OSHAKATI - Police chief Sebastian Ndeitunga has encouraged police officers to be firm but polite when enforcing law and order. Ndeitunga, who was speaking on border patrols in an interview with New Era at the end of last week, said the police should also sensitise and educate the community about the law while executing their duties.
“In their quest of enforcing the law, police officers should ensure their conduct is professional, and not intimidating. But they should also be educative and apply the law as it’s intended to,” he urged. Residents in northern Namibia have complained about the perceived heavy-handedness of police officers.
Last week, a case of assault - CR51/08/2021 - was opened with the police at Eenhana. The victim, a pregnant woman, and her colleague were allegedly walking home from work when a group of police officers approached them and enquired why the victim was not wearing a mask. The woman informed the police officers she had lost the mask, but one of the officers allegedly slapped her.
A police officer at Oshikango also shot and killed a man at Onamhinda village near the Angolan border in early August. The victim was identified as Lebbeus Wambalili, a taxi driver.
Wambalili died on the spot, while his passenger was admitted at the Oshakati Intermediate Hospital in a critical condition. Ndeitunga accompanied the Minister of Home Affairs, Immigration, Safety and Security Albert Kawana to the border from Kunene to Omauni in the Ohangwena Region.
The police head said because of the interdependence of the two countries, there is too much movement, despite the border being closed. He noted that people living along the borders in both Namibia and Angola depend on both countries for basic commodities, while some have families on both sides.
Ndeitunga said the movements at the border had made it difficult for any patrol operations, and admitted that some of the police harassment claims stem from the public who are trying to make ends meet. For some, the police presence is presumed to interfere with their attempts to make ends meet, but he stressed that the police have the responsibility to protect the borders and the economy at large.
“The police’s quest to maintain law and order and prevent crime at the borders interferes with normal trade between the border residents, hence the claims that they are being harassed,” reiterated Ndeitunga.
He said the police have a responsibility to ensure that there is no contraband from both sides, but they also to a large extent have the responsibility to curb border- related crimes. “It is not only good things that are brought into the country; there are also bad things such as drugs,” he continued. On police harassment, the police chief said in principle, the dignity of every suspect should be respected, and he thus called upon suspects to cooperate with the police.
“But to arrest and beat up suspects is not allowed because when you beat up a suspect, it is like you are meting out a sentence. Allow the law to take its course,” said Ndeitunga.