Police brutality in Namibia

15 March 2019
Author   Ismael Kambonde
Police brutality has sparked the interest of many Namibian people recently. While citizens worry about how to protect themselves from criminals, it has now been shown that they must also keep a watchful eye on those who are given the responsibility to serve and protect them.
The brutalities that come from the police may be in the form of physical violence, verbal attacks and there have been reported cases of questionable deaths in custody or during arrests. So why do some police officers engage in excessive violence against the public?
According to reports, one of the primary causes of brutality is the lack of training for police officers.
Just recently, the local newspaper reported that a group of young people from Klein Windhoek were slapped around, insulted and physically abused by the police.
It’s very disturbing to hear that our police officers are involved in such actions against citizens who are only being questioned and are supposed to be presumed innocent, even if they are to be arrested (and are not resisting).
These stories about aggressive police behavior seem to be increasing.  Sometimes I wonder about this nastiness from police officers directed at black people when they never act that way with white people.  Are they still afraid of white people, 29 years after independence?
Moreover, the majority of police brutality victims seem to be young people or the weak and the poor – people the police believe, are easily intimidated.
Law enforcement officials in this country don’t tolerate people speaking up to them.  If the person being stopped by the police asks a question or objects to how they are being treated, the violence increases (unless this person is white, a tourist or rich). 
The police officers turn into brutes acting as if they are gods who shall not be questioned or criticized.  They have the gun and the night stick, so they believe they have all the power; constitutional rights and human decency are non-existent for them.
Our constitution guarantees all persons in Namibia “freedom of speech and expression” and “freedom to assemble peaceably and without arms.” Are the police unaware of these constitutional rights?  What they are currently doing is violating people’s rights AND they largely get away with it.  So, the abuse is escalating. 
It is time that somebody takes up the matter of police brutality in Namibia.  Should we wait until there are a rash of murders or permanent injury caused by the police? 
Let’s get some training for these officers and teach them that they are not gods with guns! 
I think some of them panic in certain situations and they revert to their guns and other weapons immediately; they lack the training in crowd control and people management needed to solve problems without the use of violence. 
In some cases where clashes with police happen, language skills are lacking.  Some of the police officers cannot understand the English of the people they are trying to question.  When this happens, both sides get frustrated and the unskilled policeman reverts to violence to prove his authority (unless he/she is dealing with whites, a tourist or rich/powerful people). 
People’s pets have been killed by police officers who felt afraid of the animals.  I read a news report of an officer who was so afraid of a barking dog that he shot it and the bullet went through the dog and wounded a child who was in a thin walled shack just behind the animal.
The public should begin using their phones to film and record police misbehavior.  Cases should be submitted to the courts.  And true incidents must be brought to the print and social media.  People who are victims of brutality or witnesses, must always get the name or license plate number of the police car when these events happen. People watching police brutality must snap a photo and send it out immediately.  Detailed letters of complaint about police brutality need to be repeatedly sent to the Minister of Safety and Security, Parliamentarians and Party leaders. 
Not all police are untrained or act wrongly.  Many are trying to do their jobs well.  But, those who cause the problems remain on the force and they are dangerous.  This is a free country and nobody has the right to assault or violate people’s rights; we are past the apartheid era.
The police should not cause harm to people who are vulnerable or less privileged. It is time that the community stands up as one against the issue of police brutality.


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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