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Govt ordered to pay for illegal detention of retired general

The illegal detention of a retired Namibian Defence Force general by members of the Namibian Police in January 2021 is set to cost the government – and by extension Namibia’s taxpayers – close to N$220 000.

In a judgement delivered in the Windhoek High Court on Monday, judge Esi Schimming-Chase awarded retired major general Thomas Hamunyela N$50 000 for having been arrested and detained illegally, N$40 000 for having been detained illegally for three days after his arrest, and N$129 630 in compensation for his legal expenses after his arrest.

Hamunyela – a former People’s Liberation Army of Namibia combatant who in 2017 retired from the NDF, in which he had risen to the post of army commander – sued the minister of home affairs, immigration, safety and security after members of the Namibian Police detained him on 12 January 2021 on an allegation of stock theft.

He was remanded in custody with his first appearance in the Rundu Magistrate’s Court a day after he had been detained, but was granted bail two days later, after a bail hearing.

Hamunyela alleged that his detention, which was supposedly about an uncompleted transaction in September 2020 in which he was going to buy two oxen for a wedding, was carried out without a warrant for his arrest and was unlawful, wrongful and arbitrary.

He also claimed his detention was motivated by malice on the part of the police officers involved, and that there was no justification for his detention.
Hamunyela alleged as well that a police officer dealing with the stock theft case about which he was arrested, lied to the court to have him kept in custody.

In the damages claim filed by Hamunyela, the minister accepted liability for the treatment that Hamunyela received from the police, but disputed the amounts claimed by him.

Schimming-Chase stated that the Constitution’s recognition of the inherent dignity of all people “was clearly disregarded by those mandated to uphold the [constitutional] provisions, and to serve and protect”.

It is unacceptable that, after the attainment of Namibia’s independence and the adoption of the Constitution, which entrenches fundamental rights and freedoms, Namibian citizens are treated in a demeaning manner by police officers, she remarked.

“This court has on numerous occasions marked its displeasure at the manner in which [police] officers arbitrarily exercise their authority to arrest and detain,” she added.

In addition to the amounts that she awarded to Hamunyela, Schimming-Chase ordered that the minister of home affairs, immigration, safety and security should pay interest at an annual rate of 20% on those amounts, and should pay his legal costs in the case that he instituted as a result of his detention.

Hamunyela was represented by Sisa Namandje, assisted by Junade Arnols, during the hearing of his claim.
Deputy government attorney Jabulani Ncube represented the minister.