Police struggle with 190 000 pending cases

Home Crime and Courts Police struggle with 190 000 pending cases

Windhoek – The Namibian Police faces a staggering backlog of about 190 000 unresolved cases countrywide, with the highest number (82 000) recorded in the Khomas Region.

Head of the Namibian Police Crime Investigation Department (CID) Commissioner Nicholas Endjala, this week said the police are in the process of transitioning from a paper-based to an automated electronic system, but the lack of qualified magistrates and court officials remains one of the contributing factors to the pile-up of cases.

It is understood that the lengthy pre-trial detention of suspects is a major contributing factor to the mounting backlog. Others factors include the high cost to the government of providing legal aid, slow or incomplete police investigations, and procedural postponements. Delays between arrest and trial are also contributing factors.

According to the latest United States Human Rights Country Report on Namibia, the lengthy pre-trial detention of suspects remains a significant problem in Namibia. By October 2014 there were 3 514 prisoners awaiting trial in holding cells across the country.

Inspector general of the Namibian Police Lieutenant General Sebastian Ndeitunga confirmed that the force is battling mounting volumes of unresolved criminal cases.

He also bemoaned the fact that the issuance of good conduct certificates can take up to six months and longer. This follows complaints by members of the public, who have over the years repeatedly expressed annoyance over the fact they have to wait very long to be issued with certificates of good conduct, which they need for employment or educational purposes.

Currently fingerprints are only taken and certificates of good conduct issued in Windhoek.

“It is true and I understand the frustration of the public. The system is very cumbersome. When you apply it takes too long, but I have directed that we should prioritise some cases, such as [applications for] school and employment,” he said.

Some people have expressed their grievances on social media, urging the police to follow the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration’s turnaround strategy, where the backlog of identification documents (IDs), passports, as well as birth and death certificates has been cleared.

This is due to the 18-month turnaround strategy launched in 2014, which cost the home affairs ministry more than N$126 million to implement. “With the turnaround strategies, we don’t talk about backlogs anymore. We deal with our clients as they come to receive their documents. First-come, first-served,” Minister of Home Affairs and

Immigration Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana proudly announced last month.

Ndeitunga said the police are in the process of implementing an automated system, which would hopefully see the force do away with the massive backlog. “The [electronic] system has already started. We are now uploading the backlog of criminal cases. I’ve deployed about 20 people to assist and load all the cases onto the automated system,” the police chief said.

“I understand that I have to deploy more people because the backlog is so big, but efforts are being made to ensure the system starts functioning.”

He said the tender to install the electronic system has already been awarded and the company responsible has completed the installation, but he would not divulge any details of the financial costs involved.

He said if all the fingerprints are not loaded onto the system, the police would not know if a person has a previous criminal record or not, hence the need to have all fingerprints loaded.

According to Ndeitunga, the process is progressing, with police officers hard at work at the Criminal Records Centre (CRC), although the number of cases are currently too many for the assigned staff to handle.

Ndeitunga promised to deploy more staff at the CRC to deal with the backlog.

By Albertina Nakale