HERE is a hilarious but serious joke doing the rounds in Maseru. If you haven’t heard it then you have been missing out on a good laugh.
It goes like so. A team of international crime experts decide to find the best police force in the world.
They gather America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the United Kingdom’s Scotland Yard, South African Police Service and Lesotho’s Mounted Police Service.
Each police service is told to bring the best investigators it has in its ranks.
As part of the test the experts take the teams to a jungle. There they release a rare rabbit into the jungle and ask the investigators to find it in the shortest time possible.
First to go into the jungle was the FBI which found the rabbit in ten minutes and brought it back to the experts.
“Wow,” the experts said, “that was fast”.
Off goes the Scotland Yard team which brought back the rabbit in just less than 20 minutes, much to the delight of the experts.
The South African police got their turn but they took ten hours to find the rabbit.
They told the experts that it had taken so long because they were still waiting for President Zuma’s approval.
The rabbit might be politically connected and its “arrest” might cause problems, the South African investigators said.
Along the way the investigators had shot some jackals for allegedly making noise.
Some of them had also fainted during the search because they were overweight (you know how most SA police officers stretch their uniforms at the seams with their bulky bodies).
The experts were shocked.
Then it was the Lesotho Mounted Police Service’s turn to prove its skills.
Off they went. Minutes turn into hours which turn into days while the LMPS searched for the rabbit.
After waiting for two weeks the experts sent the FBI to look for Lesotho’s esteemed investigators.
The FBI had not travelled deep into the jungle when they heard violent screams and angry voices.
There under a huge oak tree they found the LMPS investigators surrounding a baboon.
They were holding melamu, handcuffs, tyre tubes, knobkerries, knuckledusters and other instruments used to inflict pain.
They had caught the baboon within ten minutes of their search and since then they had been brutally torturing it.
They had spent the first week torturing the baboon to tell them where the rabbit was and when that failed they started torturing it to confess that it, the baboon, was actually the rare rabbit the experts had released into the jungle.
The poor baboon had passed out and “passed out things” but the LMPS officers had kept on hammering it.
This might just be a joke but it is also pregnant with meaning.
You see, the police in this country have become notorious for torturing suspects.
Just last week, the High Court awarded M240 000 in damages to a man who had been brutally tortured by the police in 2009.
The man was beaten until he urinated and broke his ribs.
He was continuously suffocated with a tyre tube, kicked with boots and hit with gun butts. He fainted five times during that 48-hour ordeal at the hands of four police officers who, ironically, were the very people who are supposed to protect him.
All this was because he had refused to “vomit” a computer that had been stolen from his workplace.
In the end he was released without a charge but the police officers had already punished him by breaking his ribs, suffocating him and tightening cuffs on his hands.
We have heard of such barbaric tactics in other undemocratic states in the world.
But that this is happening in a democratic country like Lesotho is shocking.
Equally astounding is that this is happening here in Lesotho, a nation of a people who are related to each other somehow and somewhere.
Police officers born of Basotho mothers are doing such heinous things to fellow Basotho born of Basotho mothers.
Torture has become their instrument of choice against crime suspects.
In Lesotho the police beat confessions out of suspects. In the end it doesn’t matter if the court acquits you because the police would have already punished you enough with tyre tubes, knobkerries and blows.
o what makes our police officers resort to such barbaric interrogation methods?
The answers could be many but six stand out.
The main reason is that our police are generally lazy thinkers. How is that so, you may ask?
Simple! Investigation, by its nature, requires time. But because our police officers generally don’t want to go through that process they would rather grab the person nearest to the crime scene and force them to spit out a confession.
Scrutator has no doubt that there are many people who have been convicted on the strength of confessions they have been forced to spit out through torture.
The second reason is that our police officers just lack investigative skills.
Beating suspects until they confess is therefore their only option.
Investigation requires acumen, something which most of the so-called investigators in the police service don’t seem to have.
That is why really sophisticated criminals in this country perambulate the streets without care.
Their lawyers are always on cue.
Investigative skills are taught but one can also acquire them from books.
Unfortunately books are something that our police officers seem to detest with a passion.
