Geingob regrets fatal shooting

18 June 2019 | Government

JANA-MARI SMITH



President Hage Geingob has reached out to the family of 22-year-old Fambaune Black, who was killed by a Namibian Defence Force (NDF) soldier last week, while also underlining his commitment to continuing fighting crime.

“This incident is unfortunate and will be dealt with according to our laws,” presidential spokesperson Alfred Hengari told Namibian Sun yesterday.

The Office of the President said the “loss of life is regrettable” and confirmed the president had sent his condolences to Black’s family. Black, a Zimbabwean national, had been based in Windhoek as a taxi driver when he was gunned down.

The presidency underlined that following the fatal shooting, an individual was arrested and charged, and the “matter will be dealt with by a competent court of law”.

“It is a process that should be respected since it is a clear demonstration of functioning institutions.”

Hengari told Namibian Sun yesterday the president is “committed to fighting crime, which has been identified as a problem in our communities” and added that “the majority of Namibians support initiatives to fight crime”.

The presidency underlined that “law-abiding citizens should have nothing to fear”.

In response to calls to remove soldiers from crime-fighting operations, the Office of the President underlined that Geingob is “guided at all times by the constitution” and that deploying members of the army in support of police crime-fighting initiatives is in line with the country’s laws.

“Fighting crime decisively is central to the efforts of government to create safer cities and communities. More importantly, it is crucial in the drive to attract investors, tourists and visitors to Namibia,” the presidency said.

During a courtesy call by the National Unity Democratic Organisation (Nudo) of Namibia yesterday morning, Geingob told reporters that for now soldiers will remain attached to police crime-fighting operations until “the situation normalises”. He further condemned the shooting and underlined that soldiers should act as “back-up” to operations and not be in the frontlines.

Calls grow

Meanwhile, an online petition demanding a stop to Operation Kalahari Desert had gained more than 7 000 signatures by yesterday afternoon, with the goal of reaching 7 500 signatures before it is handed over to the relevant authorities.

The petition, which also calls on Swapo to cease a costly renovation of its headquarters, accuses the Namibian government of “unleashing the military on civilians in an uncalled for, aggressive and inappropriate manner”.

It demands that the president respond to the question: “When your people are suffering and living pay cheque to pay cheque, is military harassment going to make things better?”

A Namibian who signed the petition said the violence perpetrated by soldiers during the police crime-intervention operation is “inhumane” while another described it as a violation of human rights.

A Namibian based in Canada, Victor Indongo, addressed Geingob in the comment section, asking if “it is safe to return home?”

Nevertheless, many Namibians have come out in support of Operation Kalahari Desert, underlining the need for visible a law-enforcement presence on the streets while stressing accountability is paramount as well as training.

On Namibian Sun’s Facebook page, a reader wrote: “The operation should continue. No one is above the law. If any soldier or law-enforcement officer crosses the line he/she must just face the law too.”

Another Namibian Sun reader said the operation must continue but suggested soldiers must be trained “on how to deal with the civilians”.

“If approaching criminals the police must lead and the soldiers should be there as back-up only.”

Toni Hancox, director of the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), explained that in terms of the Defence Act, soldiers deployed to assist the police have the “same powers and duties as a police officer”.

Under these powers and duties, the soldiers are obliged to use reasonable force in the context of an arrest.

She explained that based on the available information on the shooting it would appeared it did not happen in the lead up to an arrest, “so it would not be reasonable force”.