By Confidente Reporter
THE Office of the Ombudsman has dispatched a team of investigators to Walvis Bay, to probe cases of alleged police brutality, after 17 squatters were severely beaten and shot with rubber bullets by members of the Special Field Force.
The victims sustained serious injuries to their backs, stomachs, legs and buttocks.
Pictures in Confidente’s possession show the severely injured men and women, who were shot multiple times with rubber bullets and beaten with batons.
The pictures tell a story of the extreme use of force by police.
The victims were part of a group of 200 people who occupied municipal land in Kuisebmond on 3 March. They had put up shacks, which were later demolished by police. This escalated the situation, when the squatters, some reportedly armed with petrol bombs, attacked the law enforcement officers with stones. Police reportedly fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.
Speaking to Confidente on Tuesday, chief complainant investigator in the Office of the Ombudsman, Alpheus Haufiku said that he was travelling to the coastal town to get first-hand account of the incident.
“I have seen the pictures of those injured. I’ve also received information of the incident between the people and the police. As we speak, I am on my way to Walvis Bay to talk to all parties involved, and to weigh the situation. That will help us determine whether we’ll investigate the matter further,” Haufiku said.
Community leader Kenneth Illonga travelled from Walvis Bay to Windhoek this week to report the incident to the Office of the Prime Minister and Ombudsman.
In an interview with Confidente, a troubled Illonga equated the level of police brutality used on the squatters to that used in a pre-independent Namibia.
“They used so much force to ruin people’s belongings. They shot at the people at close range, with rubber bullets, and used batons to beat everyone in their path. People’s identification documents and ARVs were destroyed in the process, when they used bulldozers to demolish the shacks.”
Illonga, who appeared withdrawn throughout the interview, also narrated that a 50-year-old man was reportedly shot 30 times with rubber bullets, at close range. The man sustained injuries all over his body and private parts.
Illonga also said that two women, who had witnessed the incident, were also shot, and sustained injuries to their legs.
He said that a woman, who was carrying a baby on her back, was beaten with a baton. She was arrested and spent a night in custody.
“Most of these people are afraid to open police cases, because they feel justice won’t be served. We are not at peace, living in an independent country where people have no places of their own to call home. “These are people that continuously vote for change but are shot at when they put up shacks to live in. Where should we go?” Illonga asked.
He said that the group consisted of unemployed residents and backyard dwellers.
“They were paying high rental fees. Those that had shacks in backyards had no ablution facilities, so they relieved themselves in plastic bags, which they threw in the streets. It is not hygienic and people should not be living in such conditions. So it was because of this that they decided to put up their own shacks.”
The activist said that the group now live in makeshift tents, including mothers who have babies and disabled children.
“They live in tents, where they do not have water, electricity and toilets. They need help with food, blankets and clothing. Ultimately, they need a place to call home,” Illonga said.
When contacted for comment, Erongo Regional Commander, Commissioner Andreas Neumbo, said he is aware of the incident, and the injuries sustained, adding that the victims can lodge criminal cases against the police officers.
“I am aware of the incident. It is their right to lodge police cases against the officers over injuries they sustained. But I have not heard of a single case opened yet.”
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015