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COVID-19 and crime: The good, the bad and the ugly

PINI BOTHOKO
COVID and crime: The good, the bad and the ugly PIC: PHATSIMO KAPENG
Botswana Police Service says COVID-19 and the related lockdowns have helped reduce most categories of crime including the perennial high rate of accidents which caused deaths on the country’s roads.

However, one particular crime has thrived during the period, being serial assaults including Gender Based Violence (GBV) and defilement. Giving an overview of the situation, police spokesperson, Dipheko Motube told Mmegi this week that GBV and serial assaults have become the new headache for police under COVID-19 restrictions.

“The beginning of COVID-19 has changed and impacted the lives of people in Botswana and crime is no exception,” Motube said. He said during the country’ s first ever lockdown last year April police recorded 22 cases of rape and 23 defilement cases, one threat-to-kill, two murder cases (between lovers) and one indecent assault.

Out of the 22 rape cases, seven of them involved children aged between two and 13 years as alleged victims raped by their close family members. Police have established that close relatives such as brothers, cousins, fathers and stepfathers were the perpetrators. Motube revealed that in 2019 they recorded 160 517 criminal offences that included road traffic offences and GBV cases as compared to 123 901 criminal offences in 2020 an overall decrease of 22.8%. He said that the decrease was due to the enforcement of State of Ememrgency(SoE). Addressing road traffic offences that hves been behind the road traffic accidents that have been the country’s leading cause of death for years Motube said in 2019 police recorded 342 477 traffic offences compared to 286 334 last year, which is a decrease of 16%.

“Most of these offences were recorded in South-Central division that covers greater Gaborone which include neighboring villages of Mogoditshane, Mmopane, Metsimotlhabe, Mochudi, Gabane, Tlokweng and Ramotswa to mention but a few.

This is because of the population as well as the economic status of the residents,”Motube said. Few Weeks ago, Bobonong police recorded a similar case in which a 101-year-old man of Molalatau village was accused of defiling his 12-year-old great grandchild. Motube said lockdowns and other restrictions halted efforts put in place to fight

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the scourge, which remain a major concern for the country.

He said since people were in lockdown with their family members some were demonstrating behavior that their close family members were not aware of. He said the escalating GBV cases during the first lockdown forced them to focus on it, opened child friendly office and introduced a toll free number that operate 24 hours so that people could report violence at any time. Meanwhile on the positive side, Motube revealed that road traffic offences had dropped during lockdown. He attributed the decline to the fact that government through COVID-19 protocols had introduced restrictions that reduced opportunities for some criminal activities to take place because people were no longer out and about in the same way but hunkered at home.

“The less that people were out and about drinking at bars, there was less conflicts especially those that were alcohol related that have been the police’s headache over the years. Even violent crimes like murder that has been tormenting policing areas such as Mogoditshane over the years had dropped in the midst of government’s COVID-19 restrictions,” he said.

He added that other criminal activities like robbery, house breaking had dropped even though some criminal activities where people are attacked whilst walking to work early in the morning and robbed of their hard earned valuables increased amid curfew.

The police spokesperson added that to show that the COVID-19 restrictions were helpful in reducing crime incidents,only two days following the lifting of alcohol ban, Broadhurst Police Station recorded an alcohol related murder case as both the victim and the deceased were allegedly under influence. “This is a serious concern because alcohol related conflicts that usually lead to violent crimes had drastically dropped during lockdown, curfew and the alcohol ban period. The new normal had made it harder for criminals to find people to beat and rob amidst stay home orders,” he said.



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