Thamaga Rots, Delinquents Rule!

| December 29, 2014 | 0 Comments

Traditional lifestyle has taken an about turn in Thamaga. Cultural values and systems have been rendered defunct by groups of youth who have declared terror on the village. Violence reigns supreme. Tranquility has become a forlon wish while a solution remains a mirage. BOPA reporter, Rebaone Tswiio, chronicles a sad reality where adults have been rendered children, while children have impersonated bullying foster parents.

Police handled the first two gang related acts as isolated cases. Unfortunately, gangsterism gained currency faster than charismatic churches. Security forces were caught napping while parents and bogosi lived in denial. Now Thamaga is a step shy of being humanely inhabitable.

Until the recent spate of violent acts, Thamaga was commonly known as “ko setho se teng,” loosely translated to mean a citadel of good demeanor. Not anymore! All that is now history.

Two people died last year at the hands of Thamaga gangs, according to police records. In one incident, a mob of nine boys beat a man to death after they followed him to Rammidi farmlands.

At around the same time, a man struggled for his life in an Intensive Care Unit after the gangs assaulted him. Yet another death last year and inter-gang fighting was to blame, confirm police.

Now 2014, a 68-year old woman dies in her house at midnight allegedly at the hands of a group of around 40 boys while her 41-year old cousin is currently hospitalised after undergoing major surgery. One other young man is nursing serious injuries after being hacked with an axe in what police believe to be inter-gang related fighting.

Now adults live in perpetual fear of their children. Business operators seldom attract patrons anymore. Churches have had to adjust their time schedule downwards. Night vigils are now a rarity and personal safety a privilege.

“Le ditebelelo ga re di tsamaye, re tshaba dirukutlhi tsa motse o,” says villager elder, Mr Tebatso Gaborongwe, meaning they have stopped attending all night vigils because of fear of being attacked.

Mr Gaborongwe adds that cellphones have become a curse as these delinquents are always in search of them. It is better, he says, to switch it (cellphone) off when you receive a call while walking within the village than to answer, lest you court trouble.

Sadly, says Mr Gaborongwe, possession of a cellphone is a double edged sword. Either way, you suffer the consequences.

Apparently, if it is a “cheap” one you have to endure serious beating and ridicule regardless of your age while an expensive one, in the mould of smartphones, will also invite more trouble as attackers associate it with opulence.

Mr Gaborongwe has experienced the rot of Thamaga youth at its apex. He is cousin to the recent two women who were attacked midninght, one of whom is deceased.

Three names are bandied about when gang violence becomes a topic in Thamaga Merubisi, Matsaa-ka-nkane and Magakabe whose naming leaves much to be desired. Merubisi, owls in English, appear to be the nerve centre, dispensing terror as and when they wish to whoever they cross paths with.

Matsaa-ka-nkane [forceful grabbers] seem to have germinated from the gangsterism maze at a later stage, and are playing second fiddle to Merubisi who also apparently boast a huge membership base. Magakabe, Setswana for Crows, is described as a female-only gang that also has several mischievous acts up its sleeve.

BOPA research shows that youth aged 16-25 years dominate these groups, most of them out of school. Word has it that Merubisi can be traced to Letlole Mosielele Junior Secondary School, probably students who enrolled around 2009-2010.

Even the school head, Mr Phemelo Sejabosigo, confirms having heard about such origins although currently there are no smidgens of gangsterism in the school.

He says so far his students have never shown any alien conduct in school except common mischief such as stealing stationery or petty fighting which has never involved the use of dangerous weapons.

“Discipline here is not a problem at all, it is within control because we work with parents and other external stakeholders to maintain a conducive environment for learning,” he reckons.

It appears a similar situation has replicated itself at Sekgele Junior Secondary School as Mrs Portia Molosiwa, head of pastoral care, says all they have experienced was nothing unique. “Our few cases range from bullying, vandalism and insulting each other and we take action decisively,” she says.

Once a student becomes a repeat offender, she says, they involve hisher parents plus bogosi to administer corporal punishment which always rehabilitates them.

Tribal Authority position

Kgosi Gobuamang Gobuamang says they initially underestimated the magnitude of the problem that eventually spiraled into a crisis.

