­crim­i­na­tion as well as in­ad­e­quate ser­vices.

In fact, Le­sotho has now been con­firmed as the coun­try with the sec­ond high­est HIV preva­lence rate in the world at 23 per­cent. Un­less this fe­male lead­er­ship com­pre­hends not only the global trends on gen­der pol­i­tics but also lo­cal po­lit­i­cal dy­nam­ics, it may not be pos­si­ble for them to de­liver any ob­serv­able progress.

At the be­gin­ning of the 2000s, fe­males were per­pet­ual mi­nors in le­sotho. At birth, a fe­male was a child of the fa­ther, of the hus­band when mar­ried and of the son upon be­com­ing a widow.

how­ever, within a decade, there has been con­sid­er­able progress and through the col­lec­tion of good pieces of leg­is­la­tion such as the Sex­ual of­fences, legal Ca­pac­ity of Mar­ried Per­sons, Com­pa­nies Act, Gen­der and devel­op­ment Pol­icy and land Act, a lot of change has been ob­served.

though there is this con­sid­er­able change in the legal frame­work, le­sotho re­mains a highly pa­tri­ar­chal so­ci­ety. Male dom­i­nance and fe­male sub­or­di­na­tion in a pa­tri­ar­chal so­ci­ety are en- trenched into norms and prac­tices that make such im­bal­ance, a way of life. Be­cause a pa­tri­ar­chal so­ci­ety in­vests in the peo­ple’s mind-set, its con­ti­nu­ity also turns to de­fine the cul­ture and iden­tity of the so­ci­ety.

de­spite the com­monly held view that laws can ad­dress the chal­lenges fac­ing women, some­times demo­crat­i­cally con­sti­tuted laws and poli­cies as per­pet­u­at­ing vi­o­lence to the ex­tent that they en­trench dom­i­na­tion, ex­ploita­tion and alien­ation.

le­sotho is a demo­cratic King­dom (Con­sti­tu­tion, 1993:1). this hy­brid po­lit­i­cal sys­tem es­pous­ing civil lib­er­ties, while sym­pa­this­ing with cus­tom­ary prac­tices makes pro­gres­sive af­fir­ma­tive pol­icy choices, such as women quota con­tentious.

the quo­tas can be made by laws par­tic­u­larly if there is an ad­e­quate ma­jor­ity but women eman­ci­pa­tion goes be­yond the law to the way of life. Be­yond the laws, the ques­tion should be: are women able to use the very same laws right in their vil­lages and house­holds where op­pres­sion man­i­fests?

the ex­pec­ta­tion on the lnc women lead­er­ship is huge to en­sure that the quota of women rep­re­sen­ta­tion in lo­cal gov­ern­ment, for ex­am­ple, does not re­main a sta­tis­ti­cal pro­vi­sion that is used to en­trench male po­lit­i­cal dom­i­na­tion through party con­trol but turns to trans­form women’s po­si­tion so­cially, eco­nom­i­cally and po­lit­i­cally.

the new lead­er­ship is ex­pected to change women’s po­si­tion in the real sense and en­sure that set laws and poli­cies ben­e­fit women.

there has been gen­eral con­cern that civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions are male­dom­i­nated and women lead­ers are de­vel­oped into a car­bon copy of their male idols. this is the op­por­tu­nity for women to demon­strate their ca­pa­bil­ity.

In fact, th­ese women did not take this stage sim­ply be­cause they are women; they beat their ca­pa­ble and as­pir­ing male com­peti­tors.

Civil so­ci­ety ac­tivism in na­tional is­sues has, for some time now, lacked women’s voices. But will this new lead­er­ship bring change?

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