Defence 'shocked' by army brutality

30 April 2019 | Crime

The ministry of defence says it was shocked to read about a violent crackdown by Namibian Defence Force members on civilians in Windhoek at the weekend.

Unruly soldiers were accused of assaulting a woman in Katutura, a newspaper reported yesterday.

In a brief statement, the ministry said it did not order its members to assault members of the public and was investigating the matter.

“The MoD did not order soldiers to assault members of the public and this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated.





























In this regard, the MoD (ministry of defence) will investigate the case and those found guilty will be dealt with according to military discipline code,” the statement read.

The Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) yesterday also responded with alarm to multiple accounts of heavy-handed tactics, including at least one assault of at the hands of Namibian soldiers and police during raids under the crime-fighting operation Hornkranz.



They urged the government to address these issues “lest we return to that sordid part of our history where institutionalised violence was the order of the day. There is no place for this lawless behaviour in an independent Namibia.”



Further, the authorities were urged to provide public feedback about any disciplinary action taken in response to these claims.



The LAC noted that reports of “indiscriminate assaults by the Namibian police and the Namibia Defence Force (NDF) have increased of late and deserve immediate and urgent attention from the inspector-general of the Namibian Police as well as the chief of the Defence Force.”



The Legal Assistance Centre is already tackling a number of civil claims that are linked to allegations of against civilians by the Namibian Police and members of the NDF.



The LAC confirmed yesterday that they had received requests for legal assistance arising from the alleged assaults over the weekend.



The statement said if these civil cases were successful, they would come at the cost of the taxpayer.



One widely reported assault took place on Saturday night.



Luise Mwanyangapo (31) reported on Sunday that she had sustained serious injuries, including a fractured skull, on Saturday night after she had been severely assaulted in a bar by soldiers raiding the establishment.



“Out of nowhere NDF soldiers came out to beat us and punch us, unprovoked. My cousin and I had no idea what was going on. I was beaten unconscious and admitted to the Roman Catholic hospital.”



Namibian Sun was unable to reach Mwanyangapo, a 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow and a project manager for FES Media Namibia, the media project of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, for further comment.



Several further reports of assaults, shots fired and harassment by the NDF members of Hornkranz, including photos supporting the claims, made the rounds on social media on Sunday and Monday.



Another claim was that a Windhoek resident who had witnessed multiple assaults by NDF soldiers at a bar “tried opening a case [yesterday], but the police refused”.



The LAC underlined yesterday that although NDF soldiers can be deployed “in the preservation of life, health or property or in such other service as may be determined by the president, the emphasis should be on 'preservation' and not 'violation' of rights.”



The non-profit legal centre further noted that these services must be provided in terms of the Police Act, which stipulates that “force may only be used as is reasonable in the circumstances in the prevention of crime or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of an offender or suspected offender or persons unlawfully at large.”

These, the LAC stressed, are the “only instances when force can be utilised, and then only as is reasonably necessary.”

JANA-MARI SMITH

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