By Victor Angula
TWO government ministers were arrested just three weeks after a prominent Namibian lawyer launched his book in which he explained the rights of people who are under arrest. Ironically the lawyer’s name also featured in the story which led to the arrest of the two political leaders.
The Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Mr Benhard Esau and Minister of Justice Mr Sacky Shanghala were arrested together with four other people who were said to have benefited corruptly through the allocation of fishing quotas to an Icelandic company. The corrupt activities which implicated the two ministers came to light after the Aljazeera Television carried out an investigation into what has come to be referred to as the “Fishrot Scandal”.
Apart from the “Fishrot 6” who are currently in police custody it is expected that more people may get arrested as the Namibian Anti-Corruption Commission continues with its investigations into a corruption scandal which has for the first time brought down two top ministers.
Meanwhile Mr Sisa Namandje said that the police have power to arrest people only when it is necessary even if it is suspected that the person has committed a crime. Namandje was speaking at the book discussion of his book titled “The Law on Liberty, Arrest and Detention”. The book discussion took place at Radical Bookstore in Windhoek West in the first week of November, just more than a week after a prominent youth activist Mr Michael Amushelelo was arrested and charged for money laundering.
“In our Namibian society police officers keep on arresting people even when it is not necessary, they are abusing their power and authority to arrest suspects,” Namandje said. “I am not saying that people must not be arrested. But there must be justification why the person must be arrested. The way it is currently being done the system is simply being abused. This is why I wrote this little book.”
Namandje said there are instances when a person can simply not be arrested without a warrant of arrest.
“I still remember in the past before we got our freedom that it was normal, and we thought it was normal that someone can just come and take your father away without an explanation. At that time there was no constitution and human rights were devalued.
“But even in the system of today, police officers will come on Friday to arrest you so that you spend the whole weekend in custody. When you want to reason with them they are unreasonable.” Coincidentally even when Mr Esau got arrested a few weeks later he was arrested on Saturday.
Namandje said that a human being’s right to liberty is very important and it cannot just be violated without a good reason. “Of course violent suspects and rapists must be arrested, and all suspects who might run away and avoid prosecution must be arrested. Arresting is just a way of bringing someone to court who is at risk of running away.”
According to Namandje it is wrong to arrest prominent people and people suspected of having committed non-violent crimes. “Some people are single parents. We have lost the sense for justice and value of humanity.”
Namandje also stated that at times even with a warrant of arrest a person may not be arrested. “There is a misconception that when a police officer has a warrant of arrest he must just arrest a person. A police officer with a warrant of arrest still has discretion whether or not to arrest,” Namandje said to a group of close to 100 people. “For instance if the person was involved in an accident and you find him in the hospital on a death bed, do you arrest him on the spot just because you have a warrant for his arrest? Or the person is delivering a baby, do you arrest her? No. You can’t do that.”
The legal practitioner also said that it is not necessary to detain a suspect and keep him or her in police custody without a good reason. Namandje said he wrote the book of 75 pages so that he can speak out and tell society that there is a lot of abuse and also so that people may know their rights.
No doubt Namandje’s “Law on Liberty, Arrest and Detention” book should make for good reading to those who have been arrested as well as those who may be at risk of being arrested over allegations associated with the “Fishrot” scandal.
Caption: Mr Sisa Namandje signing a copy of his book bought by Mr Amushelelo.