What’s going on: Mob justice is not the answer

This time I was sitting alone under the cool Motswere tree as the famous Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” song kept playing in my head. It is because as I sat there, I couldn’t help but wonder what really was going on in our society. Somewhere in the media - both social and print - I had seen stories on rape and mob killings. Not in the not so distant past we had also as a society had to endure the so called ‘passion killings.’ After much pondering over this, I walked across the fallow fields to join my partners in crime - those fellows with whom I share traditional beer every Sunday. I must have looked like a spook as I got in. All they wanted to know was what was eating me. Yes something was eating me. I asked the same question as in Marvin Gaye’s song. I simply asked, “Banna go diragalang kante.” Everybody looked at me as if I was a looney. What really has gone wrong with our people? Media across the country had since the beginning of the year been awash with stories that tarnished the image of our once innocent society. It is reported that during the festive period a great number of women were raped. Prior to the festive period in 2019 we had Botswana placed second after South Africa among the ten “Top Countries by Highest Rape Crime,” prompting even The Midweek Sun to brand Botswana the ‘Rape Nation.” And in relation to that, we get weekly police reports from all over the country showing that several women continue to be raped with each passing day. As we continue to hear stories of men killing their lovers in what is called “passion killing,” one is tempted to ask what this word ‘passion’ really means. According to Cambridge English Dictionary, it is “a very powerful feeling, for example of sexual attraction, love, hate, anger and other emotions.” Passion is about strong feelings towards someone. Nowhere is it about maiming and even killing. Is it now that men in our midst have these strong feelings towards women? Even with whatever reasons one may advance, is the killing of a partner a solution? And with almost all of these crimes done by males on females, can this be explained by the claim that the boy child nowadays is neglected, with empowerment programmes only meant for the girl-child? Our parents and their parents before never knew of these rampant killings of girls in love. Traditionally our parents had something called “go lobela dintsi.” Such was the deterrent medicine one was given for wayward behaviour. Any person whose deeds were deviant of the accepted behavioural norms and standards was with the knowledge of community leadership lured away to a letsholo. At such a gathering of men outside the village, such a rogue would be severely punished – a lobelwa dintsi. In no time civility and conformity would be restored and peace would prevail among the villagers. It was never about a random mob meting punishment on an individual – it was a structure sanctioned by the community leadership. Today things are different. Within one week our society witnessed acts of mob justice in Mogoditshane and Paje. An then there were further such reports in Serowe, Francistown and lately Palapye. In one case a man lost his life while in others the victims lost limbs and blood. In the end no one is innocent of a crime. Yet we are a 21st century society guided by statutes, institutions and legal instruments regulating our social interactions. Such institutions have replaced our traditional structures. We have been made to believe and abide by the principle of justice and ‘not guilty until proven otherwise.’ We have never been a society that believes in the “eye for an eye” justice. Though all of us have in one way or the other been victims of crime and we have also not received satisfactory service from those responsible to “police” us, rampant mob justice is not for us. We are now no better than the criminals themselves, and even as the police have tried to warn against such acts, more and more cases of mob justice continue to be reported. Hence we ask: What’s going on?