'Starved and assaulted'

Institutional neglect and police brutality have been alleged by the South African mother of an awaiting-trial prisoner.

06 February 2019 | Police

The police have denied allegations by awaiting-trial prisoners that they are being starved and assaulted in holding cells at the Windhoek police station.

A South African mother, whose 19-year-old son, Wesley Welgemoed, has been in custody at the police station for the last six months, wrote a desperate letter to NamRights in the middle of January in which she pleaded for intervention following these allegations.

Welgemoed was arrested by the drug-enforcement unit with three others on 19 July 2018, when drugs with a street value of N$200 000 were allegedly found in a house in Kleine Kuppe.

The three co-accused are Lee Jenkins (19), who is a British citizen residing in South Africa, Namibian national Buruxa Buru Butkus (30) and his German fiancé, Verena Salzmann (30).

Salzmann was granted bail of N$30 000, while Butkus was denied bail on the grounds that he might reoffend. The two South Africans remain in custody as they are feared to be a flight risk.

Mother's plea

Welgemoed's mother (name withheld), who is from Port Elizabeth, on 11 January claimed there had been “no food” for the inmates for a number of days. That was allegedly also the situation during November and December.

“It is totally unacceptable to have somebody detained and not feed them; it is inhumane!” the mother wrote. In other correspondence the mother wrote: “They're not even receiving bread, nothing.”

The mother's friend in Windhoek said they had to take food to the prisoners daily.

The friend, who prefers anonymity, claimed the awaiting-trial prisoners often only get porridge or a watered-down soup (when available), and sugar water.

At one point a police officer would throw the food brought in by the friend on the floor and demand the prisoners pick it from there; oftentimes, the food gets taken by other inmates, she claimed.

This source said during winter the prisoners did not have warm water or cleaning utensils or detergents to fight off cockroaches, and no toiletries.

What there seems to be plenty of, the family friend said, is marijuana.

“Drugs seem to be everywhere; the dagga fumes hang thick in the air when you go to the holding cells,” the source said.

The mother expressed worry that the situation in the cells was getting “too much” for her young son, who has been in prison for so long with “no structure, no programme, no councillors and no exercise”.

The family friend also said Welgemoed had complained about muscle cramps from inactivity, while Jenkins has thrice suffered from lung infections.

Jenkins has allegedly also been badly assaulted by fellow cellmates - who often include hardened criminals - and was not taken to hospital, while he had slipped “in and out of consciousness” after one of the assaults.

He is confirmed to be “better” now.

“We had to fight to get Lee to a hospital. Because he is white, one of the wardens remarked that 'Boers' do not die,” the source said.

This warden has reportedly been transferred from the holding cells to the charge office.

The source further claimed that the accused were assaulted when they were arrested in July.

She said while the two South Africans were doing forced push-ups, they were kicked between the legs. Guns were allegedly held against their heads.

It is alleged that Butkus was badly assaulted, presumably because he had tried to run away, and had to spend ten days in hospital.

Police denials

The Khomas regional crime investigations coordinator, Deputy Commissioner Abner Agas, on enquiry from NamRights said he had launched an investigation into the allegation that there is no food.

“Food is available for all inmates in the Khomas Region, including in the Windhoek police holding cells. Food was there in the past and it is still there for every inmate in our custody,” Agas concluded after his investigation.

A police spokesperson, Chief Inspector Kauna Shikwambi, concurred with Agas, saying there was no truth to the inmates' complaints.

“The police are doing everything possible to ensure that all awaiting-trial prisoners nationwide are fed as prescribed and in cases where there is a delay of delivery from, for example, suppliers, arrangements are made to ensure that the prisoners are fed,” Shikwambi said.

She said prisoners were fed in accordance with prescribed international feeding requirements.

This, she said, includes a variety of fruit, vegetables, dry rations, beef, chicken, pork and fish, “just to mention a few”.

Shikwambi said it is unfortunate that some inmates do not like the menu at the holding cells, but added that family members are allowed to take them food.

On the allegations of assault, Shikwambi said she was “reliably” informed that there was no report of assault by fellow inmates reported or registered. Inmates can report any charges of assault to the officers in charge, she said.

Not guilty plea

The four have pleaded not guilty to the drug charges, maintaining that no drugs were found on them at the time of their arrest in July last year.

