31 Dec 2014 12:50pm
By: Faith Sankwasa
KATIMA MULILO, 31 DEC (NAMPA) Police chief, Inspector-General Sebastian Ndeitunga is to initiate a probe into reports that over 150 fishermen and fish buyers had their homes burnt down by police officers in the Zambezi Region last week.
The incident happened just two days before Christmas Day, and the allegation is that some uniformed police officers and members of the Special Field Force (SFF) unit were involved.
Ndeitunga said a thorough investigation will be instituted to determine if the allegations are true that law enforcement officers are to blame for the inhumane destruction (burning) of over 130 temporary reed structured houses of the fishermen, including those of the two village headmen of Muyako and Zilitenye.
The housing structures which were burnt down had been put up along Lake Lyambezi, where the fishermen caught a variety of fish which they later sold to locals and transported to Congo via Zambia.
On Tuesday, Ndeitunga told Nampa that his office was informed of the police officers intention to patrol along the lake, and to arrest any illegal immigrants found fishing without valid permits.
I was not aware that houses were burnt down. I was only informed that the police operation in that area was successful. It is inhumane to burn down anybodys house, especially if they are in possession of valid Namibian identification documents or fishing permits.
If at all these fishermen or buyers were in the wrong, their structure were not supposed to be burnt down without them being warned to move their structures themselves or risk arrest. I will definitely task a team to look into the matter with urgency, Ndeitunga said.
On Monday, Nampa visited the area were some of the aggrieved community members narrated their ordeal, saying when the police arrived at their plots they allegedly harassed them and victimised villagers, before they set their homes alight.
According to one of them, Imelda Simasiku, the police allegedly even prevented the fishermen from removing their belongings from the houses as they went about, setting them on fire with the use of petrol.
Simasiku said the fire destroyed her passports, clothes, some cash money, beds, cooking utensils and small groceries.
I was grabbed on the neck and dragged out of the entrance door of my house. I tried to fight back by running back inside to at least rescue some items, but another officer just set my house alight saying I too should burn in it, she said.
Simasiku continued: Fishing is where I derive my livelihood from so that I can take care of my family. What do I do now that my most-prized possessions have been destroyed? In January, I need to send my children to school but I will have nothing to give them.
Another villager, Beauty Kalundu said when her house was set on fire, her one-year-old daughter was still fast asleep inside.
I screamed to them that my daughter was still inside, but the officers did not care. I had no choice but to run into the blazing heat to rescue her. All that Im left with now are the clothes that Im wearing, she said.
Zilitenye Village headman Lubasi Buchane said the group will draft a list of what was lost in the fire and demand that the government must compensate them and that they all should be issued with new identification cards.
We want to recover what was lost in the fire, including our money. The police officers were cruel in how they handled the matter, said Buchane.
Attempts to get further comments from Zambezi Regional Crime Investigations Coordinator, Deputy Commissioner Rudolf Kanyetu proved futile as the queries were referred to police head office in Windhoek.