Solutions for the Amphitheatre

09 May 2016 10:26 #68354 by tiska

Viking wrote:

tiska wrote:
So here is the suggestion - how about some crowd sourcing, starting with VE, to hire someone private to liaise with the chiefs, show them the newspaper article on the attack, note that the incident is serious and that 'steps' are being taken. The person concerned could keep an eye out for those in the community wearing blankets and those in the community wearing anomalous looking, new hiking gear.
I'm in with the first 3K ZAR.

How do others feel?


Good idea tiska.
I am happy to volunteer my time, even if that means driving in to Lesotho to meet chiefs or the LMP.
Perhaps some sort of monetary reward offered for the finding and handing over of the guilty individuals would be good motivation.


Excellent Viking as we would need someone to take on the role of the visit in person.
And your reward idea is a really excellent one.
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09 May 2016 11:42 #68358 by firephish
happy to contribute towards a reward for information "leading to the arrest & conviction of the perpetrator".

Would need to follow due process though:

1. case opened in leostho
2. lesotho police follow up on any info provided (by local chief i assume)
3. leostho court convict base on info provide / police investigation

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09 May 2016 14:28 #68362 by ghaznavid

firephish wrote: Would need to follow due process though

I suspect the local chief would be a more helpful avenue to pursue. I generally find that the traditional justice system is more effective than criminal courts in this part of the world. I don't mean mob justice - the chief is held in such high regard that the people of the community wouldn't dare lie to him.

I don't know how it works with Basotho chiefs, but generally you need to take some gift along (I believe a nice brandy is pretty standard). The team would also need to speak Sotho.

I rate the real problem is that we walk over these people's land with no regard for the fact that we are trespassing (international boundaries aside). We are lucky that the majority of Basotho people are very friendly. If you walked across the land of the average South African farmer without permission, you could very well find some lead in your body.

Getting to the top is nothing, the way you do it is everything – Royal Robins

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09 May 2016 15:55 #68363 by firephish
agree 100%

ghaznavid wrote: I rate the real problem is that we walk over these people's land with no regard for the fact that we are trespassing (international boundaries aside). We are lucky that the majority of Basotho people are very friendly. If you walked across the land of the average South African farmer without permission, you could very well find some lead in your body.

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09 May 2016 19:10 - 09 May 2016 21:49 #68364 by Philip
I think most Drakensberg hikers are aware that the area in the vicinity of the top of the Amphitheatre (including the area officially and technically part of RNNP) has been a crime ‘hotspot’ for some time.

The latest attack location (from a very reliable source) was ‘about four kilometres south of the Amphitheatre on the Kubedu River on a confluence with a side stream’. That puts it about one kilometre behind the escarpment. This area is used by Basotho herders (shepherds) who come from the northern lowlands of Lesotho, the Mokhotlong area and as far afield as Thaba Tseka. But importantly, this area can also be very easily accessed by local South Africans using the Namahadi Pass (and possibly many other routes onto the escarpment further north that we are unaware of).

We already know that the area below the escarpment above Phuthaditjhaba and along the Free State / KZN border is used by local South Africans herders who are indistinguishable (by the average person) from Basotho herders – Sesotho speakers with dogs, wearing grey blankets, balaclavas and carrying traditional sticks.

Obviously the top of the Amphitheatre provides ‘easy pickings’ for criminals (especially at night). Criminals who steal need to have a market nearby where they can sell (fence) stolen items. They also require a large enough town or place where they can be absorbed, and become anonymous and ‘faceless’ (as opposed to a more traditional village where everyone knows everyone else).

Phuthaditjhaba is just such a place. It is in effect an enclave of Lesotho in South Africa, and a perfect portal for contraband.

When unfortunate attacks like this happen, there is an immediate assumption that the perpetrators are Basotho. I am NOT trying to say or imply that Basotho have not been involved in some of the attacks in the past, what I AM saying is that there is also a strong possibility that perpetrators of some of these attacks are actually South Africans. I think we should also be looking closer to home!
Last edit: 09 May 2016 21:49 by Philip.

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09 May 2016 19:35 #68365 by Philip
"I rate the real problem is that we walk over these people's land with no regard for the fact that we are trespassing (international boundaries aside). We are lucky that the majority of Basotho people are very friendly. If you walked across the land of the average South African farmer without permission, you could very well find some lead in your body".

The difference between the average South African farmer and how things work in Lesotho is the concept of private land ownership. The land in Lesotho belongs to all Basotho and is held in trust by the King. When hiking in Lesotho we are able to enjoy this by courtesy of all the Basotho people. We are not hiking across land owned by an individual. So we are in THEIR space - they are not in OUR space, even when we have an audience!

Unfortunately, I can personally testify that this is a point misunderstood and misinterpreted by many South African hikers.
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09 May 2016 23:26 - 10 May 2016 02:18 #68367 by intrepid

tiska wrote: Quite a lot of people contributing to this thread agree that:
1. apprehending the criminals responsible for the event near Fangs and for the incidents at the chain ladder as well as robberies near Tugela Falls would help enormously in countering further crimes which could end even worse that the one near Fangs.
2. Apprehending the criminals is a necessary but probably not sufficient step. Other things need to be done to connect with the community - as per the discussions of fees benefiting the community (and the closure of the area being a cost to them).


