Petrus Muronga and Maria Amakali
Windhoek-Eight Angolan nationals from a group of nineteen suspects arrested in 2015 in connection with alleged tax refund fraud involving over N$140 million have gone on a hunger strike in the Windhoek Police Station holding cells where they are currently being held.
The inmates have been on a hunger strike since February 10. They claim their rights are being violated and that the food they are given is not healthy.
A letter sent to New Era yesterday by the inmates says the cells where they are being kept are unhygienic, resulting in their exposure to different diseases.
The accused question why two Namibians implicated in the matter were granted bail but they (Angolans) were denied the option.
The accused in the case are Joshua Kaviyu Hidinwa, Mamsy Mweneni Hilma Nuuyoma (both Namibians), Lukau Nestor, Benvindo Momafuba, Pembele Zimutu, Paulo Kiala, Joaquim Pedro Espanhol, Joao Manuel dos Santos, Tatiana Luquena Muchadu Gonga, Carlos Victor Eliseu, Isaac Cativa Cupessala, Paquete Americo Kapayola Jose, Eugenio Pio do Amaral Gougel, Malakias Tomas Rufine, Paulino Manuel Natal, Carlos Felecoano Tchinduku and Miapa Aurelio Nelson.
They were arrested following ongoing investigations at the request of the finance ministry into cases where VAT receipts were forged to claim refunds from the Receiver of Revenue.
They called on the government and human rights groups as well as the Angolan embassy to have a closer look at their incarceration, claiming their case is being neglected.
“We call the Namibian government (sic) and the human rights agency as well as the Angolan embassy to have a closer look on our case which is being neglected,” reads the letter.
Furthermore, the inmates are also protesting over an issue they have with state lawyers representing them.
They say lawyers assigned to them have not responded to their calls and text messages since last October, accusing some of not appearing at court for their hearings.
In addition, the letter says some of the accused are confused and full of doubts whether state lawyers will be present at their next court hearing slated for February 27.
The letter also says that most of them are breadwinners and their children are dropping out of school because they don’t have anyone to support them since their parents are in prison.
In addition they claim they don’t have any communication with their families in Angola and with the current economic crisis in their country their families are suffering.
They further say their rights are not considered and that according to Namibian law investigations are supposed to last between 90 days and three months, which is not the situation in their case because they have already spent a year and three months in custody. However, they applauded a certain commander at the station for listening to their plea when they called for help concerning xenophobic attacks by local inmates. The commander responded by installing burglar-proof doors in the holding cells where they are being kept.Approached for comment, Namibian Police spokesperson Chief Inspector Kauna Shikwambi said allegations by the suspects were not brought to the attention of the station commander but they are always welcome to address their discontent on any issues with the station commander.“The prisoners should know that they are at liberty to address their concerns and grievances to the immediate shift commanders or ultimately to the station commanders,” said Shikwambi.She added that the suspects are at liberty to be brought food by their relatives.
Efforts to get comment from the office of the Angolan high commissioner to Namibia were fruitless.