Inmates starving at Wenela border post holding cells

Martin Endjala

The Wenela border holding cells in Katima Mulilo is finding it hard to feed inmates due to food shortages exacerbated by the high intake of offenders.

This was confirmed by the Regional Commissioner Andreas Shilelo who took over on the 29 September 2022 from commissioner Marius Katamila who is now heading the //Kharas region.

The commissioner told the Windhoek Observer in an interview that the station commander has notified him of the situation and they are working on an amicable solution.

A grievance letter drafted by inmates dated 21 January 2023 is calling on the nation to intervene on their alleged poor living standard. The letter, according to Commissioner Shailemo was drafted by a police officer arrested on domestic violence charges.

The inmates name is being held due to ongoing investigations.

“We as inmates at Wenela border post holding cells and the holding cells at the Katima Mulilo Police station in Zambezi region, are going through the hardest times in the police custody and we request for an urgent intervention and response of the nation, in the interest of human dignity and rights which are due to inmates”, the letter reads.

The inmates alleged that they are being fed one or two slices of bread with sugar water a day, mainly in the evening and on the 22 January 2023 they were not fed at all.

The letter further alleged that they find it hard to be taken for medical check ups when they are sick and follow ups, some times they are omitted and adherence of prescribed medicines becomes difficult due to shortages of food.

They are also alleging that that they are not given time to call relatives to bring for them food and other necessities. For three months now, the inmates alleged for not receiving their toiletries, and there are times were they go the whole day without water and the cell closed.

Alleging further that there is no cell guard at the post to assist them with any emergency.

The commissioner said that the intake of people arrested is said to be the reason why they are running out of food, as food supply orders is based on the actual current number of inmates.

But however, Shilelo argued that ones this order has been put through, it then becomes cumbersome if that number doubles.

“It is worth mentioning that we do give food to the inmates, but with more people getting arrested, it becomes uncontrollable when it comes to food and we have to feed them with what we have”, said Shilelo.

The commissioner further indicated that the Divundu Rehabilitation Correctional Prison remains to be their main source of food supply every 20th of each month, given that they have a plantation.

Adding that in order to cab the situation, the commissioner has given direction for illegal immigrants to be deported to free up space as many of those arrested Shilelo said, are immigrants.

He has consulted the immigration department to make this arrangements accordingly. As well as with the station commander to release those with minor cases, via bail or desecration on warning as well as fines.

This he said, will in a way reduce the burden of food shortages, and only have in the custody’s those who committed serious crimes.

Despite all these efforts to mitigate the issue, the commissioner is still concerned about the capacity of the custody, saying it can only hold 80 people but currently that number has quadrupled, due to illegal immigrants being arrested on a daily basis.

He is therefore calling for an urgent intervention by government to construct a new Katima Mulilo Police station as the current one is of age.

Shilelo lamented that the station has been in existence since 1964, and the matter is known by the IG Shikongo Joseph. With land said to be already fenced off in the Zambezi region Katima Mulilo only awaiting for funds.

The station has also been declared hazardous by health inspectors due to outdated pipelines that are not lined with the municipal town pipes.

In response to the allegations on phone calls and medical challenges, the commissioner reiterated that all inmates have the right to a phone call thus asserting that such an issue of an inmate being denied a call was not brought to his attention but will look into.

Shilelo also clarified that the health facilities are very close and all inmates have access to it with a nurse said to be stationed near the station at Simon Mutumba training centre that they go too from time to time for any health issues.

He lauded the person who brought to the attention this allegations to him, assuring that he will get to the bottom of this allegations to remind police officers to work in accordance with the police procedures.

Meanwhile, the region has recorded an 80 percent reduction of cattle theft since the launch of border operations last year in October.

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