The third reason is that our police officers have not learnt modern interrogation skills. Either that or they have learnt the skills but refuse to use them.
It’s the same old tosh of intimidating and beating suspects.
Their first statement to a suspect is always the same: “Tell us what you did because we know everything.”
When that fails they resort to tyre tubes and knobkerries.
Seriously? A knobkerrie!
he fourth reason for this lawlessness in our police force is that officers are rarely held to account for their actions.
Police officers torture suspects and the government (Oops, I meant to say the taxpayer) pays the damages.
They torture people because they know that “the people” will pick up the tab when the police are sued.
If the millions of damages the LMPS has paid over the years were being deducted from the offending police officers’ salaries then they wouldn’t dare ill-treat suspects with such impunity.
You can see this “I-don’t-care-attitude” in the way police defend the lawsuits.
They come to the court, admit openly that they beat a suspect to a pulp before half-heartedly challenging the quantum.
The fifth reason is that our policing tactics are just archaic. Our police force is operating in the 21st century using policing methods of the 18th century.
The sixth reason is that our police force just doesn’t recruit quality.
It generally takes what other professions have rejected. It was only recently that they started getting graduates into their fold.
Yet even then, the number of graduates remains small compared to the rank and file high school certificate holders who are charged with the role of protecting the people.
Scrutator understands that the general excuse from the officers is that they are under paid and ill-equipped.
Well, that might be true but if they are demotivated by their poor salaries then where the hell do they get the motivation to torture people with such brutality?
If they are hungry because their salaries are low then where do they get the energy to beat suspects with such vim and vigour?
They say they have no uniforms yet they can afford to use their boots to kick people.
The truth is that some police officers are actually too motivated.
A police officer who beats a man continuously for two days until he faints five times and breaks his ribs is actually “over-motivated”.
They are also motivated to set up roadblocks because motorists become their ATMs. Scrutator has always wondered why some police officers are clamouring for better pay when we all know that they are already earning much more through bribes.
But having said all this Scrutator understands that there are some honest police officers who are just trying to do their jobs under hostile conditions. She knows how some police officers wait for patrol vehicles for hours, stitch their tattered uniforms and scrounge around for basic tools of work but still continue striving. Those are the heroes we need in this country. It’s unfortunate and sad that these heroes are in the minority.
ast week, I mentioned Idi Amin Dada who brutalised Ugandans between 1971 and 1979.
A Ugandan friend then informed me that I had forgotten to mention that Amin was actually a ruthless buffoon.
Because of his mind-boggling cruelty, some say he was literally mad.
This week the friend brought my attention a ‘classic’ speech Amin delivered on an official visit to England in 1976.
He delivered the speech after being hosted to a sumptuous dinner by Queen Elizabeth II.
“My majesty Mr Queen Sir, horrible ministers and members of parliament, invented guests, ladies under gentlemen. I hereby thank you completely…..Mr Queen, sir; and also what he has done for me and my fellow Uganda who come with me.
“We have really eaten very much. And we are fed up completely . . . But before I go back to my country with a plane from the Entebbe airport of London I wish to invitation you Mr Queen, to become home to Uganda so that we can also revenge on you .
“You will eat a full cow: and also feel up your stomach and walk with difficult because of full stomach completely. Even when you want to rest at night; I will make sure that you sleep on top of me in the top up stairs of my mansion completely so that you can enjoy all the gravity of fresh air.
“But now am sorry because I have to tell you that I have made a short call on you only. But next time I shall make a long call on you to last the whole moon completely. Thank you very much to allow me to undress you completely before these extinguished ladies . . .
“Lastly but not list, I ask the band to play our international anthem of the republic of Uganda and also the British international anthem. Your majesty sir, I thank you from the bottom of my heart and from the bottoms of all the people of Uganda.
“With this few words I thank you Sir.”
Scrutator has not verified if Amin indeed gave this speech but she knows that the man was capable of such silliness.
By the way, Amin was chairman of the Organisation of African Unity at one point.
It took a courageous Julius Mwalimu Nyerere to drive this mad man out of power in 1979.
He also claimed to have eaten human flesh and described it as “salty”.
This is Africa.