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Migrant smuggler gets 6 years

2022-09-09  Roland Routh

Migrant smuggler gets 6 years

A Congolese national convicted of smuggling three refugees into Namibia for a fee was sentenced to an effective six years in prison yesterday by Windhoek High Court Judge Dinnah Usiku.

Abigail Bashala (53) was convicted of smuggling migrants into Namibia for financial benefit, which is an offence under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA).

She was, however, acquitted on nine of the 15 counts she faced at the end of the State’s case after a section 174 discharge application.

She pleaded not guilty on all the charges at the start of her trial, and maintained throughout that she never took any money from any of the complainants she was accused of smuggling.

She was convicted of smuggling Gilanda Dina Carine and her 13-year-old daughter into Namibia from DRC for a fee during December 2017 and during April 2018, as well as Live Kafutshi Sumudiya during September 2017.

According to the judge, society expects that a person who has committed a crime be punished. 

“We live in an orderly society which is governed by moral values and obligations, with respect for one another. It is, therefore, expected of all members of society to uphold and respect these values. It follows that it is not in the interest of society when persons like the accused who trample on the values and rights of others go unpunished,” she stated. She went on to say that the victims were exposed to danger when they had to travel by canoe over the Zambezi River to reach Namibia. “The whole process was planned by the accused through her associates, who to date have not been traced as their whereabouts are unknown”, the judge remarked and added: “This was a clear syndicate involving different persons amongst different countries, and the accused being a refugee herself took advantage of her victims, who were desperate to find peace after leaving their war-stricken country.”

According to the judge, Bashala knew all along about her ill-health, which she now depends on as mitigation, but went ahead and engaged herself in criminal activities on different occasions. As a result, her victims suffered financial loss due to her conduct, and to date she has made no effort whatsoever to compensate them for their losses. 

While the defence pleaded for a suspended sentence, the judge said in her view, a suspended sentence – while having a deterrent effect – cannot be appropriate in these circumstances. 

“It is desirable that justice must be seen to be done through sentences imposed on perpetrators of serious crimes such as the present one,” the judge said. According to her, a custodial sentence is unavoidable, considering all the factors.

She thus sentenced Bashala to three years on each conviction, with one sentence to run concurrently with the other two, leaving her with an effective sentence of six years.

Bashala was represented by Kalundu Kamwi on instructions of Legal Aid, and the State by Felisitas Sikerete-Vendura.

2022-09-09  Roland Routh

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