I think thats a good summary, Tiska. Crime remains wrong-doing and can never be excusable. It must be dealt with properly through law enforcement and judicial systems, regardless of country, ethnicity and context. Again, I echo several sentiments already expressed elsewhere: this incident is no reflection on the Basotho nation (regardless of which side of the border they may reside), it is a reflection on humanity, and there are many examples of similar issues across the globe. On the other hand we absolutely need to understand and address the context in which these problems are occurring, which invariably means engaging the local community with a positive attitude, making an effort to understand and befriend them, and together working out measures whereby both sides benefit. No doubt the context is complex, and the road we may need to travel is a long one.


tiska wrote: So here is the suggestion - how about some crowd sourcing, starting with VE, to hire someone private to liaise with the chiefs, show them the newspaper article on the attack, note that the incident is serious and that 'steps' are being taken. The person concerned could keep an eye out for those in the community wearing blankets and those in the community wearing anomalous looking, new hiking gear.
I'm in with the first 3K ZAR.

How do others feel?


The suggestion to engage the local chiefs is good and noble. I don't imagine this is going to be a straightforward matter however, and if we do this, it must be backed by long-term commitment and sincerity to positively engage them. I believe the underlying tone of the initial engagement should be one of appeal to their own sense of justice and orderliness, and for their assistance. Certainly one can keep an eye open for suspects, but an underlying tone of suspicion and threat, however subtle, could easily backfire. If there are to be any hints of further steps being taken, I think that is best left to come from the authorities. We could easily widen the existing gap if we approach this in the wrong way, even if is only slightly wrong, and even well intentioned gestures can be detrimental if they are done in ignorance of local protocol and culture. Such a party would need to include individuals who have a very good grasp of local customs and language, and even better would be to have someone from the same culture, who understands both and can act as a go-between. Off the top of my head I know there has been some engagement between the community wilderness groups of the Mnweni and their counterparts across the border. This may be a good avenue to follow. The upcoming stakeholder meeting on 31 May is also critical here.

As an aside, there is no current intention to introduce a paid membership of VE as it stands today, even towards a cause (never mind any remuneration for the considerable amount of time and effort it takes to run VE, which is almost non-existent). There are other models whereby a financial contribution towards a cause can be done through this site, such as selling some kind of item, or through paid access to certain enhanced features of the site, just as examples. These are very long term considerations however and not something which is even on the agenda. Ideally VE plays a role in highlighting the issues and needs, making important information available and centralised, bringing the right people together as well as the community at large, catalising solutions and initiatives, and in shaping values and ethics. Information and knowledge is power, even though it may be abused and taken for granted by some. Ideally everyone should take but also give, I'd like to believe that is one of VE's values. Right from the start the intention with VE has been to promote proactive care and appreciation for the Berg, and not just to simply provide a place for hikers to exchange information. That some only take is again a reflection on mankind as a whole. It is very much my hope that VE can strongly contribute and be a part of the solution for the Amphitheatre, and that various stakeholders and organisations can work together on this, in spite of differences we may have. The exact how's, what's and when's remain to be seen as this thing unfolds, and again I strongly hope we have the resolve and perseverance to see it through.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
Last edit: 10 May 2016 02:18 by intrepid.
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10 May 2016 06:25 #68368 by Richard Hunt
@ Phillip: yes I have also thought the attackers could be from below and not from the local villages or herders from above or just passing opportunists. Why would the locals of that Fangs area want to attack someone on their own turf as there would be an extremely good chance of them getting caught. As in the area I live in most of the robberies and attacks are done by outsiders from another area. One of my workers comes from Phuthaditjhaba and he says the crime and violence even within those communities is rife...his own house being robbed in February and his daughter abducted for muti.
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10 May 2016 07:05 - 10 May 2016 07:14 #68369 by Philip
Exactly! And it would suit anyone like officials and corrupt law enforcement officers in the Witsieshoek and Phuthaditjhaba area, possibly paid off by crime syndicates, to turn the investigation spotlight on the seemingly ethereal and nebulous 'Basotho's' who seem to 'disappear' into the mountains. The perfect foil!
Last edit: 10 May 2016 07:14 by Philip.

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10 May 2016 08:01 - 10 May 2016 08:13 #68370 by Philip
I Have another take on 'Solutions for the Amphitheatre';

There is another thread running on VE about Cave Etiquette, the common sense message being - if forced by circumstances to share, ‘shove up’, ‘make space’ and ‘interact nicely with smiles and laughter’.

I consider that this message also applies when hiking other peoples' space in Lesotho.

The other part of my post is personal and refers to how things have changed for me as a result of some 11 years of guiding overseas clients into remote areas of Lesotho on hiking trips, pony trekking trips and cultural trips, staying with local people in traditional villages.

I would like to quote from a book I am writing;

“We are in their space - they are not in our space.

One of the things that I really noticed when I first became a guide 10 years ago - was how the interactions and body language from the overseas clients was SO different and more open than the South African's I had been hiking with up till then - presumably because they were not carrying South African's historical mental baggage.

And how different and more friendly the reaction was that they got back from the local people.

That REALLY started me thinking...

It was like a shock to me".

I now notice, see and realise, how many South African come across in Lesotho.

It is ingrained.

As it was with me before I became a guide".

Maybe the unfortunate attacked party didn’t do anything to provoke an attack – but rather were the unfortunate recipients of pent up frustrations generated by a previous group or groups of rude and arrogant hikers who are not prepared to accept they are hiking in a different country and / or have not bothered to familiarise themselves with Lesotho and Basotho culture.

I could give more specific examples that I have witnessed - but I cannot do this on a public forum.

No one can say with any confidence that this is not the way it happens!
Last edit: 10 May 2016 08:13 by Philip.
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