Crackdown on dagga petitioners

26 April 2019 | Police

Soldiers and police officers raided the offices of a cannabis advocacy group in Windhoek on Wednesday, days after a peaceful protest march calling for the legalisation of dagga.

The raid led to the arrest of Ganja Users of Namibia (GUN) president Brian Jaftha. About 200 grams of dagga, valued at N$2 000, was seized.

According to fellow GUN members, Jaftha was assaulted during the “violent” police raid.

They plan to take legal action against the officers involved.

Namibian Sun was informed that the raid was one of several recent incidents of alleged over-zealous policing against suspected dagga users.

These developments come amid growing calls for the legalising of dagga in Namibia in line with other countries such as South Africa and the United States.



Current laws

Toni Hancox, director of the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), says currently dagga is a controlled drug in terms of the Abuse of Dependence-Producing Substances and Rehabilitation Centres Act of 1971.

Under this law the police are allowed to enter and search premises without a search warrant if there is a reasonable belief that there are drugs on the premises.

But legal experts point out that no law-enforcement operation is exempt from existing laws, and that the police could face a legal backlash if evidence is obtained under duress or without the required documentation.





“At the end of the day, there is no such thing as a special operation in law. Special operations are not

“At the end of the day, there is no such thing as a special operation in law. Special operations are not exempted from the law,” lawyer Norman Tjombe said yesterday.

The head of the Namibian police force, Lieutenant-General Sebastian Ndeitunga, said he was unaware of complaints of heavy-handed tactics during Wednesday's operation.

Nevertheless, he warned that police operations must be conducted within the prescribed rules and regulations.

He said the law does not permit manhandling of suspects, “unless in the case of self-defence”.

Ndeitunga added that the officers on duty should be given an opportunity to respond to the allegations.



Clampdown

According to a spokesperson for the GUN group, Jaftha remains behind bars and will appear before court today.

GUN member Borro Ndungula said the actions of the police and NDF on Wednesday were in violation of the rights of every Namibian to safety, security and privacy.

The police did not produce a search warrant, he said.

“They are supposed to protect us, not come here and bully us. They had AK-47s and were wearing bulletproof vests. They were here to terrorise us. Why send in an army?” he said.

The police said the operation was part of Operation Hornkranz, a crime-prevention campaign with military reinforcements.

But police spokesperson Kauna Shikwambi rejected GUN's claim that 40 or more NDF officers had taken part in the raid.

She explained that Hornkranz operations were led by the Namibian police, and that NDF soldiers were merely there as reinforcements.



Activism

Earlier this week, GUN and the Rastafari United Front (RUF) handed over a petition to parliament calling for the decriminalisation of dagga in Namibia.

The petition calls for the “free use, possession, production and trade in cannabis for medicinal, recreational, cultural, historical, traditional, and religious purposes”.

The petitioners want parliament to establish a commission to control and regulate a cannabis industry, which they say could provide economic benefits to “hundreds of thousands” of Namibians.

“We call on the government of Namibia to represent Namibian interests according to modern, well-informed and progressive standards,” the petition reads.

In 2007, the LAC, made a submission to parliament which suggested that dagga “should arguably be placed in another [drug] category altogether. In particular, there has been a growing worldwide trend to decriminalise cannabis insofar as small quantities for personal use are concerned.”

The LAC said one of the reasons for the international move to relax laws regulating marijuana use was because it is regarded as a “soft drug” and police resources should rather be used to curb the distribution of “hard drugs”.



JANA-MARI SMITH

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