The appointment of deputy inspector general Joseph Shikongo as the country’s new police chief has been largely lauded.
Predominantly, the news has been received with sheer enthusiasm and optimism, if reactions on various social media platforms by Namibians, is anything to go by.
On Monday, President Hage Geingob unveiled Shikongo as the new inspector general, replacing Sebastian Ndeitunga who retires this month after 17 years at the helm of the police.
Shikongo assumes duty on 1 September.
Reacting to the appointment, official opposition leader in the National Assembly McHenry Venaani welcomed the news, albeit with reservations.
For the politician, Shikongo comes across as an upright officer.
“He is a disciplined leader we wish him well albeit to state that crime is getting out of hand in Khomas and country in general. We will soon seek an indaba to hear his vision on how he intends to curb the spiralling vices. We wish him well in this endeavour,” Venaani said yesterday.
He, however, is pained by the fact that occupants of the highest police office have been drawn from one ethnic group since the dawn of independence.
At best, he said, it is retrogressive in the nation-building project.
“It is a bit insensitive to have the same ethnic group at the helm of the police for 32 years. The national project must be broader and accommodation of others [ethnic groups] is needed,” he said.
Independent Patriots for Change spokesperson Immanuel Nashinge believes Shikongo is the right man for the job.
According to Nashinge, Shikongo has demonstrated astute leadership skills over the years.
“He has demonstrated a great leadership acumen, even during the Covid-19 pandemic when things were hard as head of operations and even before that as regional commander for Khomas,” Nashinge said.
For Nashinge, Namibia is at crossroads and requires leaders that can inspire confidence in the masses.
Shikongo ticks all the boxes in this respect, he continued.
“He [Shikongo] doesn’t take sides and never presents himself as a politician. Things are difficult now. The current situation needs a sober leader. So, it is the right decision,” Nashinge said.
As new police chief, Shikongo is confronted by a myriad of issues.
He inherits a force operating at around 60% capacity, perceived political interference in its affairs and underpaid officers, while criminal activities are spiralling out of hand.
“We are paid peanuts but we are expected to be the first line of defence. How do you defend the public on an empty stomach in a ghetto without electricity? We hope he will fix the pay discrepancy between constables and the other senior ranks. It is too big,” lamented a police officer.
In Windhoek alone, 359 robberies were recorded between 27 June and 14 August.
The statistics are alarming.
However, Namibian Marshall Ranger Sean Naude, known for his voluntary rescues and emergency ambulance services, expressed confidence in Shikongo.
He has interacted with the career police officer at numerous crime and accident scenes.
“He is a man of action. He is going to make a difference. I can stand by him 100% in any war against criminals. He is diplomatic, yet firm in [the execution of] his job,” the ranger enthused.
Naude assured the police that their members are at its behest, if additional manpower is needed.
Equally, welcoming the appointment was veteran journalist, Francois Lottering, who has accompanied Shikongo on various street patrols and crime-combating missions around the country.
What set him apart, Lottering said, is his hands-on approach, accessibility and exemplary leadership to junior police officers.
“The only people who are not excited about his appointment are the tsotsis [criminals]. The outgoing IG, Ndeitunga, must rest assured he will leave the police in good hands. I am excited to work with him,” a clearly elated Lottering said. -email@example.com