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‘Bid to quash gangs might backfire’

LAWYERS have warned that the government’s move to declare the notorious famo gangs as unlawful and subversive organisations might backfire. Advocate Tekane Maqakachane said the real test of the impact of the declaration is in how the police will go after the organisation.

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Advocate Maqakachane said the gazette provides the legal basis on which the police will strike hard against the gangs.

His fear, he said, is that if the police use all the powers they have under the Internal Security (General) Act of 1984 the organisations could react with equally aggressive force that would trigger civil unrest and violence.

“The trouble is how the organisations might react to the police’s actions against them,” Advocate Maqakachane said.

“These are sophisticated organisations that are not only pervasive but also well-armed and funded. They will not fold their arms and disband when the police hit them hard.”

“They will strike back and there will be chaos. I worry that this gazette might have paved the way to civil unrest.”

Advocate Maqakachane said he is sceptical that declaring the organisations as subversive alone could solve the problem.

He said the real question is whether the police have a strategy, resources and means to operationalise the power they have under the Act.

“We are talking about organisations that cut across jurisdictions and are so pervasive in our society. The police on the other hand are already bewildered by general crimes.”

“They (police) have struggled to deal with gangs of teenagers yet they believe a mere declaration in a gazette could be sufficient for them to take down huge and sophisticated organisations.”

Advocate Maqakachane said there are other serious concerns beyond the police’s apparent lack of strategy and capacity to fight the gangs.

“Some of the police officers are members of those gangs. The police cannot even deal with the indiscipline in their ranks. The law enforcement system is too compromised to fight against the gangs.”

“The gangs are everywhere. In the police and the military. They know how to use the system to their benefit. As we speak now they are already working on new strategies to protect themselves and keep their enterprises thriving.”

“They are in political parties and other strategic places”.

He said the government is mistaken if it believes it can use “a law to deal with what is essentially a structural issue”.

Advocate Letuka Molati doesn’t believe the police need any additional legal powers to deal with the gangs.

He says “the problem is with the system and not the classification of organisations”.

“The solution to crime is very simple: investigate, arrest, prosecute and punish those found guilty in accordance with the law”.

The problem, Advocate Molati says, is that Lesotho is just not prosecuting enough murder cases.

He estimates that 2 000 of the 4 000 pending criminal cases are murders.

“The disposal rate of murder cases in the High Court is about 100 per year yet more than 400 murders are committed annually.”

“Some murder cases take as much as 10 years to prosecute. Some just collapse because they have dragged on for so long until key witnesses die.”

“The issue is not the branding of the criminal organisation but the system that is just not working.”

Staff Reporter

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