Judicial farce

The recent case of Lazarus Shaduka seems to have finally confirmed that the Namibian criminal justice system is a complete joke.

This man has single-handedly managed to make our entire judicial and law enforcement system look like a scene from an absurd, otherworldly, slapstick comedy of errors.

 

He mercilessly and brutally took the life of his own wife but through a combination of judicial ineptitude and unimaginable police incompetence, it looks as though he might get away with the crime scot-free.

This sends the completely wrong message to would-be criminals in the country.

It sends the message that in Namibia you can get away with killing you wife as long as you can come up with some cockamamie story about how she shot herself in the back.

Secondly, it sends the message that in Namibia there is one law for the rich and another law for the poor.

If you can afford to hire yourself a fancy high-priced lawyer, you can literally get away with murder in this country.

For some inexplicable reason the courts and the police seem to have treated Shaduka with kid gloves right from the grizzly night on 13 July 2008 when he shot his wife.

He gave confusing and contradictory explanations for how his wife’s death occurred at the time of his arrest and then later at his trial.

It, therefore, remains an inexplicable and baffling mystery how the High Court could have ruled the shooting unintentional at Shaduka’s first trial.

When Judge Kato van Niekerk handed down judgement, she herself remarked that Shaduka had deliberately lied in an attempt to deflect suspicion from himself.

Surely then, on the balance of probabilities, the court should have found him guilty of murder and not accidental shooting.

Instead, the High Court gave him a sentence that amounted to no more than a slap on the wrist – a suspended sentence and N$27,000 fine after taking a human life and then lying about it in court.

Furthermore, when the court gave prosecutors leave to appeal the ridiculously lenient sentence the judicial authorities should have taken stricter measures to restrict Shaduka’s movements.

Why did the judiciary not do more to compel the police to ensure that he remained within a certain magisterial district and report to a police station at least twice-daily until the Supreme Court handed down its verdict?

This is what courts normally require of all people accused of all serious offences.

To top it off, on the day the Supreme Court had scheduled to deliver its verdict Shaduka conveniently found himself located at Oshikango, within walking distance of the Angolan border.

He promptly crossed the border and vanished into thin air the minute he heard the Supreme Court verdict of guilty and the sentence of 20 years imprisonment.

There are no coincidences in life, or as another realist once said, “You know what they say about coincidences...They take a lot of planning”.

One cannot help suspecting that someone close to the judiciary or law enforcement tipped Shaduka off.

He knew what would take place at the Supreme Court that day, and someone informed him about the sentence.

The judiciary has much to answer for in this whole sorry saga, including why it took the Supreme Court almost two years to deliver a verdict in a fairly straightforward case.

Whether the limp-wristed short arm of the Namibian law will ever be able to apprehend Shaduka in the lawless badlands of southern Angola remains an open question.

Some will say this is an unfairly harsh judgement on the conduct of our officials, but many more will probably agree that we have good reason for being very, very angry.

Shaduka could hardly have been described as a model of virtue even before killed his wife.

In 2005, he resigned from his position of City of Windhoek property manager to avoid having to appear before a disciplinary hearing.

The City had instituted an investigation into him after the discovery that Shaduka had acquired 20 plots in various parts of Windhoek through questionable methods, using the names of relatives to hide his activities.

Shaduka is not alone in having acquired massive wealth through dubious means.

It is an open secret that numerous City of Windhoek management and elected officials have become multi-millionaires by corruptly acquiring and speculating in property.

Shaduka went unpunished and these practices continue unabated at the City of Windhoek.

The overnight acquisition of corrupt wealth fosters a culture of impunity.

When people amass vast wealth by corrupt means, they start believing they are invincible; that they are superhuman and therefore not subject to the laws that apply to mere mortals.

Shaduka went unpunished when he stole large amounts of wealth so it is hardly surprising that he also believed no one could touch him for killing his wife.

It is difficult to understand why we in the media try to dignify people such as Shaduka with the title ‘businessman’. The man probably never did a day’s honest business in his life. Here in the ‘Land of the Brave Thieves’ we never punish anyone for corruption and sometimes not even for killing your wife – especially if you have the best lawyer money can buy.

Those who reject the use of the term ‘passion killing’ are probably right. Passion implies some feeling, or even love, for the victim.

It is questionable whether Shaduka had any feelings for his wife, and he may have simply wanted to trade her in for a newer model.

For all we know, the murder may have had more to do with wanting to extricate himself from the inconvenience of marriage in community of property.

WINDHOEK OBSERVER

The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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