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Opinion - No vaccine for scourge of crime

2021-04-23  Staff Reporter

Opinion - No vaccine for scourge of crime
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It is a fact that Namibia is not the epicentre of criminal activity however, be that as it may, crime does haunt us in this beautiful country, just like many other countries across the globe. Our hope remains for a country where we can live safe and comfortable lives without being subjected to crime by criminal elements who are hell-bent on violently and dangerously terrorising us.

While we are enjoying peace and stability in our country, hardly a day passes without us reading in the news revelations of rape, murder, housebreakings, corruption, stock theft, gender-based violence, robberies, etc. 

There are even those who rape and sodomise their own children, housebreakings are frequently followed by cruel assaults on helpless home owners. There are also many organised crimes by criminal syndicates operating in the country. Some of these criminal syndicates are involved in illegally importing and distributing drugs, stealing and stripping vehicles to sell their parts, distributing false currency, etc.

In recent years, there were cases of money laundering which brought about the demise of the SME Bank. It has been reported in the media that millions of dollars were siphoned illegally from the bank to foreign bank accounts. The Fishrot cases are also still before the courts and investigations continue, while the suspects are remanded in custody. In fact, the Fishrot saga is being perceived as unprecedented corruption in the country.

We should remember that before the abovementioned crimes, the country was also confronted with serious crimes against the state and public peace, order, stability and unity. There was a group of people who unfortunately and unlawfully engaged themselves in conduct which threatened and endangered the unity and security of the Republic, since they wanted to secede one part of the Republic from the country. The actions of this group can be regarded as high treason which in Roman law crime was known as CRIMEN LAESAE MAIESTATIS. The broad meaning of this phrase is CRIME AGAINST SOVEREIGN STATE AND ITS SUPREME POWER and this is considered high treason.

Although these Roman words are not specifically mentioned in our law, the definition and description of the crime have the same elements and understanding in our law.

Corruption and other crimes are very serious and are punishable in terms of the laws of the country. Be that as it may, even if our country has good intentions to develop the economy and bring about prosperity to the people, such intentions will be futile if corruption, in particular, persists in our society. Corruption undermines all efforts by the State and erodes developmental success of the nation, no matter if even only some people are corrupt. If not destroyed fast, it will escalate to serious organised crimes and turn our country into a failed nation without proper moral values and credibility of its leaders. The culture of dishonesty that goes with corruption leads to a country and its people losing their international respect and trust, although not all people are corrupt.

There is a lot to be said about these issues but due to limited space I conclude by stating that law enforcement agencies must be properly equipped to patrol streets in all parts of all towns and places usually used by criminals. 

Police, being the frontline in combatting crime, must have at their disposal everything they need to carry out their duties. In particular, they need enough vehicles to be able to respond faster when needed. If needed, the defence force should assist the police in the fight against the scourge of crime. This is irrespective of the concern by some individuals that the defence force should not be deployed alongside the police as they are not trained to carry out civic roles. Surely the government, by deploying the defence force with the police, is doing so for the interest and security of the nation.

From what I have briefly stated above, we are not yet free from crime in our country. However, we may, in the long run, succeed to get out of this criminal scourge.

Now that I have stated that crime is still haunting us, the basic question is: Can all acts committed lead to criminal liability and punishment? Criminal law has extensively many conditions which I am not able to address in a short article like this. Any act or conduct which can form the basis for charges against an individual should be recognised in the law as a crime to lead to criminal liability. 

Even if there is a strong opinion that the act, conduct or omission of a person is immoral and annoying to people, it can only be punishable if it is recognised by law as an offence or crime.  Secondly, a person cannot be punished simply for thinking, intended or decided to act, but did not act or conduct himself in that manner. If the person acted, such action is punishable in compliance with the definition and elements of the crime. Therefore, if the act is not unlawful then there will be no culpability. It is thus essential to understand the theories of punishment in order to know the justification of punishment and what punishment should be imposed on which crime.

Society may not like the way an individual has behaved but if such behaviour or conduct is not criminalised or prohibited by law, then there will hardly be lawlessness and liability. The unhappy people may not be able to have recourse to legal systems if acts and conducts of a person are not illegal or prohibited by law. Therefore, the conduct or acts of a person being accused of committing a crime must be those which are criminalised in a particular law. Be that as it may, criminal liability must be followed by conviction and conviction must be followed by sentence and punishment. Such punishment must be justified in law and must be supported by strong arguments. In fact, punishment is retribution intended to restore what has been destroyed by the crime. 

Therefore, the person who is being punished is being punished because he owes society and should pay for pain and damages caused. The criminal law, while respecting all human rights, must also close all legal loopholes which can be used by criminals, in that sense a criminal law will also be effective in destroying the crime.

2021-04-23  Staff Reporter

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