Farmers Opt for Traditional Courts

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By Charles Tjatindi

OTJIMBINGWE

Despite repeated pleas from the Erongo Police to farmers in the region not to withdraw cases of reported stock theft, the practice continues unabated.

A recent meeting between Otjimbingwe farmers and a police delegation from the Erongo regional head office in Walvis Bay confirmed this practice. The police travelled to Otjimbingwe as part of ongoing meetings with community members to deal with the issue of stock theft in the region, after convening a similar meeting in Okombahe.

The Erongo Police have been experiencing problems with farmers in the region who would withdraw cases of stock theft, opting to settle out of court, or taking the matter to traditional authorities for arbitration. In many cases, the police argue, this would occur after the police have invested resources into investigations – resources that are normally never recovered.

Community members, however, expressed concern over the apparent slow pace at which cases are handled at the country’s courts, opting to rather let their traditional courts handle such cases. Farmers present at the meeting noted that considering the number of cases reported to police, it appears to them that these law enforcers do not have enough resources to devote to thorough investigations of cases.

Farmers also expressed concern over the length stock theft cases take when brought to trial, adding that they are sometimes reluctant to report such cases to the police, opting for traditional courts. Those present at the meeting felt it was easier to negotiate for payment from the accused than await judgments that they claim take too long. Farmers noted that they often find it difficult to attend long-drawn trial sessions that sometimes can drag for two years.

“We live in rural areas. Travelling from Otjimbingwe to Karibib for the trial every now and then depletes our financial resources. You also find that the charge of going to Karibib exceeds that which you lost through the loss of your livestock … you cannot go to Karibib for two goats that were stolen, but you can take it to the traditional headmen and leaders, and they will order the thief to reimburse you,” noted one farmer.

Farmers told New Era that their animals are sometimes stolen from the kraals at night, when everyone has gone to bed.

“This is not theft anymore. This has turned into robbery. Imagine what a thief will do to the livestock owner when caught in the act. It is just by the grace of God that no one is awake when they carry out their deeds,” said Himeezembi Kariko, a farmer in the area.

The police, however, advised the farmers not to withdraw cases, as that also leaves the person who is guilty of the offence unpunished, which would allow him to repeat the same offence.

The Erongo Police also held a similar meeting at Wilhelstall near Karibib, where they addressed commercial farmers over stock theft.

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