Erongo police strict on inmates’ food to prevent poisoning

SWAKOPMUND: The Namibian Police Force (NamPol) in the Erongo Region do not allow food from outside to be given to inmates and trial-awaiting suspects for security reasons, such as poisoning.

This came to light after robbery and police impersonation suspect Albert Kahembe, 33, complained to the media that he is not allowed to get food from friends and family whilst in custody.

He spoke shortly before his bail application ruling in the Karibib Magistrate’s Court in July this year, where he was granted bail of N.dollars 7 000.

Karibib Magistrate Lilian Mbaeva granted bail, but Kahembe could not be released as he has other pending robbery and police impersonation charges.

“I cannot eat the food they give us in jail because it upsets my tummy, and makes me sick. The police refuse that I get food from outside,” he stated.

Approached for comment on Wednesday, NamPol’s Commander for the Erongo region, Commissioner Samuel //Hoebeb said he does not know about Kahembe’s complaint, but confirmed that inmates are not allowed to receive food from outside as they might be poisoned.

He said this is not a national law which was passed, but it is part of measures taken by station commanders to ensure the safety of inmates as well as police officers.

By doing so, the police also prevented the smuggling of drugs, weapons and tools which might be used by inmates to escape from custody.

“If the person is under the care of Government, we take all safety measures to ensure such a person is not poisoned, or gets weapons which they can use to attack police and fellow inmates.

It is a nationwide security concern that faces everybody,” he explained.

Hoebeb confirmed that some stations might overlook this danger and allow food from outside, but some do not due to the reasons provided.

“Some are even allowing match boxes into the cells. I know even in Windhoek we used to forbid inmates from getting food from outside,” he stressed.

On his part, Detective Inspector John Mwatongwe – who is dealing with Kahembe’s case – said he is also not aware of this issue.

Mwatongwe, however, confirmed that police do allow food from outside sometimes.

This can only be done if the inmates provide medical proof that they cannot eat food served in the cells.

“We are trying to avoid that people are poisoned in our care, and then be blamed by their families and society. Alternatively, people can give money to police to buy food for them because only then might we be liable for any damage caused by such food,” Mwatongwe explained.

Meanwhile, Kahembe and co-accused David Oiva, 26; Junias Iipinge, 28; Elias Amos, 29; Frederick Ekandjo, 25; and Lukas Nekwiyu, 28, made another appearance at Karibib today.

In this matter, the suspects allegedly robbed an elderly couple at a farm near Karibib in February this year of a pistol, jewellery, laptops, mobile phones, semi-precious stones as well as an unspecified amount of cash.

Kahembe is accused of other robberies and police impersonation charges in the Kavango West and East Regions; at the Uis settlement in Erongo; as well as for allegedly defrauding a church and bank in Oshakati in the Oshana Region.

The counts of impersonating a police officer emanated from the group wearing police uniforms and using vehicles with false police number plates at the time of the suspected robberies.

Magistrate Mbaeva postponed this case to 03 October 2014 for further police investigations.

Prosecutor George Matali represented the State in the matter.

SOURCE: NAMPA