The Namibian police have a mammoth task on their hands – to try and restore their image and pride as guarantors of security and the safety of citizens after the cruel beatings of civilians at Mariental last week. Recently, the Namibian police came under the spotlight after some of its members allegedly tortured inmates at Keetmanshoop, leading to the death of one of the inmates in police custody. One of the inmates sustained injuries after jumping through the window of the building from which he was being tortured. Some of the policemen have so far been arrested in connection with the case. Complaints against the police vary and range from ineptitude, lack of response and timely reaction when called to attend to crime scenes to poor investigations. It is however the latest cases of violence by members of the force that is more worrisome. At Mariental, a number of civilians sustained serious head and body injuries last week after they were allegedly assaulted by members of the police and defence forces who are at the town to help flood victims. The civilians say they were attacked and assaulted without provocation. However, members of the armed forces implicated in the beatings claim they too were attacked by a group of civilians while on duty. They have since laid charges. Claims by the police that they were attacked while searching for a stolen firearm hence their violent attacks on civilians go against the very grain of peacekeeping and protection. The police are trained to act with restraint and tact and to use minimum force unless they face a life-threatening situation. The police have not indicated that their lives were under threat except that they were attacked by the suspect’s family members with stones and bottles while searching for a stolen firearm. But whatever the circumstances and short of a life-threatening situation, there is absolutely no justification for members of the police force and army to attack civilians in the manner they did, even if they were extremely provoked. And it is unlikely that during the case in point, their lives were in danger. The police have not said so and if they were, their investigations would reveal that and the extent to which their lives were threatened. The violence unleashed by the police and members of the defence force does not appear to be commensurate with the force of resistance if any as alleged by the police units on duty then. Indications are that the police reaction and use of force during the incident was disproportionate and excessive. The wounds sustained by the victims suggest exactly that. The two incidents in Mariental and Keetmanshoop could indicate that there are rogue elements in the force that act with impunity and without due regard for the law, and that presents a challenge for the Inspector General of the Namibian Police Sebastian Ndeitunga. He has to get to the bottom of the latest cases by thoroughly investigating them and laying down the rules. He needs to strictly and firmly deal with the culprits. He has to read them the riot act and if need be, remove them from the force. They are a stain to the good name of the Namibian police. Unlike the South West Africa Police of yesteryear, the Namibian police is a people’s police force whose mission is to serve citizens and not antagonise them or use violence against them. The country’s constitution is very clear and explicit about the use of torture and violence and no one should dare violate the provisions of the supreme law of the land.
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