“We were initially concerned that children were being finger-printed for minor offences so we thought corporal punishment could abate the situation. And so we whipped them in our arbitration courts in the presence of their parents,” he says.

He adds that they got more concerned when same faces frequented their courts and never showed any sign of remorse or rehabilitation. The cause of all this, he says, is that parents have abdicated raising their children in a good and proper family structured order.

“We often endure serious resistance here when we want to whip the naughty boys as parents are often unnecessarily over protective. I just think they are in denial,” sums up Kgosi Gobuamang.

His deputy, Mr Tshepiso Mosielele, says in the five years that he has served at the kgotla, he has dealt with notoriety cases involving youth aged 16-25 more than any other age cohort.

“We must do something urgently because villagers have now threatened to take the law into their own hands. Our people are farmers and some of them have licensed guns, so you can imagine what they can do with such if they felt threatened,” says Mosielele.

In several recurring incidents, says Mosielele, the gangs have descended upon traditional beer brewers demanding permits issued by bogosi to brew such beverage. In the absence of such, they forcefully drink all the alcohol they find in the house, acting as a police service on their own.

Police Involvement

Senior Supt Kevin Mookodi, Officer Commanding for the area, says since Sunday, November 23 they have arrested 25 suspects, six of whom appeared in court on Thursday, November 26. “We are still looking for six other culprits who are currently at large.”

Supt Mookodi says it is difficult to link their current suspects to previous gang attacks in Thamaga except for few faces that they have arrested before. He says crime in Thamaga is exacerbated by the fact that most parents are not forthcoming to assist the Police with investigations.

“So far we have managed to arrest such a huge number because parents thronged our offices this week to report suspects from their various dikgotla, which was not the case prior to the weekend murder,” he says.

Because the police are “thin on the ground,” he says crime continues despite their night patrols alongside the Special Support Group.

“A housebreaking case was reported just this morning where an LCD television plus a decoder were stolen despite our heavy presence of 42 officers on patrol in the village,” he says.

Social expert diagnosis

Mr Kgomotso Jongman, a researcher and doctoral candidate on children and youth issues, says the situation in Thamaga is a clear disintegration of the family setup where parents cannot ably transmit social values to their children.

“The reason could either be employment where parents are engaged fulltime at work to the disaantage of family time or unemployment where parents have to rely on piece jobs that will lead to hopping from one employer to the next and thus an unstable life.”

As a result, he says, children feel neglected hence they fall into the cracks of society that predispose them to all social all ills, among them gangsterism.

Mr Jongman says youth unemployment, currently standing at 17 per cent, could also be a factor as they have a lot of idle time at their disposal.

“Therefore anger as a result of idleness manifests through ill social behavior such as crime, prostitution in some cases, drunkenness and so forth.”

Proposed intervention

Supt Mookodi says a solution has to originate from the community. “Parents should cease harbouring criminals and over protecting their children so that we collectively nip crime in the bud.”

In one incident, he says, a mother denied the presence of her son in the house during our investigations. Unfortunately the son bolted out through the back window in an attempt to escape but we arrested him.

“One other parent had denied the involvement of her son in crime and refused permission to administer corporal punishment on him. When we went and searched his room we found dangerous weapons under his bed and his mother cried bitterly in disappointment.”

Supt Mookodi says police intervention might be a temporary measure while a permanent solution has to be owned by the community.

Accordingly, Mr Jongman says a proper diagnosis needs to occur before any intervention could be hypothesized. As such, he says social workers and psychologists must be engaged to propose rehabilitative measures to juvenile delinquency, which if left unattended may spiral into other areas.

“Convicting them at court and sending them to prison will only address a symptom and leave the root cause as it will also worsen the situation by turning convicts into hardened criminals.”

Meanwhile, Kgosi Gobuamang says parents should be real guardians of their children as against delegating their responsibility to strangers. “We need to establish the whereabouts of our children at any particular time so that we keep them on a tight leash and discourage them from associating with delinquent youth.”

He says bogosi and the police could only do so much to help the situation while the real authority and power lies with the parents.

So far no suspect has ever been convicted in relation to gang attacks in Thamaga.

Source : BOPA

Source : Botswana Daily News

Category: Governance

Leave a Reply