The inquest into the death of ‘struggle kid’ Frieda Ndatipo, 26, ended inconclusively in the High Court yesterday, with Judge Christie Liebenberg ruling Ndatipo was shot by an unknown person.
“Having duly considered the submissions in the light of the evidence presented, I am for reasons earlier stated, not convinced that there is prima facie [evidence] from which the person responsible for the death of Frieda Ndatipo could be identified,” Judge Liebenberg said.
The judge ruled the cause of Ndatipo’s death was an unlawful act committed by an unknown person.
Ndatipo, a mother of three, was shot dead on August 27, 2014 during a scuffle between a group of ‘struggle kids’ and law-enforcement officers, who were blocking off the group’s access to the Swapo head offices in Leonard Auala and Hans-Dietrich Genscher streets in Katutura.
The ‘struggle kids’ had been staging regular demonstrations at the ruling party’s head offices in their quest to be given jobs. The group had set up camp at Okahandja Park informal settlement.
During proceeedings the inquest court was told that 25 spent bullet casings were picked up at the scene of the crime after the shooting.
All the spent cartridges were linked to firearms in possession of members of the Namibian Police and the Windhoek City Police at the scene.
But the bullet that struck Ndatipo could not be found, and could not be traced back to any specific firearm.
Judge Liebenberg said although the protestors had the right to assemble in front of the Swapo head offices and to express their views or dissatisfaction, those rights are not absolute, especially when it encroaches on the rights of others.
“With the benefit of hindsight, it would appear that the situation was such that it required the presence of a specialised unit with properly trained members and equipped to deal with situations of this sort,” the judge said.
“In conclusion, one should be careful not to become an armchair critic, when assessing the manner in which the police handled the situation. However, there is reason to believe that the situation could have been dealt with differently, and probably more appropriately, had the necessary precautionary measures been taken prior to the closing in on the group, in order to search them, if that was at all proper in the circumstances,” the judge added.
The inquest commenced in July this year. Justice Minister Albert Kawana said in parliament in May that due to the public interest and debate generated after Ndatipo’s death, he decided to use his constitutional power as minister to invoke provisions of Section 7(3) of the Inquest Act, 1993 (Act No. 6 of 1993) to request the deputy chief justice to designate a judge of the High Court to hold an inquest.
Judge President Petrus Damaseb then designated Judge Liebenberg to conduct the inquest.
Advocate Dominic Lisulo appeared for the State. Loini Ndilimeke Shikale-Ambondo represented the late Ndatipo and her three children, Orben Sibeya represented two City Police officials, while Norman Tjombe represented journalists from The Namibian newspaper.