WINDHOEK – A Zimbabwean national was fined yesterday in the Windhoek Magistrate‘s Court for overstaying his visitor’s permit.
Rodney Tapiwa Gowa, 29, was fined the maximum N$12 000 or two years imprisonment. He was convicted for being in the country after his visitor’s permit expired.
Gowa pleaded guilty before Magistrate Justine Asino for contravening Namibia’s immigration laws by remaining in the country for an extra two years, three months and three days after his five-day visitor’s permit had expired. He was discovered by chance after he went to the City Police’s offices in Bismarck Street on unrelated business and an immigration official happened to be there.
The immigration official enquired about his passport and it was discovered he was in the country illegally. He was arrested on January 22 and remained behind bars till his appearance in court.
After the charge was put to Gowa his legal representative Milton Engelbrecht read a plea explanation into the record in which he (Gawa) admitted to being in the country illegally.
He said he came to Namibia on October 13 2011 on a visitor’s permit that expired on October 18 the same year to visit his Namibian girlfriend who had a miscarriage. He said he came to offer her moral support and decided to stay further to show her his support.
In mitigation, his defence counsel Engelbrecht said the court, while dealing on a weekly basis with such offences, must take into account that Gowa was a first offender at the age of 29. He said Gowa was single and unemployed and was not in Namibia to commit criminal offences.
He said the accused was in a romantic relationship with a Namibian lady from which a three-month-old baby was born.
According to Engelbrecht, his client stayed with his girlfriend and although unemployed contributed to the household expenses and maintenance of the child with the help of his parents.
Engelbrecht asked that the court show leniency towards the accused as he pleaded guilty at the first opportunity granted to him and that he would already be punished through being deported and his child would have to grow up without its father. He proposed a fine of N$4 000.
In aggravation prosecutor Samantha Diergaardt argued that an entry permit for five days meant exactly that and does not allow a visitor to take up employment or undertake studies.
She said that Gowa showed a total and utter disregard for Namibian laws and abused the hospitality shown to him.
“The fact that his girlfriend miscarried is not a justification for the accused to overstay in Namibia for more than two years,” Diergaardt emphasised.
She said that Gowa’s unlawful activities were not discovered out of his own accord, but through a fortunate encounter with an immigration official.
According to Diergaardt were it not for the immigration official being at the City Police offices, Gowa would have remained in Namibia undetected. Diergaardt stressed that society would lose faith in the criminal justice system if a deterrent sentence was not imposed on Gowa.
She said that society expects the court to send out a strong message to foreign nationals entering the country that it will not allow a “total disregard for the laws of Namibia”.
In sentencing Asino agreed with Diergaardt’s sentiments and said that although Gowa pleaded guilty “this is not always a sign of remorse”.
She said that Gowa knew full well that he was illegally in the country, but still went ahead and fathered another child.
The fact that the child will have to grow up without a father can only be blamed on him as he is the one that created the situation which is unfortunately not fair to the child, Asino said before she handed down sentence.
By Roland Routh