Civilian accuses NDF of assault

Says he no longer feels safe

14 June 2019 | Police

A Windhoek civilian who was arrested on assault and obstruction charges in mid-May alleges the charges stem from an assault in which he was beaten and kicked by soldiers while handcuffed and stuck in the back of a Namibian Defence Force van.

Okuryangava resident Jason Kauhondamwa (29) told Namibian Sun he became embroiled in the “very scary” situation after a soldier on 16 May at 10:00 in the morning saw him crossing Monte Christo Road and allegedly called him over, demanding to search his backpack.

His backpack contained a prepaid water card, two pairs of socks and a newspaper, he told Namibian Sun.

He claims the situation escalated quickly, after he was accused by the soldier of being rude and insulting.

He claims after he was bundled into a Namibian Defence Force (NDF) van a short time later, they told him they were disciplining him and that unlike “the police, they want to make sure that when I see them, I must be afraid”.

Kauhondamwa made it clear he doesn't think “all the police and soldiers are the same” and that he was treated well during previous stop-and-searches.

Nevertheless, he says he no longer feels safe when he sees soldiers.

He was eventually arrested later that day and charged with a count of common assault and another count of obstructing a police officer executing his duties. He spent five nights behind bars before being released on N$2 000 bail five days later.

Subsequently Kauhondamwa opened a case with the Wanaheda police, accusing the group of soldiers of beating and kicking him that day.

“I want them to investigate. It wasn't fair. Those people, the soldiers, they are bullying people. It is not professional.”

A police spokesperson, Chief Inspector Kaunapawa Shikwambi, confirmed that a case had been opened by Kauhondamwa. She said a case of assault GBH was being investigated but no arrests had been made. Kauhondamwa told Namibian Sun he decided to go public because “when you speak out, there will be change”.



Unexpected

His says on the day in question, 16 May, the soldier who demanded to search his backpack questioned his attitude and instructed him to walk with him to the van, where more soldiers were waiting.

He claimed verbal insults were exchanged, and admitted that after the soldier swore at him he swore back.

Eventually he claims he was handcuffed and instructed to get into the back of an NDF van. He further claims he was then assaulted by several soldiers. He alleges they told him they were “disciplining” him.

“They said they want to make sure when I see them, I must be afraid.”

He was eventually arrested after he was taken to the Wanaheda police station. He further claims that while he was injured, he was not provided with medical care while in jail and that he bears scars from the assault, on his wrists and his torso.

The case opened against him was postponed to 17 September. Kauhondamwa says he will represent himself. “There is no need for a lawyer. I just need to tell the truth.”



Change needed

He says he hopes others who have experienced similar incidents with law enforcement and the defence force “will get the courage to speak out. I hope members of the community stand together, so we can speak to our leaders, and they can speak to the big bosses”.

In the aftermath of the incident, an elderly family member warned him that if he is ever approached by soldiers or police officers again, he “should just show respect”.

Friends agree with him however that assaults on civilians “should not happen. These people are disturbing the peace. We are on the streets and when we see them, we are afraid”.

He further claims that he had tried several times to open a case before succeeding. At first, he claims he was warned by a police officer that opening a case against an NDF soldier was likely “to go nowhere”.

He claims he was also told that he could not accuse the soldiers of a crime he himself had already been accused of by them.

He did eventually succeed to obtain a case number on 4 June, after writing down his version and providing the police with his notes.

“I told them I was beaten. I told them the whole story of what happened.” Following a spate of accusations of assault on civilians by members of the police and NDF of unwarranted assault, several organisations condemned the “indiscriminate assaults”.

The joint police and NDF operation code-named Hornkranz was promptly replaced with Operation Kalahari Desert.

At the start of June, the Khomas regional commander, Commissioner Joseph Shikongo, said crime had dropped in the central region as a result of Operation Kalahari Desert, which was launched mid-May.





JANA-MARI SMITH