According to court documents, the drugs found in the Kleine Kuppe home were only bagged and sealed by the police on 26 July. It is also alleged that the police had no search warrants and had not sought permission to enter the house or conduct a search on the night of the arrests.

The case against the four was postponed until 28 February, pending further investigation.


Similar News


Ahowe otashi ti ahowe

4 days ago - 16 September 2019 | Police And Crime

Sebastian Ndeitunga okwa popi kutya ahowe osha hala okutya ahowe na kape na we efatululo limwe li lipo.Ndeitunga okwa popi ngaaka pethimbo kwa patululwa pambelewa...

Cops probe deaths

2 weeks ago - 04 September 2019 | Police

The Namibian police are investigating the deaths of 18 people who died in less than a week.Of these, 15 people died in road accidents, two...

Oshiwike oshiwinayi

2 weeks ago - 04 September 2019 | Police And Crime

Opolisi yaNamibia otayi konaakona iipotha yi na sha neso lyaantu 18 mboka ya hulitha muule woshiwike shimwe, mwakwatelwa aantu 15 mboka ya hulithile miiponga yiihauto,...

Anti-crime operation starts at Rundu

1 month - 20 August 2019 | Police

The acting police commander for Kavango East, Commissioner Vilho Kalwenya, has issued a stern warning to community members who are in cahoots with criminals, saying...

'Operation Kalahari Desert' ya tulwa miilonga moRundu

1 month - 20 August 2019 | Police

Ngoka ta longo pehala lyaKomanda gwOpolisi moshitopolwa shaKavango East, Komufala Vilho Kalwenya okwa popi kutya kape na ehala lyiimbuluma moshitopolwa shoka na okwa gandja ekunkililo...

Man shot over frying pan

1 month - 19 August 2019 | Police

Two attempted murder cases were opened during the second phase of Operation Kalahari Desert over the weekend in the Erongo Region, with one involving a...

Training on crime scene management relevant

2 months ago - 04 July 2019 | Police

Due to the transient and fragile nature of crime investigation, the reliability and preservation of its physical integrity depends largely on initial actions at the...

Swakopmund teen hangs herself

2 months ago - 02 July 2019 | Police

The Swakopmund community is reeling in shock after a grade 11 Namib High School learner committed suicide on the Swakopmund Primary School playground.Her body was...

Kalahari halted… for now

2 months ago - 26 June 2019 | Police

The Peoples Litigation Centre (PLC) is set to approach the Windhoek High Court next week if their demand that soldiers be withdrawn from Operation Kalahari...

Kalahari in LPM’s sights

3 months ago - 20 June 2019 | Police

The Landless Peoples Movement (LPM) has added its voice to the growing clamour for the government to withdraw members of the Namibian Defence Force (NDF)...

Latest News

Snuffed out

5 hours ago | Accidents

JANA-MARI SMITHA total of 101 people have died in 335 car crashes around Namibia in the past month.Experts agree that driver attitudes, and passengers' acceptance...

We need a lasting solution

5 hours ago | Columns

We have dedicated our front page today to all those who have lost their lives in road crashes this past month. Given our space constraints...

25 years for axe murderer

5 hours ago | Justice

A Rundu man has been sentenced to 25 years behind bars for killing his grandfather with a traditional axe, a panga and a knife after...

Liquidators hunt N$1bn

5 hours ago | Justice

The liquidators of the SME Bank claim that Enock Kamushinda, the Metropolitan Bank of Zimbabwe (MetBank) and World Eagle Investments should be held liable for...

Orphan fraud case ready for...

5 hours ago | Justice

The case of a local estate administrator, who stands accused of fraud and embezzling funds belonging to several orphaned children between 2015 and 2017, is...

PDK heats it up

5 hours ago | Art and Entertainment

First things first; PDK's Saka music video is the best Namibian music video shot in 2019 - let's just get that out of the way....

Timo Kevin drops debut album

5 hours ago | Art and Entertainment

It is quite a spectacle to witness a unique artist popping up on the music scene and remaining true to themselves until their presence is...

One Africa TV expands its...

5 hours ago | Art and Entertainment

In a move aimed at taking its vibrant and diverse content even further beyond the boundaries of traditional media, One Africa TV (OATV) signed a...

The fight upcoming artists endure

5 hours ago | Columns

The tenacity of upcoming artists to never give up in the face of countless 'no's' given to them is what eventually takes them into the...

Load More