Army takes over private shooting range
09 January 2019 | Local News
An affidavit submitted to the Windhoek High Court on Monday by John Henry Eiman, the chairperson of the Rehoboth Shooters Club, asserts that members of the Namibian Defence Force abruptly and without warning took illegal possession of the shooting range, which the shooting club had operated on for the past 14 years, on 18 December, declaring it a military zone.
Since then a sign erected by the defence force forbids any persons from entering the site, including members of the Rehoboth Shooters Club.
A criminal case of unlawful trespassing and breaking and entering was also opened against the Namibian Defence Force in December.
Eiman's affidavit claims when he was notified of the trespassing on 18 December, he and club vice-chairman Dawid George van Wyk rushed to the shooting range where they “found that the [club's] padlock on the gate was removed – in fact broken – and the gate was closed with a chain and a padlock. A signpost of the applicant (Rehoboth Shooters Club) was also removed.”
In its place, a new sign had been erected, stating: “Warning!! You are entering a military zone. Taking photos, sketches, plans model or notes of military are or building is not allowed at all or is prohibited.”
The affidavit states that the shooting club had operated “undisturbed” at the premises since 2004, after an application to operate the club was approved by the town council.
The land, 5 hectares in size, was vacant when first occupied.
The club members, at their personal cost, fenced the premises, erected a sign and installed a gate that was locked with a padlock.
Ablution facilities and a water reservoir were installed.
A shipping container was brought in to store movable assets such as furniture, gun rests and targets, and a roof was erected.
Members of the club regularly use the shooting range to practice target shooting and competitive or recreational events are hosted.
In his affidavit, Eiman states that after discovering the illegal occupation, they approached a lieutenant at the nearby military base to raise their concerns.
They were advised to contact the minister of defence and provided with a number for a “General Kashopola, whose telephone number was unavailable after we tried several times to telephone it.”
When they approached the town council, no help could be given, and their attempt to gain assistance from the police was equally unsuccessful.
“The police did not want to assist us, and only recommended that we warn the members of the Namibian Defence Force.”
Finally, they were advised by their legal practitioner, Norman Tjombe, to file a criminal complaint with the police.
The club then laid charges of unlawful trespassing and breaking and entering the premises, but were later informed that the matter was not yet being investigated because the police officer charged to investigate was “on leave.”
A letter was sent in early January to the permanent secretary of the defence ministry, placing on record that legal action would be taken unless the military vacated the premises by 4 January.
To date, no response has been received.
In their latest effort to be heard, an urgent application was filed at the Windhoek High Court on Monday, and unless opposed, is due to be heard on Monday.
Eiman's affidavit urges the court to hear the matter on an urgent basis, noting that “the Namibian Defence Force has unlawfully deprived the Rehoboth Shooters Club of its lawful and undisturbed possession and occupation of the premises.”
The club members hope the court will order that the premises be restored to the club.
The club members are also asking that the costs of the application be paid by the defence force.
The affidavit stresses that activities at the range are due to commence this month, with club members practising for upcoming competitions.
“With the military now in occupation of the premises, the members will not be permitted to enter and be present on the premises.”
The applicants are supported by lawyer Norman Tjombe, and the three respondents listed in the legal documents are the Minister of Defence, the Namibian Defence Force and the town council of Rehoboth.