Police officer among four in court for kidnapping

Four people, including a police officer from the Ongha Police Station, appeared in court after allegedly kidnapping human trafficking victims in a bid to return them to their traffickers.

The four men appeared in the Ohangwena Magistrate’s Court last week and were kept in custody.

The officer and three others are accused of aiding the escape of four Ethiopian nationals who were trafficked into Namibia through Angola as part of a larger plot to hand them back to their traffickers.

According to Ohangwena head of police criminal investigations deputy commissioner Zacharia Amakali, sergeant Ngheefamo Pengevali Mukumangeni and three civilians, Immanuel Shipandeni, Ruben Katanga and Martin Ileni Kanutus, facilitated the escape by breaking windows and doors at the shelter and providing the victims with a ladder to climb over the wall.

Amakali said the victims had been arrested at the border town of Oshikango alongside a suspected trafficker in December last year. However, the incident had not been reported to the public.

“They were intercepted at Tsumeb and re-arrested. The victims are back at the shelter,” Amakali said.

The four accused are facing charges of conspiracy to commit kidnapping, kidnapping, defeating or obstructing the course of justice and bribery of a public officer.

The officer is also facing an additional charge of corruptly using his position for gratification.

Amakali said he did not know how much the officer was offered.

These arrests come amid a rise in human trafficking cases in Namibia.

In August last year, former minister of international relations and cooperation Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah said a total of 101 cases of trafficking in persons were reported in Namibia since 2010.

She said 38 were under investigation, 24 were to be tried, five had been submitted to the prosecutor general for decision-making, and 34 cases had been finalised.

She said 60 victims, including men, women and children, have been assisted.

“In 2022/23, 10 victims were repatriated safely to Namibia, and the other 10 were repatriated to their countries of origin,” she said.

In 2022, 31 Namibian women between the ages of 27 and 40 became victims of human trafficking to Oman, and only 21 have been safely returned to Namibia at their families’ cost.

The women were allegedly recruited as domestic workers in Oman.

Nandi-Ndaitwah said the victims allegedly hitch-hiked from Namibia to South Africa and boarded planes to Oman once all the necessary documentation was arranged by agents in Oman, using South Africa as a transit country.

In December 2022, police in the Omusati region arrested eight Bangladeshi nationals suspected of being trafficked.

Omusati regional commander Ismael Basson told The Namibian at the time that they were arrested at Werde Gate in the Kunene region.

The victims were allegedly trafficked from Dubai to Angola and then brought to Namibia with fake Angolan visas.

“They were being trafficked to South Africa where they were going to be used for cheap labour and we suspect that they may be used as rebels in Mozambique or for rituals,” a police source said.

The source added that traffickers often avoid using official border posts.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s global report on human trafficking for 2022, approximately 450 000 victims and 300 000 (potential) perpetrators were identified globally between 2003 and 2021.

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