Farmers Bemoan Prolonged Trials

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By Charles Tjatindi

OKOMBAHE

Farmers in the Okombahe area have expressed concern over the length of time stock theft cases take when brought for trial. Farmers from the area, most of them pensioners, noted that due to the length of trials involving stock theft, they are sometimes reluctant to report such cases to the police.

Farmers said this during a meeting with a delegation from the Erongo Police Head Office at Okombahe yesterday. The delegation was led by the Police Regional Commander for the Erongo Region, Deputy Commissioner Festus Shilongo, and included top-ranking police officers.

The regional police initiated the meeting in order to consult farmers and community representatives on best approaches to tackle the persistent problem of livestock theft in the area. Representatives of traditional authorities also attended the meeting. About 15 cases of livestock theft, involving at least 20 animals per case, are reported per month in the areas of Okombahe, Uis, Omatjete and Henties Bay, according to police figures.

While the biggest problem facing the regional police in dealing with stock theft cases is the withdrawal of such cases by complainants, those present at the meeting felt it was easier to negotiate for payment from the accused than await judgments – which they said take too long.

A traditional councillor at the meeting related that, as old people, they find it extremely difficult to attend stretched trial sessions, which sometimes would drag for two years.

“We have to hire cars to take us to Karibib, and have to endure long waiting before our cases commence. It is difficult. Sometimes it is easier to just accept payment in double from the accused and to withdraw the case,” she noted.

She also noted that most people accused in such livestock theft cases are young people, while the complainants are old. This, she said makes it difficult for the complainants to keep up with the case, as the accused hire lawyers that bombard them with confusing questions.

“As an old person, sometimes you take time to gather your thoughts. With all these fast questions from lawyers, you would one day say it was two goats, and tomorrow you say it was two sheep which were stolen from you,” she noted.

Another person also present at the meeting noted that some parents condone their children’s behaviour by offering to pay or settle out of court when their children are implicated in livestock theft cases.

“These people would approach you and tell you that if you withdraw the case, you will get double or so. Sometimes, they even threaten that tomorrow it will be your child in the same situation. These are small places, and you wouldn’t want to make enemies – so you oblige,” she said.

The Erongo police chief, who was chairing the meeting, while acknowledging the situation farmers find themselves in, however appealed to them not to withdraw cases. Deputy Commissioner, Festus Shilongo, said a lot of government resources are wasted through the withdrawal of cases, suggesting that farmers should approach their respective police stations to discuss any uncertainty regarding their cases.

“Such an attitude does not only contribute to the promotion of crimes, but also wastage of government resources. Vehicles are used during investigations and police members offer their private time to do such cases. It is also in conflict with some of the Erongo police objectives, such as service delivery and accountability,” Shilongo noted.

The meeting at Okombahe was the first in a string of similar meetings planned by the regional police for the same area. Next on the list is Omaruru, while other smaller areas around Karibib would follow soon.

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