WINDHOEK – A Zimbabwean national who made his living selling cigarettes and air time on street corners in Windhoek was fined N$6 000 or 12 months in prison for overstaying his visit in the country yesterday.
Clyde Mpasi pleaded guilty to a charge of contravening the Immigration Control Act, Act 7 of 1993 for remaining in Namibia after the expiration of his visitor’s entry permit. Thirty-year-old Mpasi entered Namibia on March 12, 2012 on a ninety-day visitor’s permit and failed to return to Zimbabwe after the expiry date and also failed to renew the permit.
Magistrate Justine Asino accepted his guilty plea and subsequently found him guilty for being in Namibia illegally for a period of eight months and 17 days. During submissions on sentencing, Mpasi informed Magistrate Asino he is a single father of one minor girl who is living in Zimbabwe with his father and other siblings whom he supports with his meager street earnings.
While he admitted that he knew what he was doing was illegal, he said the money he made from his business was only enough to send some to his family in Zimbabwe, while he also paid rent and bought food in Windhoek. He said he came to Namibia as he had nothing to do in Zimbabwe and was introduced to street sales by some of his compatriots here. “As I am a father I thought I could use the three months here to sell some things, then return to Zimbabwe, but business was not good. I thought that I could sell more and make some money, but I could not really meet that expectation as I also needed to send money home,” he said.
Mpasi told Magistrate Asino that he had no intention to disrespect the authorities in Namibia, but that circumstances were beyond his control. He asked the court to show mercy and told the magistrate that he is very remorseful over what he has done. He said that he knows that the court has the right to impose a penalty on him, but asked that it should be minimal so that he can go back to Zimbabwe to look after his family. He requested a fine of not more than N$3 000.
Prosecutor Samantha Diergaardt would however have none of that and insisted that Mpasi showed a total disregard for Namibia and her laws. She said Namibia is a sovereign state with laws in place to be complied with, not only by its citizens, but by foreigners entering Namibia as well. She was adamant that Mpasi knew full well when he applied for his entry permit that he intended to come here to do business. According to the prosecutor, Mpasi was already dishonest when he applied for the visitor’s permit, since he was fully aware that he had no intention of just visiting.
She also stressed the fact that Mpasi was fully aware that he is not allowed to conduct business in Namibia on a visitor’s permit, but that this did not deter him in any manner. “The accused showed a total disregard for the laws of Namibia and this cannot be condoned by our courts,” Diergaardt told Magistrate Asino. She further said it has become a common practice for foreigners to come to Namibia and provide false information at entry points that their sole intention is to visit, but from the moment they set foot in the country they start conducting business.
She further directed the attention of the magistrate to the fact that these types of offences are on the increase and that deterrent sentences are called for. Magistrate Asino in sentencing told Mpasi that the court has taken into account the offence committed, his personal circumstances and the interest of society coupled with a “blend of mercy”. She also stressed that the offence committed is a serious one as seen by the legislature, which is evident from the penalty clause which states that a fine not exceeding N$12 000 or three years imprisonment or both is applicable.
She further said such offences are on the increase in the Windhoek district and as such these actions cannot and will not be condoned by the court. “If such actions continue the society at large will lose confidence in the operations of the immigration officials,” she said. Magistrate Asino told Mpasi that what aggravates the offence is that while illegal in Namibia he conducted business.
Before she sentenced Mpasi, Magistrate Asino told him that the fact that he overstayed for almost a year is an indication to the court that he did not intend to leave the country soon. “For how long you intended to remain in Namibia is only known to you,” she emphasised. She then told Mpasi that the court must impose deterrent sentences to deter other would-be offenders.