Pressure group demands fisherman’s death investigation

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Pressure group demands fisherman’s death investigation

KATIMA MULILO – The Namibian Lives Matter Movement is demanding the arrest of those responsible or involved in the mysterious death of Lubinda Samupwa, which occurred around Nkasa Rupara while on a fishing expedition last week.

The movement’s national executive chairperson Sinvula Mudabeti said they received information on 9 April 2024 about an encounter between three Namibian males that went fishing in the park, and encountered members of the environment and tourism ministry’s anti-poaching unit on 7 April 2024. 

Contacted for comment yesterday, Zambezi control warden in charge of wildlife protection services  Morgan Sai-Sai confirmed the matter is under investigation, and did not want to jeopardise the process. 

“I can only confirm that the incident occurred in a protected area of Nkasa Lupara National Park. I am not sure of the details yet,” Sai Sai said.

Meanwhile, Zambezi police spokesperson Kisco Sitali confirmed the incident yesterday, saying the body was found floating in water at Nkasa park. 

“The body was found in a decomposing state. No other visible injuries. 

The drowning took place on Sunday [7 April 2024] at around 12h00. It was retrieved on 9 April 2024,” him confirmed.

According to Sitali, the crime scene was attended by relevant officers, and the body was transported to Katima Mulilo. The autopsy is pending in the matter. 

The next of kin have been informed, and police investigations continue. 

It is alleged that the fishermen were fishing in the park, and the anti-poaching unit members from Namibia parks and wildlife found them fishing. They then tried to flee from the scene, prompting officials to fire warning shots.

After encountering the anti-poaching unit, two of them were facing the direction from which the anti-poaching unit came, while their friend was facing the opposite direction.  

Mudabeti said the two who were facing the anti-poaching unit jumped into the water while their friend on the other side, who did not see the anti-poaching unit coming, did not jump into the water. He surrendered with his hands in the air when the anti-poaching unit members pointed firearms at him. 

The one who surrendered was warned that if he ran, he would be shot. He was thus instructed to walk towards the anti-poaching unit, which he complied with. 

Of the two who jumped into the water, one came out with his hands on his head, assuming a position of surrender, while being called to come towards the anti-poaching unit and was warned that if he ran, he would be shot, and he fully complied. 

“The first to surrender, who did not jump into the water, said to the anti-poaching unit that his other friend had not come out of the water, was still in the water, and informed them to retrieve his body, which they refused. The water was shallow, and the two survivors suggested that they use their fishing net to get their missing friend, but the anti-poaching unit refused to listen to the two survivors,” the movement alleges.

Mudabeti said after the survivors walked some metres under arrest, one of them checked behind, and he saw an object that resembled protruding parts of a human head and back floating in the water. 

He apparently asked the anti-poaching unit to get to the object that he suspected was his friend. 

One of the anti-poaching unit members said he also saw something that looked like a body, but his fellow officer refused to entertain even when his colleague insisted that he saw a person in the water. 

“Another officer asked the one who discharged his firearm if he indeed shot in the air because he saw something like a person too. The officer who shot maintained that he indeed shot in the air, and thus there was no need to search for the body of the missing person. A disagreement ensued between the anti-poaching officers as to whether to go back to the scene and search for the missing, or proceed with the two survivors,” he maintained. When the officers arrived at the camp, they left one of the survivors with one game ranger, and took the one who said he saw his friend so that he goes to search for his friend in the water. 

Upon arriving at the scene, the officers allegedly instructed the survivor to go into the water and search for his friend. 

“The survivor was very scared. He thought that they would shoot him too, and thus went into the water and searched for his missing friend in another direction because he feared that if he found him, the officers might shoot him too and accuse him of having attempted to run. The anti-poaching unit members then went back to the camp where they left the other survivor, and took both suspects to the Sangwali police station, charged them for illegal fishing and sent them home,” Mudabeti alleged.

The Namibian Lives Matter Movement is of the view that the anti-poaching unit was concerned about fining N$3 000 each of the survivors to instead of worrying about searching for the missing person, which shows how heartless they are.  

The suspects then went home, and informed their elders of what transpired. 

The elders went to the Sangwali police station to request the police to accompany them to the scene and retrieve the body of their missing relative, but the police allegedly refused to go with them. 

The next morning, the police went to the scene with members of the community, and found the body of Samupwa. 

The body was found in shallow water, which Mudabeti said rules out the possibility of drowning. 

The body was taken to the police station. 

The family was allegedly denied access to view the body until they almost became violent, which is when the police allowed a few members of the family to just view the face of the deceased, and not the whole body. 

The stance of the movement is thus informed by these witness accounts as narrated and recorded by their regional leadership based in the Zambezi region, who were dispatched to the scene on 12 April 2024.

They also said the conduct of the anti-poaching unit also shows that they are very unprofessional. The movement is demanding the suspension of the commander of the patrol team of the anti-poaching unit who allowed his officers to open fire at an innocent and unarmed Namibian. 

“We demand the suspension of the Zambezi regional control warden for covering up this matter without alerting the police on time, who are constitutionally mandated to investigate cases of any crime. We demand the suspension of the shift commander at Sangwali police station who did not take the necessary action to accompany the family to the scene and retrieve the body of Lubinda Samupwa,” the movement petitioned.

They also request the inspector general of the Namibian Police to constitute an independent team of forensic investigation experts from the serious crime unit to be dispatched to the Zambezi region to carry out an independent, fair and impartial investigation on the death of Samupwa.