Never lower your guard

Lesotho Times - - Big Interview - Pas­cali­nah Kabi

The fes­tive sea­son is in full swing and be­cause it is a time to make merry, many peo­ple lower their guard as they party with friends and fam­ily. Of-course, the crim­i­nal el­e­ment is fully aware of this lax in se­cu­rity, hence the spike in crime at this time of the year. Again, be­cause of the high spend­ing as­so­ci­ated with the sea­son, peo­ple tend to move around with large amounts of cash or keep the money in their homes to avoid go­ing to the bank each time they want to make a pur­chase. But in this wide-rang­ing in­ter­view, As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice (ACP) com­mand­ing the cen­tral re­gion (Thaba-tseka and Maseru), Mo­fo­keng Kolo, tells Le­sotho Times reporter, Pas­cali­nah Kabi, why res­i­dents should be ex­tra-vig­i­lant in­stead of re­laxed dur­ing the fes­tive sea­son.

LT: The fes­tive sea­son is upon us once again, and one can sense the ex­cite­ment among the peo­ple. Whether one is at shop­ping cen­tres or in res­i­den­tial ar­eas, the fes­tive buzz is cer­tainly in the air. But we also know that this is a time when crim­i­nals take ad­van­tage of the peo­ple’s mer­ry­mak­ing to de­prive them of their hard-earned cash and prop­erty. Are you, as the po­lice, ready to give the na­tion a peace­ful fes­tive sea­son?

ACP Kolo: We have al­ready launched a se­ries of ac­tiv­i­ties to pre­vent crime this fes­tive sea­son. We are aware some peo­ple take this time of the year as an op­por­tu­nity to reap where they did not sow; they use it as a time to rob other peo­ple of their hard-earned money and prop­erty.

As a first step, we have in­creased po­lice vis­i­bil­ity on the streets to de­ter any pos­si­ble acts of crime. There is a heavy po­lice pres­ence in pub­lic places to make sure they pro­vide the peo­ple with the nec­es­sary se­cu­rity. But for this ex­er­cise to be suc­cess­ful, we need the par­tic­i­pa­tion of the pub­lic; we can­not do this ef­fec­tively on our own as the po­lice.

We are plead­ing with mem­bers of the pub­lic to join forces with the po­lice in fight­ing crime this fes­tive sea­son and in­deed through­out the year. Wher­ever you are, never lower your guard be­cause you never know when you could be a vic­tim of crime.

The po­lice are go­ing to set-up satel­lite sta­tions in Nt­loana, Le­sobeng, Tloko­eng and Mana­ma­neng in Thaba-tseka district, and then Sehlabeng-sa-mat­sieng, Nazareth and Ha Motheho in Maseru to com­ple­ment of­fices that al­ready ex­ist in th­ese dis­tricts.

We have iden­ti­fied th­ese ar­eas for ad­di­tional polic­ing based on their recorded in­ci­dents of high crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties. We hope th­ese satel­lite po­lice sta­tions will not only de­ter the crim­i­nals but help res­i­dents eas­ily ac­cess help should they need it no-mat­ter the time of day or night.

We fur­ther re­cently held three meet­ings with Chi­nese Em­bassy of­fi­cials and Chi­nese busi­ness-own­ers. Chi­nese busi­nesses are the big­gest tar­gets for crim­i­nals and jointly, we are try­ing to come up with a work­ing pro­gramme to em­power them with skills and en­sure that their busi­nesses are safe.

LT: In gen­eral, what are the busi­ness­peo­ple ex­pected to do to en­sure they don’t fall prey to crim­i­nals?

ACP Kolo: First of all, they must avoid walk­ing alone es­pe­cially in iso­lated ar­eas as they could be at­tacked with the as­sump­tion that they would be car­ry­ing large sums of money. Busi­ness­peo­ple have this ten­dency of mov­ing around with large sums of cash, and this makes them prime tar­gets for vi­o­lent crime. Busi­ness-own­ers must make sure that each day’s tak­ings are de­posited into a bank or safe which is very se­cure.

We are also go­ing to in­tro­duce proper firearms-train­ing for busi­ness­peo­ple be­cause most of them own firearms but can’t use them prop­erly.

For in­stance, we have a case in which a Chi­nese who op­er­ates a shop in the Pitso Ground area emp­tied his gun into the ceil­ing when what he needed was to shoot at the crim­i­nals. he con­tin­ued shoot­ing at the roof un­til he ran out of bul­lets, and when this hap­pened, the crim­i­nals took the gun, and robbed the shop. The other thing is that busi­ness­peo­ple are afraid to use th­ese guns be­cause they don’t know how to prop­erly op­er­ate them, or can­not stand the idea of killing some­one. We will give them proper train­ing on how to op­er­ate the firearms through this pro­gramme I am talk­ing about.

LT: Which crimes dom­i­nate the fes­tive sea­son, and how can or­di­nary cit­i­zens pro­tect them­selves?

