Thursday, June 20, 2024

From the frying pan to the death bed

Most revelers think nothing of staggering home in the dark after a night of pub hopping. Once in a while our sense of security is shaken by a story of a tipsy night prowler mugged by petty thieves looking for a cellular phone to sell and make a fast buck. We, however quickly shrug it all off as one of those things and get on with our lives. That is how safe we feel on our streets.

Most of us never stop to think before answering our door bell at night. Despite reports of robberies and burglaries, we still feel safe in the comfort of our alarm fortified living rooms. That is all thanks to the laws of this country and the men in blue who honour the badge by protecting and serving our communities.

Laws are what hold a society and a civilization together. Without laws all you have is anarchy and chaos. It would be a jungle out there.

Our society is held together by respect for law. Police officers, who represent a tiny fraction of one percent of the population, are the thin thread that enforces observance of law by those few who would do otherwise. If police authority is destroyed, if their effectiveness is impaired, and if their determination to use the authority vested in them to preserve a law abiding community is adulterated, all of society will suffer because groups would feel free to disobey the law and inevitably their number would increase. Chaos might easily result.

When priorities of the police force are determined by whims and personal preferences of the ruling elite, the underprivileged silent majority who do not have a voice to influence the process of governance usually have the worst of it.

Elsewhere in this edition, we carry a story about a Lobatse trader who sells toxic gutter cooking oil to low income residents, while law enforcement officers appear impotent to protect them.
Oncologists throughout the world have warned against consumption of recycled cooking oil, or food cooked by it, as it contains polar compounds, a by-product of cooking oil exposed to very high temperatures during frying. Total Polar Compounds, or TPC, are suspected carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) and they increase the risk of heart disease. Indications are that the Lobatse case is not an isolated incident. The use of the cheaper recycled cooking oil by food stall traders and restaurants to increase their profit margins is reported to be widespread, especially in the low income areas, posing a serious health risk to unsuspecting customers.

Botswana has public safety laws meant to protect the public against such health risks, but there is no political will to enforce them. Law enforcement agencies face increasing pressure. The traditional “protect and serve” role has grown beyond just policing and now includes bowing to the personal whims of the political leadership.

When shrinking budgets and hiring challenges are added, the pressures on law enforcement agencies and personnel can make an already stressful environment even more difficult. The result has been the shift of resources and focus by law enforcement agencies towards enforcing alcohol trade laws and traffic safety laws and away from public health safety laws which, by and large, affect those who do not have the wherewithal to influence the process of governance. As a result, the whole public safety and protection agenda has been stood on its head. Police place priority in policing revelers having a nice time at bars and parties than stopping unscrupulous traders from selling poisonous cancer causing oil to unsuspecting buyers.

There is definitely something wrong with a society where the rich folk are safe driving through the streets at 12 mid-night while thousands of low income Batswana are not safe in their kitchens in broad daylight.


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