The Ministry of Defence says the country’s armed forces are not going outside their lawful mandate when they assist the police to do their work of maintaining the country’s peace and security and fight against the activities of local criminal elements.

The Ministry said this in a statement sent to the media on 3 February 2020 in response to the criticism leveled against the country’s military for getting involved unnecessarily in political activities of citizens exercising their democratic rights – or even those who might have been suspected of committing crimes.

On 21 January 2020 the Society for Advocates of Namibia told the media that the Namibian Defence Force was blurring the mandates of the military and the police. “[But] this is not an accurate interpretation of the functions of the military versus the police,” says Defence executive director Rear Admiral Peter Hafeni Vilho.

“The Defence Act and the Police Act are complimentary as they relate to the requirements for the security and stability of the state.”

According to Vilho “violent dissident activities [by Namibians] will attract the involvement of the military.”

“Towards the end of October and the whole of November 2019 [parliamentary and presidential elections period] there were sections of the population who, for reasons known to themselves, were threatening to render the country ungovernable by advocating and agitating for the destruction of government and individual properties as well as threatening the lives of individual citizens.

“Those type of threats were at the operational level and therefore led to a proactive stance by the military. That was the basis for the media releases warning against any violent conduct aimed at making the country ungovernable and thus negating its security and stability – and that warning still stands. For the Namibia Defence Force ‘Prevention is better than cure’. And law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear.”

“There is no blurring of mandates,” Vilho states. “The statements by the Society for Advocates is therefore irresponsible and may even appear to be a cover incitement to violence and lawlessness.”

“In democracies the world over, the Defence Forces are called upon to take a lead in times of grave danger to the security and stability of the state and Namibia, being a democracy, is no exception. However, in responding to such a national call, the NDF shall at all times operate within the four corners of law.

“In this regard we are going to train our soldiers further especially in being able to deal with civilians in a manner that respects their rights and dignity.”

Rear Admiral Vilho further said the military will remain vigilant in the service of the Namibian people through their elected representatives and will at all times serve within its constitutional and legal mandates.

IN THE PHOTO: Rear Admiral Peter H. Vilho