Despite government’s efforts in the fight against wildlife-related crimes, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism is concerned that the judiciary system allows suspected poachers to be granted bail.
The ministry of environment says bail should not be granted so easily considering the fact that poaching endangers elephants and rhinos in Namibia.
The latest incident involves a police sergeant class two, who appeared in the Katutura Magistrate’s Court last week where he was granted bail of N$2 000 – which he promptly paid – after he was linked to a case in which airport security failed to detain a suspect with a suitcase full of rhino horns.
His case was postponed to February 3, 2017. Namibian Police Force spokesperson, Deputy Commissioner Edwin Kanguatjivi, said investigations continue in the matter.
Abraham Iitula, 42, was arrested following investigations into why and how security personnel at Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA) allowed 28-year-old Zhiwei Ye – a Chinese national – to board a plane to Hong Kong, via Johannesburg, while rhino horns were detected in his luggage.
Kanguatjivi said Iitula was arrested last week Monday at around 18h00 at HKIA where he is stationed.
The police officer is charged with defeating and obstructing the course of justice.
In a damning revelation by the Namibian Airports Company (NAC), the airport scanner detected the rhino horns but security personnel allowed the passenger to board the plane in a case that has embarrassed police bigwigs.
MET spokesperson, Romeo Muyunda, elaborated ministry’s stance on the police sergeant who was granted N$2 000 bail.
The ministry is of the opinion that granting suspects bail is not helping the situation with the escalating incidences of rhino and elephant poaching.
“The ministry feels granting bail to anyone who is suspected to have a role in poaching or illegal possession of special protected species jeopardises our efforts and investment in fighting this ill activity,” he noted.
On the contrary, he said this worsens the situation and demoralises those who work hard to ensure that such suspects are caught.
In November alone, seven rhino carcasses were detected in Etosha National Park, where they were likely poached. This brought to 47 the total recorded number of rhinos poached in Namibia this year.
Regarding elephant poaching, Muyunda said 69 elephants have been killed this year, mainly in the Zambezi and Kavango East regions.
Recently, the Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism, Tommy Nambahu, raised concern over the rate at which suspected poachers are granted bail, saying it defeats the purpose of anti-poaching efforts.
He feels suspected poachers should be refused bail, if Namibia is to win the fight against poaching of endangered wildlife such as rhino and elephant.
“Criminals out there – be warned. We will not leave any stone unturned. We are going to sharpen our weapons. Don’t come up with these kinds of stories that you need bail, because your wife is pregnant while you are in the dock. When you were poaching, did you not realise that you had a pregnant wife or what?” Nambahu fumed.
Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, also questioned the conduct of prosecutors who recommended bail for suspected poachers, while crucial investigations are ongoing.
Shifeta said it is frustrating for law enforcement officials, who are working tirelessly to nab poachers when prosecutors propose bail for suspects.
The minister’s remarks follow closely on the decision by Okahao magistrate, Liwena Mikiti to grant several of 24 suspects arrested last year for illegally hunting rhinos and elephants bail. The minister was further frustrated by the fact that one of the accused granted bail is a police officer from the Omusati Region who was given a bail of N$25 000.
Among the accused released last year on bail of N$40 000 each are Tobias Sheetu Amunyela (25), Lukas Akooko (35) and Pineas Natangwe Awene (39).