WINDHOEK – Magistrate Tuvoye Nuule jailed a 40-year-old man convicted of cellphone theft to an effective 12 months imprisonment in the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court last Tuesday.
Simon Cloete, who admitted stealing three cellphones on different occasions at the Roman Catholic Church, pleaded guilty.
According to the annexure to the charge sheet Simon stole one Blackberry Z10 valued at N$7 999 and one Samsung Galaxy S4 White worth N$7 998.99 on August 01 from Edvardo Jose Lopes who was a patient in the Roma Catholic Hospital.
Having gotten away with it the first time, Cloete became brave and went for a second round of theft on August 11 and this time got away with a Blackberry 9220 Curve valued at N$1 648.99, the property of yet another patient, Catharina Johanna Louw.
Also on August 11 he stole a Nokia C2-01 with a value of N$969.90 the property of a certain Mr Meyer.
Cloete was arrested after he went to the hospital for a third time on August 14 and diligent security guards recognised him from video footage capturing him stealing the phones.
Cloete told Magistrate Nuule that he took the phones to sell for food and pay his rent. He said that he went to visit a patient in the hospital on the first occasion and when he left, he passed a room with no one in it, saw two cellphones on the table, took them and left.
On a question from the magistrate as to why he took the phones he said that he is sick and takes ARVs.
According to Cloete he made N$1 100 from the sale of the first two phones, N$280 from the second phone and N$250 from the third. In mitigation he informed Nuule that he is an unemployed single father of a 16-year-boy who lives with his grandparents.
He said that he does odd jobs to survive, but cannot do any hard work as he is sick. He told the court that he has asthma and TB, besides being on ARVs.
Cloete said that he did not want to waste the court’s time hence his guilty plea and asked for community work as a sentence or a suspended sentence.
He further asked for leniency. In a startling similarity to another case New Era reported on of yet another HIV positive man, Cloete informed Nuule that he did not take his ARV’s for two weeks as the station commander at Windhoek Police Station refused to take him to hospital to get his medication.
State prosecutor Seredine Jacobs argued that if the court would consider a community service or suspended sentence it would not send out a strong message to the community.
She said such a sentence would be a “slap on the wrist”.
Jacobs was of the opinion that the mere fact that Cloete stole from sick people in hospital makes his action the more serious.
“He used his personal circumstances to deprive others of their property,” Jacobs emphasised. She went on to say that the value of the stolen items are high and that the owners suffered a loss as the phones were not recovered.
Jacobs told Nuule the fact that Cloete is a first offender does not mean that he cannot be sent to prison, and that he does not even have money for a fine. She proposed a sentence of 24 months.
According to Nuule the accused chose to steal from bedridden people who should have been feeling safe in the hospital and only focusing on getting better and not lying with one eye open to safeguard one’s belongings.
“Next, one will have to protect one’s life and limb because as vulnerable as you are, you will be robbed by tyrants such as the accused,” Nuule stressed.
She further said that the courts are there to protect the rights of members of society and to protect them against greedy, self-centered people such s the accused who feel that they can violate their rights that are entrenched in the Namibian Constitution.
Nuule sentenced Cloete to 12 months on each count, but ordered the sentences to run concurrently.
By Roland Routh