02 Jul 2013 12:20
GOBABIS, 02 JUL (NAMPA) - The Namibian Police Force (NamPol) Commander in the Omaheke Region, Commissioner Josephat Abel has issued a stern warning to members of the Gobabis Neighbourhood Watch who have reportedly been harassing residents, to desist from such deeds.
In an interview with Nampa on Tuesday, Abel said the harassment of residents at the hands of the newly-formed neighbourhood watch - as alleged by many at this eastern town - cannot go unpunished as it is a violation of basic human rights.
Gobabis residents have complained to the police about the conduct of the Gobabis Neighbourhood Watch, which allegedly stops people at random and rudely demands information from them.
Members of the neighbourhood watch apparently also demand personal identification from residents they have stopped during their patrols, and refuse to let such people go should they fail to produce the documents.
To many residents, the conduct of the Gobabis Neighbourhood Watch is reminiscent of pre-Independence Namibia, which involved the enforcement of laws requiring Namibians to obtain a ?pass? to travel from one point to another inside town.
The Omaheke Police Regional Commander said he has already consulted with the members of the neighbourhood watch on various occasions, where he had put the record straight on what is expected from a neighbourhood watch.
?The neighbourhood watch was formed in a good light, which is that of assisting the police in its crime prevention efforts. We as the police support it, but if there are reports of abuse of power - we cannot support such actions,? he said.
Abel was also at pains to note that the vast majority of members of the Gobabis Neighbourhood Watch are white, noting that he had encouraged the neighbourhood watch to open up membership across all racial groups.
?We do not want a misconception of the idea behind a neighbourhood watch. The main aim is crime prevention and that should not be abused. I have the mandate to stop their activities if they misbehave and I will not hesitate to do it,? he said.
Abel told Nampa that as per the provisions of the statues that govern the operations of a neighbourhood watch, such groups are not permitted to operate on their own when conducting street patrols as they should always be accompanied by a police officer.
Demonstrators who protested against the alleged attack on Gobabis entrepreneur Levi Katire last month linked the activities of the Gobabis Neighbourhood Watch to alleged acts of racism, which they claim is practised by some white individuals at the town.