Ombudsman halts Fishrot accused transfer to public cells

Erasmus Shalihaxwe and Ester Mbathera

Namibia’s Ombudsman, Basilius Dyakugha has ordered the Namibia Correctional Services (NCS) to put plans to transfer some of the Fishrot accused to other holding cells on hold.

This is while his office is conducting investigations into allegations of unfair treatment of the accused persons by senior officials of the NCS.

Dyakugha made the request in a letter which has been seen by this publication to NCS Commissioner-General Raphael Hamunyela on Monday.

“I humbly request the Commissioner-General to put the transfer on hold and do a proper investigation as well as apply the audi alteram partem rule, to afford the accused an opportunity to be heard. In addition, the matter has now been reported to my office. I request your good office to allow my investigators the opportunity to look into the allegations of maladministration,” pleaded Dyakugha in the letter.

Earlier this week the Windhoek Observer reported that the NCS planned on moving Tamson Hatuikulipi, his cousin James Hatuikulipi, and Ricardo Gustavo, Mike Nghipunya, Pius Mwatelulo and Otniel Shuudifonya from C Section to Echo Section.

In the Echo Section, they will share cells that accommodate 15 to 20 people per cell who sleep on double bunk beds.

Former fisheries minister Bernhard Esau, former justice minister Sacky Shanghala and former City Police officer Phillipus Mwapopi were to remain in the C Section because prison laws make provisions for their protection as former legislators and law enforcement officers.

Dyakugha said the investigations will also look into whether decisions of the NCS are unreasonable, unlawful or irregular.

He advised the NCS to prioritise the safety of all the Fishrot accused persons because of the sensitive nature of the case, which he says is both political and economical from the judicial point of view.

“Therefore, mixing them with the general trial awaiting detainees will expose them to danger to their personal security and the confidentiality of their case will be compromised. It is public knowledge that many community members regard them as the primary cause of death and the miseries of the job losses of families of employees of the fishing industry,” stressed Dyakugha.

The ombudsman further pointed to the fact that the suspects have volumes of records that are kept in their respective single cells, which contain privileged information for their trial and as such the safeguarding thereof is imperative to ensure that no one should read it or remove any single paper so that they may have a fair trial.

Dyakugha stated in the letter that the accused persons are alleging that on Wednesday, 16 April, two commissioners from the head office came to inspect their computers, which they are permitted to access after a High Court order.

“I am informed that the commissioners found unauthorised software/devices on the computers of two of the Fishrot suspects, but not on those two complainants’. The commissioners then allegedly made a recommendation to you, the Commissioner-General, for the transfer of all Fishrol suspects (except the two former Ministers, Shanghala and Esau to the communal cells in the trial awaiting section” he said.

Shanghala allegedly wanted the commissioners to provide reasons and questioned their conduct and approach without talking to them. Shanghala’s actions were not well received by the commissioners.

Dyakugha said only two of the accused allegedly violated the conditions pertaining to the privilege for them to be in possession and use computers to prepare for their cases, but the authority decided to apply “a group punishment” which is arbitrary, irrational, and unfair.

Deputy Commissioner Veikko Armas, the warden of the Windhoek correctional facility earlier this week said that the lives of the accused persons in the Fishrot case are in no danger.

“There is no threat to their lives. The security of everybody is our primary concern. We will not blindly expose people to danger. If we pick up that there is any danger to any person, not just the Fishrot accused, we will act accordingly,” he said.

The matter of the relocation of the Fishrot accused was brought to light by the Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters (NEEF) commissar for economic development, Michael Amushelelo earlier this week.

Amushelelo alleged that there are plans to kill all the Fishrot accused in the central prison’s trial awaiting cells.

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