KEETMANSHOOP - The parents of a Keetmanshoop resident, who died in the Katutura Hospital two weeks ago after he was allegedly assaulted by police at the southern town, are threatening to sue over “police brutality”. Two officers were charged with murder, alternatively assault with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
Norman and Veronica Plaatjie, parents of Ellest ‘Speedy’ Plaatjie, who allegedly died at the hands of police, could not contain their tears when New Era visited their family home in Krönlein at the southern town yesterday.
“Why did these //Kharas parra parras (Nampol Special Reserve Force) not hand over our son to the Drug Enforcement Agency Unit (Drug Squad) when picking him up with an alleged small bag of cannabis, instead of randomly seriously assaulting him, leading to his death?” Veronica questioned.
She continued that the 31-year-old Speedy came home on 12 January 2023 with bruises on his back and head, informing them that he was picked up by the police and brutally injured by five Special Reserve Force Officers for being in possession of a ‘skunk bankie’ (small plastic bag containing cannabis).
“He then asked for his health passport to go to the hospital, but according to one of the nurses at Keetmanshoop state hospital, they found him passing out on the floor of the men’s toilet,” said the bereaved mother.
She continued that Ellest was referred by doctors to Katutura Hospital in Windhoek on 14 January 2023 for specialised treatment, where he succumbed to his injuries on 18 January 2023.
“As his mother, I know Speedy wets himself when experiencing epileptic attacks he suffered from – and the fact that he could not urinate since the day of being allegedly brutally assaulted by the police, we suspect his kidneys and liver could not function properly, as we heard the police kicked and jumped on his lower back during his painful ordeal,” said Veronica.
She also said, according to one of two other witnesses who were picked up with Speedy, he did not resist when asked to accompany the officers in the police minibus.
As he entered, he lay on the floor, as he was allegedly starting to have epileptic seizures.
“According to the witness, my son begged the police to take him to the Keetmanshoop police station to be charged according to law, but the officers refused, informing them there was no need, as they would be together the whole day,” said the mother.
Veronica furthermore expressed her dismay with the behaviour of senior police officers at the police headquarters in the town, and that it was only when Speedy passed away that the inspector general, Joseph Shikongo, informed her husband to go see //Kharas regional commander Marius Katamila, whom he (Shikongo) instructed to handle the case.
Norman strongly feels the driver of the police car should be held responsible, as he was also the highest-ranking officer (warrant officer). He must explain his actions of not handing Speedy over to the police station but rather driving out of the town for the victim to be assaulted by his colleagues.
“We lost our beloved son due to police officers taking the law into their own hands – but as parents, we will not rest until justice has prevailed,” he asserted.
He also said they are considering suing the Namibian Police force once the dust has settled in the family.
During their first appearance yesterday at the Keetmanshoop Magistrate’s Court, the two accused, Bernard Mulisa (30) and Wilbard Neshuka (25), who were charged with one count of murder and an alternative of assault with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm, were refused bail.
The State opposed bail on grounds of police investigations being at an early stage, not being in the interest of justice for the accused to be released on bail, the high risk that they may interfere with investigations and also the fear that the accused may abscond if granted bail.
Both accused indicated to magistrate Uchen Konjore they will obtain private legal representation, whereafter public prosecutor Lewis Shikungwe asked for the matter to be remanded until 30 January 2023 for legal aid and the continuation of police investigations.
Junine Plaatjie, sister of the victim, after the court appearance, expressed the family’s happiness for the accused not being granted bail.
“It would have placed us in an uncomfortable situation to be busy with funeral arrangements while they are free,” she said.
Plaatjie also demanded that the whole shift that was present during the incident be arrested.
“This incident could have been prevented by the two accused persons’ colleagues present with them in the police kombi; hence, the rest of them should be held accountable as accomplices for the crime committed,” she emphasised.
In a press release, Melody Swartbooi, //Kharas youth leader of the Landless People’s Movement (LPM) also condemned the killing.
“Are we, the young ones, going to die at the hands of the ones who should protect us?” she asked.
She said LPM was left in shock, sorrow and pain due to the cruel, cold-blooded murder of Speedy.
“Litigating needs to be initiated against the perpetrators, as this can and will not go unchallenged,” the press statement read.
During a peaceful demonstration organised by the LPM and Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters (NEFF) in the town yesterday, citizens heavily objected to the granting of bail for the two accused.
In a statement read out by NEFF’s Micheal Amushelelo, the protesters reasoned the two accused police officers have the ability to influence investigations and witnesses if released on bail.
“How do we trust our safety in your hands when you simply take it at whatever time you desire?” he asked.
It further questioned how trust could be built between the community and police if such acts of police brutality continue.
The regional police chief said the arrests signify criminal actions taken by the two suspects. He said disciplinary actions might follow, pending the outcome of the criminal proceedings.
“Nampol has and will always be committed to serving the community and visitors with complaints in the //Kharas region as per our mandate,” Katamila assured.
Meanwhile, community activist, Percy Charlies expressed his absolute dismay towards police brutality in the town.
“Must we now endure the same treatment of being beaten up as during apartheid rule?” he raised the concern.
He further reasoned that if this is the case, the independence gained for the country is an absolute joke.
“We at least expected better, human treatment in a free country – and these Special Reserve Forces should rather be redeployed at our border posts, instead of assaulting citizens in town,” he said.
Charlies, on behalf of the Keetmanshoop community, also expressed their heartfelt condolences to the surviving family of the victim.