Ethnicity and Housebreaking


By Rector Sandema Although there has been much conceptual confusions in sociology with respect to the distinctiveness of such terms as ethnicity and race, ethnicity for the purpose of this study will refer to people who share the same culture, such as language, customs, etc. This part of the study relates ethnicity and housebreaking offences. Housebreaking is defined as the unlawful and intentional shifting or displacing of any obstruction by which access to a building or premises suitable for human habitation or storage of goods is obtained with actual entering or intruding into that building or premises with intention to commit a crime. Table 6 above indicates that 11 (55%) robbers studied in relation to ethnicity and housebreaking were Oshiwambo speaking. Three (15%) were Damara/Nama speaking while 6 (30%) were Herero, including other ethnic groups. From the information above, one can conclude that more Oshiwambo-speaking robbers committed housebreaking related robberies than any other ethnic groups. However, it must be pointed out that in the Namibian population Owambos constitute more than 50% of the population. We believe that the Pearson correlation involving this variable is not significant for this reason. Ethnicity and gun pointing Gun pointing in this study referred to when a robber used a gun on the victim with intent to threaten him or her to submit to a demand from that robber. A gun in this study is referred to as any type of weapon that fires bullets or shells from a small metal tube – Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (Hornby, 1995). Firearms and gun in this study are interchangeably used and will refer to the same thing. Table 6 shows that 114 robbers representing 65% who committed robbery used a firearm and were from the Oshiwambo-speaking group. The Herero-speaking group (including other ethnic groups) were second with 27 cases of robberies, representing 15%, all being committed with the use of a firearm. The foreigners, Afrikaners, and Damara/Nama come last in the use of a firearm to commit robbery with 15 cases representing (9%), 6 cases (3.4%) and 1 case (5%) respectively. Ethnicity and other offences Other offences in this study refer to offences other than the abovementioned. These include robberies, in which other unmotivated offences were committed. From Table 6, one can clearly observe that the Oshiwambo-speaking robbers (49%) dominate this type of offence category. The Hereros (including other ethnic groups) totalled 35% while the Damara/Nama were14% and Afrikaners at 2.3% came last respectively. Table 6 also indicates that Owambos were involved in over 65% of all offences being committed. This again may be due to the fact that they are the overwhelming majority in the population. It is also interesting to note that the majority of key informants felt that crime had nothing to do with one’s ethnic background, but people with criminal minds are distributed more or less evenly across all ethnic groups and that committing armed robbery depends on circumstances. Opportunities to commit a crime as well as economic factors were of prime importance in determining a person’s criminal life. For example, a chief inspector said, “Race is not really a factor in crime committing. Perhaps one should say that certain racial groups have been deprived of certain means economically or social upliftment and as a result such people are forced by economic and social hardship in committing crimes.” Another chief inspector explained, “Crime commission does not confine to certain attributes such as a race.” However, it was argued by many key informants that most those people who commit robbery were blacks who were previously disadvantaged. It was argued by other key informants that people of a particular race were more likely to be involved in criminal activities and more likely to be in prison, because speaking the same language made it easier for these people to plan a crime. 5.1.2. Age and Type of Offence Teenagers and young adults have sustained higher crime rates than any other age groups for as long as studies have been conducted in Namibia (NISER, 1991:25). Young people lack opportunities to achieve financial success and this encourages them to turn to crime (Cashmore, 1979: 22). Cashmore (1979) argued that young people are drawn into criminality when faced with a situation where their aspirations for consumer goods are not matched by the reality of their economic situation. Part 4 of a thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree Masters Arts at the University of Namibia.