It is eight in the morning and ‘Marshall Ranger’ Sean Naude is clad in his combat gear ready for ‘battle’ as he prepares to do his daily rounds in crime hot spots around Windhoek.
For the past eighteen years, this dedicated civilian has made it his life’s mission to do his best to protect unsuspecting residents and tourists from becoming victims of crime.
The 43 year old Naude is the founder of the Namibian Marshall Rangers, a team of volunteers that help law enforcement officers fight crime in Windhoek, but also have a few members in different cities across Namibia such as Swakop, Oshakati, Tsumeb and Otjiwarongo.
Popularly known as ‘The Sherriff’, Naude spends hours each day, sitting in crime prone areas in Windhoek, waiting to help those who need his services. He has been very helpful to many people on several occasions.
As part of his gear, the former musician wears cowboy boots, a camouflage uniform, a cowboy hat and a reflector jacket to make him more recognisable to those who are used to seeing him around.
Naude takes his duties very seriously as he walks with poise; exuding the confidence he needs in order for him to be successful in his self-appointed duties.
The one thing that drives and motivates him is his love for his country and its people. He voluntarily puts himself in danger in order to protect others.
“I gave up a life of pursuing fame and luxury to become a servant of the nation,” he said jokingly before narrating his story.
Earlier in his life, Naude was a popular musician, but his calling to make a personal difference in this world by helping others was stronger, so he put aside his musical career to pursue his passion.
“I have been doing this for over 18 years. Whenever I see anyone in need of help, I go and help. I help put out fires or intervene in robberies; I do it all,” he said.
Naude started his professional career as a musician in 1987, participating in various competitions in Germany where he released the song ‘Welcome to Namibia’ (2012) which earned him a measure of fame.
In the 90’s, he and his band called Desert Velvet won best band on nbc while he recently produced an album called Nawa Namibia which he dedicated to the late Andimba Toivo ya Toivo.
According to Naude, he and his team regard themselves as “urban servants” who work together with the police to fight crime. They have no delusions about being registered officers of the law; they know there is a line drawn between what they do to support law enforcement and assist those in need, and those legally sworn to be peace officers. They are not vigilantes, nor do they flout the law.
Initially, the dedicated bane of criminals started as a one-man police support unit, but later decided to invite people with the same interests to join him under the name Namibia Marshal Rangers.
Apart from the Namibian police, the group works with Namibia Defence Force, Fire and Emergency Services, City Police, Intelligence Support Against Poaching (ISAP) and several other emergency services.
“We have experience in first aid and know how to cordon off areas at accident scenes. We are there to fill the gaps that our law enforcement officers are not,” he said.
Currently, there are about 13 marshal rangers around the country.
“We are not police officers, but law enforcers, as we are here to make sure that law and order is kept. We deal with poaching issues, tourist protection as well as environmental and wildlife conservation,” he said.
The group’s services are needed now more than ever as the economic recession coupled with the normal end-of-year crime wave is on the rise.
Just recently, he and his team helped apprehend two individuals who are suspected to be part of an ATM syndicate that has been terrorising tourists.
Naude and his group finance all of their private efforts out of their own pockets as they are all business people in their own rights.
But as they continue on their quest to remove crime from the streets of Windhoek their efforts are not always well received or understood.
The group has received backlash on social media with some calling them names trying to discredit their hard work.
“We have those who challenge our position and have even tried to cause division and opposition from officials in a bid to shut us down. We have endured countless attacks, insults, mocking and defamation, yet we continue to grow and become stronger,” Naude said.
According to the City Police Chief, Abraham Kanime, the municipality police are moving away from the traditional way of policing towards an era of community policing in order to help bring down crime.
He said the Marshall Rangers have been very exemplary in the community through fighting crime, which is very commendable.
“Just like any other committed member of the public, police cannot be everywhere so we rely on them to be our eyes and ears. We have those who are committed who are working in terms of the law,” Kanime said.
“It is not only the rangers who are helping out, we also have neighbourhood watch groups and men and women networks who have been working to combat crime,” he said.