WINDHOEK – “I earned the right to be called the Sheriff of Namibia, this is what the nation has made me.” Those are the bragging words of Sean Naude, a former rock star, snake breeder who has since 1997 worked tirelessly to combat crime in Namibia.
Naude founded the Namibian Marshall Rangers (NMR) in 2015. Naude and other volunteers work day and night to assist the police in combating crime. There are 57 marshals serving all over the country, including 16 in the capital city Windhoek.
With different units – the medics, anti-poaching and the marshals – NMR tries to be visible in many sectors and the mission is to combat crime and bring law and order. “Since 2015, we kept growing and working in the shadow to help the officials,” explains Naude just before we started our patrol of the city last Friday.
The volunteers have equipment similar to that used by the police to receive alerts and a siren to move through the traffic. “I also have a camera on the front of the car, so I can record what’s going on in case of problems,” adds Naude.
Now, NMR’s network is spreading all over Namibia. “We have a WhatsApp group called Public Against Criminality (PAC) with 202 people on it, that informs us if something happens,” he says. With a contribution of N$50 a month, the participants can know what’s going on around them.
And with S.A.L.U.T.E., a similar initiative to the NMR but which is spread in Southern Africa, Naude can know what’s going all over Southern Africa.
“We launched the programme one month ago, and now we can monitor the operations in the other countries too,” he said, adding that the aim is always to stop crime.
He furthermore aims to equip NMR with two ambulances before the beginning of December. This, he says, is to become more effective, considering that he and his marshalls are among the first people to arrive at accident scenes.
They are also the last people to leave the scene as they clear the scene, be it to sweep, clean blood, as long as the scene is cleared, he explains.
“After 9pm, there are no ambulances left in town, and sometimes, the police don’t have vehicles available,” Naude explains.
‘If we are not careful, we will lose this city’
As we drove around Windhoek, hoping to catch criminals red-handed, Naude shared his vision for a city where there is limited crime.
His wish is that the city and the rest of the country are safe for tourists to visit. The increase in crime in Windhoek keeps him awake and determined to work hard to combat crime, he explains.
In fact, Windhoek can still be tamed if everyone holds hands to combat crime, he adds. But, if not, Windhoek can become another Johannesburg where even the “police are afraid of criminals”, Naude said.
That is one of the first reasons why Naude started to fight crime in Namibia. Naude is adamant that if rural areas and other towns are developed, there would be less crime.
“Everybody rushes to the city to find a job, but there are not enough jobs here, and it creates poverty. But if the government was investing money in the rural areas instead of investing it in statues, maybe crime wouldn’t be like this,” he opined.
But to achieve his goal, Naude needs support. “The more we stand together, the more we will defeat the wicked,” he said. And despite the difficulties and the personal investment that requires the job, his motivation and the assurance that what he does is essential spurs him to keep pushing on.
“I’ve shared a lot of people’s
last moments, and I see dead bodies almost on a daily basis, but I continue for the love for my country, for people, for the animals.”
A patrol tour with the ‘Sheriff of Namibia’
Our drive with the ‘Sheriff of Namibia’ started at about 6pm on Friday. As we drove, Naude used the microphone in his car to call a few unruly drivers and passengers to order. “Sit, you cannot stand in a moving vehicle,” he told one passenger in a pick-up.
“Turn on your lights,” he told a driver who drove with his lights off. As we headed into Eveline Street in Greenwell Matongo, Naude warned that it is one of Windhoek’s problem areas.
“It’s one of the locations where there are more problems, because of alcohol,” says Naude.
But for some reason, Eveline Street and the neighbourhood were relatively calm that night. The night was still young, Naude insisted, after all it was just around 8pm and most criminal activities really start at around midnight, especially considering that it wasn’t “pay-day weekend”.
Meanwhile, at around 8pm the marshalls from various locations begin to do roll calls. Naude, explains that everyday at 8pm is roll call.
“That way, we can know who is connected and who can provide us support if needed,” Naude says.
But soon, the police radio informs us about an accident, on Sam Nujoma Drive – a pedestrian was hit by a truck. Sirens on and at full speed, we arrive at the scene in less than fifteen minutes in Klein Windhoek from Eveline Street.
The victim was still on the ground, drunk – he is a suspected homeless man and the police are around to monitor the situation while waiting for an ambulance.
As Naude notices that there is nobody medically attending to the victim, he rushes quickly to his vehicle and gets first aid equipment. He puts his gloves on and investigates the victim for injuries. He observes that there is no major trauma and if anything, the victim suffered a minor injury.
However, the victim is screaming, seemingly in agony and says he does not want to die. And as he moans, he bites the sheriff on the left arm who responds with a “don’t bite”. And around that time, the ambulance arrives and he explains that the victim suffered a minor injury. Within a few minutes, the victim is lifted into the ambulance and off we drive to continue with our patrol.
Our second stop was at around 10pm at the intersection of the Western Bypass and the road leading to Khomasdal. It was a taxi that hit a private car. By the time we arrived at the scene, the taxi driver had fled the scene. Upon inspection of the taxi, Naude notices that the taxi does not have any licence disk. “It’s a pirate taxi,” he says.
“That’s why the driver ran away, because he knew he would be in trouble, so he preferred to abandon his car,” says Naude. In such an instance, the taxi would be impounded, explains Naude, as he takes out a broom to sweep the road.
Again, the police arrived at the scene and the Sheriff discusses a few things with the officers. Minutes, later, someone from the City Police drove the taxi (the driver left key in ignition). Fortunately, the driver and passengers involved in the accident were not injured.
After clearing that accident scene it was time for us to go home. But for the marshall, the night was not over. No matter the time, no matter the day, he always answers to an emergency call. And as he drives us home, he’s ready to continue his patrol.