Security light

This is a peaceful country, something that would please its founder, Moshoeshoe, a man who struggled most of his life with conflict and angry neighbors, because, paradoxically, he always selected the more peaceful solution when they came calling.

One telltale sign of the peacefulness here is the way security works. Like any other place in the world, probably a legacy of 9/11, everywhere are barriers and booms and lanyards with security cards and security personnel armed with the paddles that beep if they come across something suspicious. Yet at the ministry the card that allows you through the turnstile is sitting on the turnstile, not around the neck of a human being in uniform. Anyone wanting to get inside simply swipes the card and places it back on the turnstile.

At the hotel the guards standing at the entrance never use their paddles, there is no gate one has to walk through and the ‘security incident’ record book sits forlornly and unused on a shelf in the lobby. I love it.

Our driver told me he can leave his wallet on the car seat and it will still be there when he gets back. When I insisted he put my backpack, which contains my life (passport, computer, cellphone, etc), in the boot of the car he said it wasn’t necessary. OK, so it may not be like Jo’burg.

But I am getting some pieces of information that indicate a violent streak underneath the amiable presenting surface: a peace corps volunteer was killed one year, another raped and there is much abuse of children and women, by family members and those who are supposed to help them.

The culprit seems to be alcohol, widely, cheaply and easily available. The bars at the hotel have an extraordinary collection of hard liquor. There are places that sell beer everywhere, well-advertised and clearly visible from a distance. One of my drivers, who had a can of beer in his car’s cup holder, told me that even an open beer container would not be a problem. Having a liter of beer would not be a reason to take a taxi or stay put – he was astonished about the strict rules in Holland and the US – what, no driving after a few pints of beer?

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March 2012
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