Justice minister Yvonne Dausab says she is appalled at the paltry fine that was slapped on a Chinese businesswoman last week for allegedly pouring urine on a street vendor in Katutura’s Okuryangava.
The Chinese national, Weng Long Zumei, initially paid N$500 as an admission of guilt fine, and another N$1 000 on Friday.
Her case was closed at the Katutura Magistrate’s Court on the same day. In an interview with New Era, Dausab cautioned that Namibians come from a painful history where human dignity was often shamefully disregarded, and all systems post-apartheid and after colonialism should be vigilant in sending strong messages to ensure that the natives are not reminded of that painful past.
“As a member of the executive, I have no control over how the criminal justice system is managed because it will be misconstrued as interference,” she stated.
“But I am certainly appalled at the paltry fine that was granted for such a serious human rights violation, even if there was an admission of guilt.” Dausab further said she has asked the attorney general’s office to consider investigating the matter. “But typically if the State is not satisfied, they can appeal, or the matter can be taken on review,” she added. The 45-year-old Chinese businesswoman was arrested on Thursday, and was briefly detained at the Klein Windhoek police station after she was charged. She was released the same afternoon after paying an admission of a guilt fine of N$500 for crimen injuria and malicious damage to property. But on Friday morning, the police re-arrested her for an additional charge of common assault. She was thus fined another N$1 000 after she again admitted guilt in the Katutura Magistrate’s Court. According to Dausab, the prosecutor general has the sole authority to prosecute people for crimes committed, regardless of who they are. She added that the Office of the Judiciary, including magistrates, are independent and impartial when they make decisions, “and one trusts that they take those decisions without fear or favour.” Parliamentarian Patience Masua also slammed the incident. “ I have never felt more disgusted in my life. This gross human rights violation must be met with the highest sanction to ensure non-repetition. Had the roles been reversed, I wonder if the treatment would have been alike. We must account to calls for an urgent motion in the Namibian parliament,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Chinese embassy in Namibia says it appears there was confusion in the matter, blaming language barriers between the community, police as well as the suspect. Embassy spokesperson Lu Hairong claimed the suspect had denied admiting guilt and having poured urine on the victim. “We watched the surveillance video of the store provided by the Chinese shop owner Ms Weng, and querried her in detail. According to Ms Weng, the reason the local lady ran into her shop was that she would not let the local lady set up a stall in front of the shop. Later, the two sides had an argument, which was stopped by security. Ms Weng said she did not throw urine or water at all,” said the spokesperson. “The reason why she paid the fine at the court and the police station was because Ms Weng did not understand English, and just wanted to patch things up and go home as soon as possible. Because of the language barrier, she couldn’t understand what the police and the judge (magistrate) were saying, and there was no translator at the scene.” Hairong said the businesswoman simply thought she could go home after paying the fine.