This week’s police action against a reportedly notorious armed robber, Sakaria Amateta (aka Kablou) which resulted in the accused criminal’s death,
highlights the rise of crime and the socio-economic detachment of entire swaths of people living within the Namibian House.
The promise of independence included the right to live without fear. Crime is threatening this promise.
In spite of the First Lady’s excellent programs included in the One Economy Foundation, we are still living in two different worlds in the Land of the Brave.
Namibia (A) is where the majority of people live in impoverished areas, largely unpoliced, un-serviced and unseen. Namibia (B) is for the minority with political power, the previously advantaged, the nouveau riche and others earning higher incomes, living in safe homes and driving newer cars. Police protection, security guards, quality schools, and easy access to all services exist in this Namibia.
Let us not fool ourselves about this reality. We can only begin to solve the problem if we acknowledge that it exists.
In the Namibian House there are entire floors that are dangerous to enter, and yet hundreds of thousands of our citizens cannot afford to live anywhere else. Those who can do so, avoid the dangerously crime-ridden floors as if they do not exist.
Just after independence when hopes were high, violent crime, theft and other offenses decreased as opportunities grew. However, in the current tough economic times in which we now live coupled with the pervasive perception of elite corruption, things have changed.
A substantial part of the Namibian House seems to be controlled not by the rule of law (the proud mantra of our leaders), but by street law. People living in these areas base their existence on avoiding the criminals rather than improving their quality of life. Even the police dare not enter some areas at night, for fear of their own lives or because they may also become robbery victims.
One look at the long reach of the powerful illegal syndicates in neighbouring South Africa shows entire areas of that Republic, out of control.
Who would take a carefree evening stroll in Cape Town Central, Kraaifontein, Mitchells Plain, Johannesburg Central, Gugulethu, parts of Soweto, Umlazi, Honeydew, Nyanga, Hillbrow, or Philippi East and expect to emerge unscathed by violence, carjacking, theft, extortion, rape, or other crimes?
Though crimes of all kinds happen everywhere, we submit that a critical look at our own Havana, Okuryangava, Katutura East and Katutura Central, Goreangab, Otjomuise, 7de Laan and 8ste Laan and other informally named living areas around Windhoek to the North and East of the Central Business District (CBD), offer a similar criminal threat, particularly at night.
Comparable situations exist in suburbs surrounding Swakopmund and other larger towns in Namibia, albeit on a smaller (though not less terrifying) level than in South Africa.
Other than shooting the occasional career criminal, what is government doing to systemically and institutionally redress the causes of rising violent crime in Namibia?
Reportedly, the late Kablou robbed tourists in Klein Windhoek, the upscale part of town and this led to his demise. But, what about his years of alleged criminal shenanigans in the overcrowded, low income suburbs around Windhoek?
We must be careful not to send a message that crimes against the affluent are immediately punishable, while those perpetrated against the poor, are of less importance.
In response to rising crime, government slashes the police budget and the City Police are undercut by the CEO of Windhoek who has suspended their Chief as they play a power game. With this as a backdrop, we must ask: who is in control in the ‘other’ Namibia? Is it gangs like the so-called ‘Boko Haram’ or the official authorities?
Many of our teachers, nurses, domestic workers, and lower paid, hard-working citizens live in these crime hot spots because that is the only place they can find affordable housing. They must navigate these neighbourhoods as one walks though mine fields, as they attempt to raise their families and find some level of quality of life based on their circumstances.
There are recent retrenchments of tens of thousands of experienced construction workers, annually thousands of grade 10 and 12 exam failures, students who cannot afford to finish their degrees, trained police officers who are no longer in service for varying reasons, skilled members of the military who are on ‘furlough’ or those who have left the armed services, as well as university and training school graduates who are under or unemployed.
With this increasing army of frustrated, disenfranchised and disaffected Namibians, the rise of the ‘trained’ criminal may be on the horizon. Criminals with skills can take a dangerous lawbreaking plague into the dark world of organized crime very quickly.
Government must step up to the plate, arrest and prosecute the habitual criminals. Money must be diverted from military procurements to increase police funding for better training, new recruitment and salary increases. The budget is tight, but the priorities of how we use what little we have, must include making one Namibian House that is habitable for all.
Local government should consider offering bounties for testimony and conviction of criminals, giving stipends and equipment for citizens’ crime patrols, installing bright street lights in high crime areas, putting CCTV and satellite police stations not only in the affluent sections or CBD, but also hot spots in the suburbs.
The promise of an independent Namibia must also mean the freedom to walk the streets of your own neighbourhood without fearing for your life and property. The government must deliver on this promise. The unified Namibian House should be a safe one; there should be no crime ridden floors for the majority that are avoided by the elite minority. Most of all, that House must make room for all of our people. Government must walk the talk.