Prison Rehabilitates Elephant Poacher

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By Chrispin Inambao RUNDU Naster Siyayo (32) is among the 357 convicts serving a stretch of his prison sentence at Divundu Rehabilitation Centre, 200 km east of Rundu in Kavango. Arrested in 2001 with a freshly slaughtered elephant carcass that he and three other poachers gunned down with an R-1 rifle from one of the wild herds roaming Mudumu National Park, the young man is now paying for illegally hunting the protected giant game species. Squat but cheerful, Siyayo was jailed for eight years and is due for release next year. Compelled by his unemployed status to resort to this illicit activity, the resident of Sachona Village in Linyanti Constituency says he had wanted to use some of the meat to feed his wife, his daughter and extended family who salivated for bush meat. His initial intention with fellow poachers, two of whom have since died, was to consume some of the elephant meat while the surplus was to be sold to other villagers who are occasionally in the habit of supplementing their food rations with bush meat. Bush meat is sold while it is still fresh and because of its perishable nature, it is usually cut into thin strips that are sun-dried and tied into bundles earmarked for the market. Siyayo is among the 22 inmates who are taught basic brick-making and they have now, mastered this skill so much so that they currently mould between 4000 to 10 000 standard bricks for various contractors depending on the market needs, explained Ever Chisozu who teaches inmates basic brick-making. He is in charge of the project. The bricks produced by the inmates exceed quality standards set in Windhoek and have been used to build houses for staff and clinics. The bricks are also used on other major projects involving both Government and the private sector in Kavango Region. Seemingly rehabilitated, he says, he will put his skills to good use once he regains his liberty. He intends to secure gainful employment in the construction industry. “Once I am released, I will put to good use my brick-making skills for the benefit of my community at Sachona and in the region,” he told New Era at the rehabilitation center. Unlike other prisons that have a corruptible influence and are “universities” for more serious crime executed with military precision and where they hone their skills so that they slip through police radar, the Divundu Rehabilitation Centre is a model prison. At Divundu, inmates are taught crop farming, brick-making and other productive skills. Inmates referred to this low-security prison are carefully selected and they should have a maximum of three years remaining on their jail term and are thoroughly screened. Naster Siyayo says life at the prison is not so bad though he bemoaned the fact that he’s rarely received visits from his wife and admits that he greatly misses his family. Life at the prison though far from being a bed of roses has not been that bad as inmates are able to watch their favourite teams at the 2006 World Cup in Germany on TV. Their food rations are also not that bad. They get chicken, pork, fish and bread on their menu. The prison produces enough maize-meal and flour for its bakery and the surplus corn meal and wheat flour is transported to other prisons scattered around the country. Apart from being well looked after, the prisoners incarcerated at Divundu usually play soccer and board games, and jail-breaks are unheard of in this community of prisoners. And naturally, Naster Siyayo is looking forward to the day he will regain his liberty. The head of this rehabilitation center with a staff component of 225 personnel is Chief Superintendent Andreas Shapaka and Senior Superintendent Tuhafeni Hangula is his deputy, while Senior Superintendent Meinolf Kambukwe is in charge of the farming unit.