Northern Prison a Success Story

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William J. Mbangula ONDANGUA The Ministry of Safety and Security has mobilised financial support to the tune of N$100 000 from private financial institutions for inmates’ rehabilitation and skills training. Speaking at the celebration of the Oluno Rehabilitation Centre on Friday, the Minister of Safety and Security Peter Tsheehama revealed this to the audience saying that more funds will be mobilised to ensure the proper training and rehabilitation of prisoners. He said the fact that there was no rehabilitation centre in the northern regions before 1996 was not by accident but by design. The colonial administration did not think it was needed to have such a centre because it always believed in punishment rather than rehabilitating people. The minister said that unlike in the old dispensation when a prison was mainly considered a torture chamber for prisoners, his ministry considers them as centres of rehabilitation where inmates can acquire skills and technical know-how, which will help them in their futures. At the same time inmates are also receiving spiritual care as a way to make them God-fearing citizens of the country. By running centres in such a manner, the minister noted, the Government has met the minimum UN standards for the treatment of prisoners. “I am informed that the location of a prison here has been fruitful during the past ten years thus breaking the myth that once you have a prison nearby it is a bad thing. The centre has become a source of pride and attraction where prisoners are going out to help the local community in various activities such as construction, panel-beating, spray-painting, gardening, and many more,” said the Minister. The King of Ondonga, Kauluma Elifas, who is also the Chairperson of the Council of Traditional Leaders in Namibia, addressed the event as well. He commended the work being done by prisoners following their rehabilitation at the centre. “When one looks at a prison, one gets the impression that it is a place of violent people but as soon as they have been rehabilitated by their handlers, they become friendly and useful people in the society,” he said. Another speaker was the Senior Headman of Euda-neko, George Nelulu, who is also the Chairperson of the Oukwanyama Traditional Authority. He appreciated the activities of the centre, which has transformed many inmates into useful citizens. Nelulu donated an ox to the feast and was speaking on behalf of the Queen of Ovakwanyama Martha Nelumbu. Nelulu appealed to the Government to build more such centres in the country because such centres will help many prisoners to become productive citizens. The queen could not attend the event because she was attending a funeral. Other speakers were the Councillor of Ondangwa Constituency Ismael Uug-wanga and Ondangwa Town Councillor Lettie Tuutaleni, who attended on behalf of the mayor Priskilla Nashandi. The founding superintendent Andreas Shapaka, now in charge of Divundu Rehabilitation Centre in the Kavango Region, narrated the history of the centre. The centre, which is serving the Caprivi, Kavango, Oshana, Ohang-wena, Otjozondjupa, Omu-sati, Kavango, Oshikoto and Kunene regions, is located in the former contract labour workers’ compound where Shapaka first made contact as a job seeker in 1968. He was first introduced to the centre as head in 1994 during its initial stage of construction. During that time he initiated one of the most successful pig-farming projects in the country. This project started only with six pigs but now has generated 600 pigs. More than 200 pigs were donated to the Ondangwa-Tsumeb railway line workers. Oluno Rehabilitation Centre has a carrying capacity of 568 inmates but currently has only 400 inmates, including three babies born at the centre. As part of its rehabilitation activities, the centre offers various training in pig farming, gardening, nursery, mechanical work, spray-painting, panel-beating, bricklaying, basket making and spiritual care and social welfare. Most of the products such as baskets and plants were being sold during the anniversary event. The occasion was also graced with various sponsorships from private institutions such as Metropolitan Life, Old Mutual, Nedbank, Kapia Optics, Pick ‘n Pay, Fysal Fresh Produce and many more. Chris Iitope represented all from Metropolitan Life. The Tupanduleni Cultural Group from Oniipa, a cultural group of pioneers called Ya Toivo and the local Ndilimani group, as well as choirs made up of prison officials kept the event lively with songs and traditional performances. As promised previously by the current officer in charge of the centre, Ben Buchane, the celebrations of the tenth anniversary were conducted in style with soccer tournaments, cultural performances, prestige drilling, gymnastics and prize-giving. Some of the guests in the prison services came from as far as the Okavango, Otjozon-djupa, Oshikoto and Erongo regions.

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