Cannabis activist sues for Hornkranz beating

27 February 2020 | Crime

A pro-cannabis activist is suing members of last year's Operation Hornkranz for N$118 000 based on claims he was violently assaulted and that his private property was damaged when he was arrested for drug possession last April.

“The officials unlawfully assaulted [Brian Jaftha] by slapping him on his face, kicking him with booted feet all over his body and hitting him on his face with the butt of a firearm,” the particulars of a claim filed at the Windhoek High Court last September by Jaftha's legal team at the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) stated.

The four defendants named in the lawsuit – the government, the safety and security ministry, the defence ministry and the Windhoek municipal council – have denied any wrongdoing during the operation and will defend the matter.

Jaftha, the president of Ganja Users of Namibia (GUN), was arrested at his home on 24 April 2019 during an Operation Hornkranz raid.

Jaftha's claim said police officers and soldiers burst into his home, breaking down the door and violently assaulting him before he was arrested on charges related to possession of cannabis valued at more than N$2 000, which was allegedly found in his house.

Numerous witnesses were present, he has informed the court.

The arrest took place only days after Gun members and supporters of the drive to decriminalise cannabis use in Namibia held peaceful marches in Windhoek and Swakopmund. He was released on N$1 000 bail a few days later. Jaftha was again arrested last July during an undercover sting operation.

His lawsuit claims that at the time of the arrest the Hornkranz members failed to provide a legal search warrant and proceeded to “unlawfully interrogate Jaftha in an aggressive manner”. They further conducted an illegal search of his residence and assaulted him “in view of members of the public”.

Jaftha is asking the court to award him N$25 000 compensation for violations of his constitutional rights to dignity, privacy and property.

For pain and suffering he is demanding N$35 000 in damages, and N$25 000 for the loss of amenities, in addition to N$8 000 for destruction of property.

His lawsuit asks for a total of N$118 000 from the four defendants.

In a plea filed by the Namibian police and army, they deny all allegations against them and claim that “certain circumstances permit their officials to enter premises without a search warrant, while acting in the course and scope of their employment”. Sharen Zenda of the LAC is acting on behalf of Jaftha.

Profysen Muluti has been appointed by the Windhoek council as their legal representative, while government attorney Lindrowski Tibinyane is acting on behalf of the remaining defendants.

Last Monday, the case was before High Court judge Herman Oosthuizen for a case management conference. At the time of going to print, the next court date had not yet been set.

JANA-MARI SMITH

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