ACP Kolo: Mur­der, reck­less driv­ing and rob­bery top the list. For in­stance, be­tween 1-21 De­cem­ber, we seized 13 il­le­gally ac­quired firearms, 38 rounds of am­mu­ni­tion and 10 knives sus­pected to have been used in mur­der cases we were in­ves­ti­gat­ing. A to­tal of 24 peo­ple lost their lives dur­ing the same pe­riod; five of them in Thaba-tseka, 14 in Maseru Ur­ban and five in Maseru Ru­ral.

We fur­ther recorded eight road ac­ci­dents over the same pe­riod in th­ese ar­eas with two of them hit-and-runs, which means the per­pe­tra­tors are still at large.

There is also new trend of rob­beries we are work­ing hard to com­bat. Like Chi­nese busi­nesses, pri­vate se­cu­rity guards are also be­com­ing a tar­get for the crim­i­nals be­cause they would be af­ter their guns.

For in­stance, we are in­ves­ti­gat­ing a rob­bery in which a se­cu­rity guard at a garage next to Ha Tle­lai was at­tacked and lost his firearms. Th­ese rob­bers over­power the guards and the only things they steal are their guns.

We are work­ing hard to solve this puz­zle and will soon bring th­ese syn­di­cates to book. The other thing which is putting a strain on our re­sources are big mu­sic fes­ti­vals be­cause we end up as­sign­ing huge num­bers of of­fi­cers to of­fer the events se­cu­rity. This leaves other equally crit­i­cal ar­eas short­staffed but we con­tinue do­ing our best un­der the cir­cum­stances.

LT: So what would be your ad­vice to the pub­lic at large in light of this Christ­mas frenzy?

ACP Kolo: Do not keep your monies at home be­cause once crim­i­nals sus­pect you have it, they will at­tack you. You would rather use credit cards and for those with­out them, only with­draw money if you are go­ing to use it im­me­di­ately to avoid at­tract­ing un­wanted at­ten­tion. Also avoid putting your ATM card where it is eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble.

Once crim­i­nals are in pos­ses­sion of your ATM card, they will hold you hostage un­til you with­draw money for them or give them your pass­word or PIN.

The other thing is never send any­one to with­draw money for you, or trust any­one with your money es­pe­cially those who say they will go and buy some­thing for you at a dis­count or staff price.

Do your shop­ping on time and go home be­fore it is too late to avoid be­ing mugged.

For money-sav­ing so­ci­eties, avoid with­draw­ing all your funds and keep­ing it in the house overnight be­fore dis­burs­ing it. As we speak, a so­ci­ety trea­surer is fight­ing for her life in hos­pi­tal af­ter crim­i­nals at­tacked her ha Le­qele house last night (Sun­day). Luck­ily, the mem­bers had not with­drawn the money yet.

Again, it is im­por­tant for mo­torists to phys­i­cally en­sure that their car-doors are locked as crim­i­nals use cer­tain devices to block their re­mote con­trols.

LT: Pub­lic trans­port oper­a­tors are also among the tar­geted groups dur­ing this sea­son as they are at­tacked af­ter be­ing hired to ferry th­ese crim­i­nals. What ad­vice do you have for them to en­sure they are safe?

ACP Kolo: For in­stance, 4+1 driv­ers must avoid tak­ing spe­cial trips with­out in­form­ing their col­leagues where they would be go­ing. They must al­ways be sus­pi­cious of any strange be­hav­iour and call for help. For in­stance, if a pas­sen­ger on a spe­cial trip asks a driver to pick up some­one who ap­pears stranded along the way and sud­denly re­alises that they know each other, se­cretly call for help as this might be a plot to rob or even kill you.

ev­ery car must have a tracker or se­cu­rity sys­tem to en­sure its lo­ca­tion is known at all times. Again, it is not safe for any­one to be driv­ing around at night as crim­i­nals use tac­tics like bright lights to blur one’s vi­sion and cause ac­ci­dents.

And while wait­ing for the po­lice to ar­rive at the scene of crime, the crim­i­nals rob the mo­torist and make a get-away. That is why it is im­por­tant to avoid driv­ing at night and one must be ex­tra-vig­i­lant at this time of the year. Again, like what we al­ways say, driv­ers must never drink and drive as this im­pairs their judg­ment and in­ter­feres with their abil­ity to con­trol the ve­hi­cle.

LT: We also have famo-re­lated vi­o­lence at this time of the year. Is your of­fice tak­ing this as some­thing which re­quires spe­cial at­ten­tion?

ACP Kolo: We have our usual but in­ten­si­fied pa­trols, as well as stop-and-search op­er­a­tions, to com­bat crime. how­ever, in ad­di­tion to the famo mu­sic warfare, we now have zama-za­mas also killing each other when they re­turn from their il­le­gal min­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in South Africa. To curb th­ese crimes, the po­lice now me­di­ate peace talks be­tween feud­ing fam­ily mem­bers or groups.

LT: What is your Christ­mas mes­sage to Ba­sotho and their vis­i­tors?

ACP Kolo: They must all have won­der­ful hol­i­day cel­e­bra­tions and en­joy re­spon­si­bly. The po­lice are at their dis­posal 24 hours a day and they must not hes­i­tate to give us any tip-offs about sus­pected crime re­gard­less of how in­signif­i­cant the in­for­ma­tion might ap­pear.

As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice Mo­fo­keng Kolo.

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