Woman arrested and fined for photos of shack fire

by Eveline de Klerk

Woman arrested and fined for photos of shack fire

Swakopmund

Residents of the Democratic Resettlement Community, (DRC) in Swakopmund are in uproar following the arrest and detention of a woman at a fire scene at the informal settlement by members of the police on Thursday morning.

The woman, identified as Helena Peringanda, the wife of a local activist and chairman of the DRC Concerned Group Laidlaw Peringanda, was apparently detained for taking photos using her mobile phone at a scene where three shacks were engulfed in flames.



Nampol reportedly held Peringanda down and grabbed her phone, despite many others also taking pictures with their mobile devices at the fire scene. She was then taken to Mondesa police station and charged with obstructing the course of justice, slapped with a N$500 fine and released on Friday morning only after her lawyer intervened.

Her mobile phone was, however, confiscated by Nampol. Ironically, it was Helena who first alerted the fire brigade to the shack fire in DRC on Thursday morning, but her good deed somehow soon landed her in jail.

When New Era arrived at Mondesa police station on Thursday, police officers confirmed that she was arrested, but referred all questions to police headquarters in Walvis Bay.

Her husband, Laidlaw, yesterday told New Era that she was indeed arrested on Thursday and only released on Friday.
“Yes, it is my wife that was arrested on Thursday morning. I was at work when I got the news of the arrest. I was not allowed to see or speak to my wife and had no choice but to contact our lawyers who facilitated her release on Friday,” he told New Era.

He said he is puzzled by his wife’s arrest, as it is not uncommon for residents of DRC to take pictures or film at a fire scene, as the footage is kept as records by the DRC concerned resident’s group.

“There were hundreds of people taking pictures. Why only arrest my wife? The only reason we’re filming shackfires is to have a record as to how many fires occur while the municipality of Swakopmund drags on with the formalisation of DRC. We’re not filming for social media at all,”Peringanda complained.

He strongly suspects he is being targeted for being vocal over issues, such as housing, lack of sanitation and drinking water that DRC residents have endured for many years now.

“I know they are targeting me and we will get to the bottom of this,” the beleaguered activist said. He further insisted that his wife would also not pay the fine and will challenge it in court in August.

No official comment could be obtained yesterday afternoon, however a police source confirmed to New Era that Peringanda was fined N$500 and charged with obstructing the course of justice.

“She was indeed arrested on Thursday morning and only released on Friday,” the source said.

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