WALVIS BAY - The stern, no-nonsense approach embraced by the magistrates’ courts in Erongo Region has set the tone for swift convictions of criminals, particularly those targeting tourists.
In recent weeks there has been an increase in smash-and-grab and well-coordinated robberies involving gangs of criminals targeting tourists, who have tarnished Namibia’s image as a safe tourist haven.
While one criminal is already serving a year in jail a day after he committed the crime, three more suspects could face a similar fate when they are sentenced next week. They were swiftly arrested, brought before court and convicted of having robbed a South African tourist of items and cash amounting to N$24 800 last Saturday. The three convicted robbers were named as, Immanuel Junior (28), Ian Harding (26) and Herold Ipinge (29).
Several others have also been convicted and jailed in the Swakopmund Magistrate’s Court earlier this year.
All these cases have been finalised just days after the crimes were committed, to avoid such cases being withdrawn as victims do not return for court cases due to travelling costs. As such, criminals continued to roam the streets committing the same crimes and tainting the image of the industry.
The latest conviction was welcomed by the Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta who on numerous occasions expressed his concern over the increasing incidences of crime against tourists.
According to Shifeta, these convictions are a step in the right direction and will reaffirm Namibia as the destination of choice for tourism. Hence, he says, it should be emulated throughout the country. “This is great news for me and the entire tourism sector as the safety of tourists is the primary concern of every government. Tourists want to feel safe and we need to ensure that, so that they can return to our country,” Shifeta said on Wednesday.
He added tourism is also one of the vital sectors for the country’s economy, stating that through tourism, Namibia is able to raise much needed foreign earnings to service national debts and keep the country’s economy afloat.
“Given the tremendous growth of tourism and equally the increase of safety and security concerns globally, every country is trying to gain a competitive advantage in order to attract and increase tourist inflows,” he said.
“My ministry together with all stakeholders and the Nampol are committed to see that no single act of crime against tourists will be condoned. Impunity is unacceptable,” he said.
Shifeta also thanked the Erongo Regional Commander, Commissioner Andreas Nelumbu, entire Nampol team and crime fighting organisations in the region for their hard work and drive to curb attacks and violence on tourists.
“I want to extend appreciation to the tourism industry for the continued support and assistance in this quest. It is difficult to make stride and achieve a successful conviction in any crime incident without information and assistance from the public, I therefore also like to sincerely thank the public at large for embracing and making tourism their business,” said a relieved tourism minister.
He said despite these successes, a lot still need to be done, as “curbing crime against tourists is a matter of priority to my ministry. We have made it central to our tourism development agenda. My goal is to see a tourism sector safety and security strategy finalised this year.”