MEFT clarifies tragic drowning incident during anti-poaching operation

Niël Terblanché

In a detailed statement, the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) has provided clarification surrounding the tragic death of Lubinda Samupwa in the Nkasa Rupara National Park, Zambezi Region, amidst rising community tensions and allegations of foul play.

Romeo Muyunda, the MEFT’s spokesperson confirmed in the statement that a human life was tragically lost during an operation by the anti-poaching unit in the park on 7 April 2024.

The death sparked significant controversy and threats of protest from the local community. They labelled the death as “suspicious” and directly linked it to the actions of the anti-poaching team.

According to Muyunda, the drowning incident occurred following a patrol on Nkasa Island aimed at curbing poaching and illegal fishing activities.

He reported that the patrol team, acting on intelligence, encountered four individuals in the park on the morning of 8 April 2024.

“When confronted, the individuals attempted to flee, prompting the team to fire warning shots. Three were apprehended, and the fourth was seen escaping into the Linyanti River,” he said.

After being apprehended by the Anti-poaching team, two Namibians and one Zambian were taken to the Sangwali Police Station. They faced fines and charges related to illegal activities within a protected area, with the Namibians fined N$3,000 each. The Zambian national is facing multiple charges including illegal entry into Namibia.

According to Muyunda, a subsequent search for the fourth individual, part of an operation named “Elephant Tusk,” led to the discovery of a body in the river on 9 April 2024.

“A forensic examination determined that the individual had drowned, with no evidence of gunshot wounds or external injuries,” he added.

Muyunda refuted any allegations that the death was a result of gunfire from the anti-poaching unit. He stressed that the actions of these teams are strictly regulated and aimed at preserving Namibia’s natural resources.

He indicated that the anti-poaching team experienced challenging conditions such as threats from wildlife and poachers, as well as extreme weather conditions and poor communication networks.

Muyunda, on behalf of the ministry, conveyed condolences to the family and friends of Samupwa and called on the community not to politicise the tragedy.

He also warned against the threats of unrest made by certain members of the local community.

According to Muyunda, the sad incident underlines the ongoing challenges and complexities faced in conservation efforts, where the enforcement of laws to protect wildlife can unfortunately intersect with tragic human outcomes.

He stated that the MEFT is committed to conducting its operations within the bounds of the law and ensuring the sustainable use of Namibia’s environmental resources.

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