Rage over Magistrate Hangalo’s rulings
A magistrate who has been churning out jaw-dropping sentences against convicted killers and rapists is at it again after allowing a rapist teacher to walk free.
30 November 2021 | Justice
· Acquits Sindano Hango of rape
· Wholly suspends jail for rapist teacher
· Fines man who killed three people
· Wholly suspends jail for killer mother
A pattern of rulings and sentencing in criminal cases presided over by Oshakati-based magistrate Leopoldt Hangalo, including a suspended 10-year jail term last week for a teacher who raped and impregnated a 13-year-old learner at his school, have riled both the public and the country’s prosecutors.
Hangalo has limped from one controversial ruling to another in recent times and in March had to defend himself against accusations of accepting bribes when angry residents marched to his office to protest his acquittal of another rape accused – northern businessman Sindano Hango, who was later convicted in the High Court after the State appealed the controversial acquittal.
Hango, whose bail was cancelled this week ahead of his sentencing on 14 December – by Hango – was convicted of raping his cousin at his house in Ongwediva in 2014.
“Personally, I don’t know the accused [Hango]. I don’t have contact with him. I knew him like any other accused in my court. Apart from the evidence that was presented in court, I do not know him.
“It is rubbish to say I was bribed,” Hangalo told New Era at the time, amidst calls to remove him from his position.
Demonstrators had said he was enabling the rape culture and the increasing incidences of gender-based violence.
Minor a ‘willing partner’
Meanwhile, prosecutors fear Hangalo might give Hango – whom he acquitted before – a wholly suspended jail term as he did last Friday for rapist teacher Itana Sackaria from Ondundu Primary School in the Tsumeb district.
In his ruling, Hangalo said if Sackaria went to jail, he would lose his job and his ability to support the baby he fathered with his learner, and those he fathered with his wife.
Controversially, he labelled the minor victim “a willing partner” who “did not suffer any physical injuries” during rape by her teacher.
The age of sexual consent in Namibia is 18 and sex with anyone below this age is considered rape – or statutory rape where the victim is alleged to have consented to the act. The legal fraternity, including the Office of the Ombudsman and the Legal Assistance Center (LAC), criticised the ruling.
Speaking to Namibian Sun yesterday, Hangalo said: “I wrote a judgement on that. My judgement is public. You can consult the record because currently I cannot answer you or dwell on it because there is an intention to appeal. I cannot comment on it”.
N$15k for three lives
In February, Hangalo sentenced Windhoek resident Morne Mouton (25) to a fine after he was convicted of culpable homicide over a road accident in which three people were killed.
The magistrate said in his view, the convicted killer deserved some mercy.
According to The Namibian, Mouton was sentenced to a fine of N$15 000 or three years' imprisonment and an additional prison term of four years, suspended for five years on condition that he is not convicted of culpable homicide during this period.
Mouton was convicted after it was found that he negligently caused the death of three people – Windhoek City Police officer Manfred Gaoseb and civilians Werner Simon and Joshua Ngenokesho – in a collision on Sam Nujoma Drive in the Hochland Park area of Windhoek in the early morning hours of 4 July 2015.
The incident took place when a car driven by Mouton, who was 20 years old and a Grade 12 pupil at the time, crashed into the side of a stationary police vehicle facing oncoming traffic on the side of the road, and also hit Gaoseb, Simon and Ngenokesho, killing them.
Baby killer freed
In September, Hangalo set free murder convict Martha Ndakalako Kawela who was charged with killing her newborn baby girl in 2014.
Kawela, aged 21 at the time, killed her full-term live baby, placed her in a plastic shopping bag and dumped her body in a black plastic bin at Ongwediva. The baby had black leggings around her neck.
Hangalo convicted Kawela, sentenced her to eight years in jail but wholly suspended the jail term for a period of five years on the condition that she is not convicted of murder during the period of suspension and does not commit a similar offence.
The magistrate is set to become a judge of the High Court from February 2022. Judiciary insiders say he has been told that his new appointment will only be effected if he finishes all pending cases before him. His boss, chairperson of the Magistrate’s Commission and Chief Magistrate Christiaan Philanda, could not be reached for comment.