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Editorial | Bring back SADC tribunal

2022-01-28  Staff Reporter

Editorial | Bring back SADC tribunal
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Namibians last week reacted with utter shock following a ruling by the Kasane Magistrate’s Court in Botswana, which absolved that country’s defence force of wrongdoing. 

 The matter pertained to the brutal killing of three Nchindo brothers and their Zambian cousin in 2020. 

 At the end of the inquest, which started last year, the court cleared the Botswana Defence Force from gross negligence and liability for criminal litigation over the November 2020 killings, which had sparked nationwide condemnation and nearly led to tension between Gaborone and Windhoek. 

The three brothers: Tommy (48), Martin (40) and Wamunyima Nchindo (36) – and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44), were shot by the BDF on 5 November 2020 along the Chobe River, following a fishing expedition. 

In her ruling, Kasane regional magistrate Taboka Mopipi maintained that contrary to sentiments that the BDF were heavy-handed, evidence shows they always act within the confines of the law. 

“It is my findings that it cannot be held that the action of the seven Botswana Defence Force members amounted to gross negligence to constitute criminal liability for the deaths of the four deceased persons. They are held not criminally liable – and accordingly, they are absolved from any criminal charges,” he found. 

The recent ruling did not sit well with the affected family and the people of Zambezi, who are still engulfed by fear of visiting the Chobe River, as there is no guarantee they will make it back alive due to the presence of the BDF. 

The BDF have long been accused of carrying out a draconian ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy, which has claimed 37 Namibian lives since independence. 

Even Zambezi governor Lawrence Sampofu last year agreed the environment around the Chobe River was not conducive at all from a security point of view. 

However, it is unbelievable how the court arrived at its ruling of absolving the BDF of any wrongdoing, despite overwhelming evidence pointing to the contrary that the slain fishermen were not poachers, and no firearm was found. 

Surely, justice has not been served this time around, considering the influential role of referee and player that Botswana played in this inquest. 

There has also not been word from our government as to the next course of action, while the family is entertaining thoughts of approaching the United Nations in seeking justice against the BDF. 

There is no doubt the ruling has given the BDF renewed impetus to carry out its aggressive force towards Namibians living on the Botswana/Namibia borderline at the slightest provocation. 

As peace-loving Namibians, we do not want to see more lives lost at the hands of trigger-happy army personnel, nor do we want to witness a situation where hapless families are left to deal with the torment of never getting justice. 

It is against this background that we call on the SADC authorities to reconsider reviving the once-effective regional court, whose mission was to effectively and efficiently ensure compliance and resolve disputes among member states. 

The SADC tribunal closed its doors in 2012 due to the self-serving interests of some regional leaders. 

However, a similar court would have effectively and neutrally dealt with the BDF issue in our view. 

It is time governments are held accountable for human rights violations. 

The SADC tribunal needs to be revived for the greater good of the people of our region. 

2022-01-28  Staff Reporter

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