2021:The year crime spiked

On guard: Police had to start escorting cash-in-transit vehicles after a series of daylight heists PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO
On guard: Police had to start escorting cash-in-transit vehicles after a series of daylight heists PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have caused massive changes to people’s lives while many were hopeful that 2021 would be a better year and the pandemic would be under control but it has not been case, Mmegi crime Reporter, PINI BOTHOKO observes that 2021 is the year that crime surged coupled with gun shots and police siren ringing incessantly

This is the year that armed robberies, murder and petty crime incidents spiralled out of control and kept the police busy. Zooming into three topical crime issues this year, I selected armed robbery, murder and petty crime incidents as these offences that did not only keep the police on their toes. The crimes also stole people’s peace and security as they lived in constant fear of criminals who continue to rule the streets and torment them even in the comfort of their homes. These crimes continued to grow in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic and they remain a major concern. Much more needs to be done in ending this scourge as crime continues unabated. The once calm Botswana has since turned into a crime haven and the target for criminals who continue to stage heists at some point overpowering security companies’ guards, robbing businesses and making off with large amounts of cash. Armed robberies have become common in Botswana due to widespread availability of guns allegedly smuggled from South Africa. The use of guns that occured occasionally has this year become too common with civilians who are not trained to use guns continuing to operate them as they please, thereby threatening the country’s economy. With unprecedented numbers of armed robbery incidents particularly cash-in-transit heists, this year brought about incessant ringing of the siren. This year, with weekly occurrence, armed robbers have been causing havoc especially in Greater Gaborone staging Hollywood movie stunts and pulling daylight heists while attacking security personnel and the police. The country also continues to experience a series of love-related murders dubbed passion killings and petty crime incidents like pick pocketing and smash and grab. The Botswana Police Service (BPS) statistics show that armed robbery, murder, theft from homes at night and even during the day have increased.

Furthermore,the country is faced with this big social problem as dozens of women continue to lose their lives at the hands of their lovers and robbers causing havoc as criminals continue to invade their homes as they please. The upsurge in murder cases worries the police as they have been conducting awareness campaigns urging people to respect the sanctity of life and avoid settling disputes through violent means. But their pleas appear to be falling on deaf ears. Hence they have concluded there is a devaluing of the sanctity of human life perpetrated by men. People no longer value the sanctity of human life as they choose to kill whenever it suits them. Murder cases are a societal problem, as it looks like the society is angry and the police and concerned stakeholders have not yet established the reason behind the cause of the situation. Despite the country having capital punishment, dozens of women continue to lose their lives at the hands of their lovers. Murder cases involving intimate partners, especially boyfriends, girlfriends and ex-lovers, worry the police. Moreover, police have cited infidelity and insecurities among people as the major causes of disputes between lovers which usually end up in deaths.

The gravity of the offences remains a concern as families and children lose their loved ones leading to orphans. However, with women commonly being victims of such violent crimes, they have been urged to be cautious of their partners’ insecurities. In an effort to deal with the matter, the police have in the past been conducting awareness sensitising the public about crime and and urging people not to settle disputes through violent means. But that seems to be falling on deaf ears.

Therefore, one wonder what has been pushing men who are mostly the perpetrators of the offences. As a crime reporter, it's ideal for partners to consider involving a third party when troubled and respect the sanctity of life. I have since observed that people especially the youth have been exhibiting a frightening lack of control with the cause of their behaviour not yet known. But I am pleading with them (youth) to reflect on their behaviour with a view to change. Quizzed on the matter to establish what goes on in the mind of a killer and what motivates the killing, a psychologist, Tsholo Kgwalabatlhe recently identified jealousy and anger amongst intimate partners as the major factors contributing to the rise in passion killings. Kgwalabatlhe further stated that there are many reasons that can be given by the perpetrator as to why he did what he did.

However, there is no justification enough to killing someone. She added that the prevailing explanations offered are usually the murder which stems from masculine possessiveness, which is the embodiment of the murderer’s personality, and sexual jealousy and anger. There has been a debate around this issue across social media platforms with the majority of people pointing out that the level of poverty (scarcity of job opportunities) amongst the youth is pushing them into crime as they have nothing to survive on. These could be true because it is evident that people have lost jobs or businesses due to COVID-19 pandemic.

However, responding to the rise in cash-in-transit heist, the chairperson of Business Botswana’s Security Sector, Gaolatwe Modongo following a public outcry suggested the need for security guards to be armed in order to prevent crime. The Botswana Police Service (BPS), in partnership with other security agents and the military police, have since moved swiftly to provide heavy escort to cash-in-transits vehicles. Modongo feared that the rise in armed robberies would affect the country’s foreign direct investment, as it is going to be challenging for investors to invest in a country which has a security crisis. Meanwhile, in June the police shot and killed three suspected armed robbers following an encounter at Block 6, Gaborone. Then, the trio, all Zimbabwean nationals aged about 30 and 40 were intercepted by the police whilst committing a robbery at one of the homesteads in Block 6 location. A firearm suspected to have been used by the criminals was found at the scene. In August 2021, still in Block 6, near United Lounge five armed robbers robbed G4S transit vehicle carrying cash that was supposed to be offloaded at First National Bank ATMs at gun point money amounting to P8.5 million.

Then, the criminals used violence and threatened G4S security guards. Just a week after, robbers staged another heist in which a Security System cash-in-transit van was robbed at gun point money close to P5million. No arrests were made. As if that was not enough, a month later G4S security company was once again robbed money amounting to P7.4million at gunpoint at Middlestar Shopping Complex. In November, two Batswana were also shot and killed by the police. Two others suspects were seriously injured after they attacked employees of the liquor store at Taung near Ramotswa.

Editor's Comment
More resources needed to fight crime

The Fight Crime Gaborone Facebook page is always filled with sad complaints of hard working Batswana who were robbed at knife point at some traffic lights or at their home gates when trying to get inside.These thugs have no mercy; they do not just threaten victims, they are always ready to use knives, and sadly, they damage car windows. While this happens at different traffic lights, there are those where such incidents happen more frequently...

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