By Anna Shilongo
Minister of Safety and Security Dr Nicky Iyambo last Thursday made the first ever visit to Katutura, Wanahenda and Windhoek Central Prison as part of his familiarisation tour to the country’s holding cells and police stations since taking office.
During his visit, the minister was briefed on challenges at the police cells and stations such as overcrowding, and the overall dilapidation of holding cells in Windhoek.
Katutura Police Station is currently in shambles with one of the oldest buildings in town that needs urgent repairs.
Speaking at the occasion, the minister highlighted the importance of the media to his ministry.
He said his ministry cannot work in isolation. It needs the media help to combat crime.
“The media plays a vital role in educating and combating crime in our communities, they are needed to create awareness,” said the minister.
He expressed concern with the number of juveniles in prisons, saying they are supposed to be in school. The minister questioned why the juveniles were finding themselves behind bars.
Iyambo said he would take up the matter with the education minister so that they can highlight the importance of being a disciplined child.
He said it was the duty of law enforcement agencies to create awareness programmes at schools that are aimed at sensitising and educating school children on the dangers of crime.
Some police stations have already started awareness campaigns at schools in their areas, but there have been some delays with some heads of schools who have not responded to their request. So far the campaign has visited about five schools in Katutura.
The minister further raised concern about the number of women in prisons. Although the number of women sentenced to prison terms is not comparable to that of men, the figure still worries the minister.
He believes there should be some changes in bringing up children.
The cells that are bursting at the seams – particularly in the city – are the main Windhoek Police Station, the Wanaheda Police Station and Katutura Police Station.
Plans were under way to extend both Windhoek and Wanaheda police station holding facilities in the 2008-2009 financial year.
The main cause of overcrowding is attributed to the increase in crime, where petty criminals are arrested and detained for minor offences such as trespassing, common assault, crimen injuria and shoplifting.
However, assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, GBH, is on top of the crime trend reported at the Katutura and Wanaheda police stations, followed by theft and house-breaking. This is followed by domestic violence, theft out of motor vehicles, pointing of firearms, robbery and drink and driving.
Violent crimes such as murder and rape are less at the two police stations.
Another concern raised was armed robbery, which is on the increase.
To date there are about 259 trial-awaiting prisoners at the Wanaheda Police Station holding cells, while the initial carrying capacity of the holding cells is 170.
This figure includes 18 juveniles, of which 15 are females while five are illegal immigrants.
At Katutura Police Station holding cells, there are currently 87 trial-awaiting prisoners.
At the Windhoek Central Prison, the holding cells were meant for 912 inmates, but the number of inmates currently stands at 1172. Out of this figure, 38 of the inmates are women.
The figures of prisoners include foreigners. Amongst the foreigners, South Africans and Angolans are the majority in the cells. Other foreign countries have a smaller number of nationals not exceeding five.