New Era (Windhoek)

30 July 2012

Namibia: Low Salaries Drive Cops to Crime

Windhoek — Media reports indicate thatover 160 police officer have been discharged from the Namibian Police over the past six months while twenty-five others remain on suspension for indiscipline, misconduct and other crimes.

It is also said that most police officers heavily depend on cash loans for their daily survival. Most of them also do not have their identity documents and ATM cards with them because the owners of cash loan outlets usually keep them as security.

It is reported that the police officer were fired for indiscipline, and more frequently for collaborating with criminal, as well as belonging to criminal syndicates.

Many Namibians have reacted with shock to the revelation. "Over 160 police officers fired? Are they the ones who commit crimes such as corruption, bribery, robbery, rape, drug smuggling and much more? Who is watching who? Let us face reality - our ministers in charge, how can one watch millions and get paid hundreds. Government must re-check their salaries and wages to minimize crime," read an SMS printed in a local daily newspaper.

A police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity says that police officers are the lowest paid in the public service, yet they deal with crucial cases where a lot of money is involved. He says that given their low salaries, and the nature of their work, they are vulnerable to bribery.

"We are the lowest paid civil servants, even you yourself (referring to this reporter) know it, everyone knows. The possibility of us getting bribed is always there. If someone has N$10 000, and you (a police officer) does not even have a braai pack, no bread, and no milk at home, you are likely to take a bribe", he said while making comparisons with the income of this reporter.

"If you get N$16 000 and someone wants to bribe you with even N$10 000, would you take it, obviously not because you wouldn't want to jeopardise your salary with a once off payment," said the police officer.

He further said police officers are hardly every sacked for other crimes that do not involve money. "The truth always hurts, but we don't have money", he said. He further said the salary of a Namibian Police Officer at constable level is not even equivalent to the housing and transport allowances for a constable in the City Police, even though they all went through the same training.

The head of the Public Relations Division of the Namibian Police, Deputy Commissioner Edwin Kanguatjivi said he was doubtful as to whether all the terminations were as a result of misconduct. "As much as I might agree with you that there was quite a high number of personnel turnover in the force in the first half of this year. I am doubtful as to whether all the termination of service was as a result of misconduct," he said in response to questions forwarded to him.

"I shall however venture to get a list of all those who left the force during the period in question and verify. After verification I might be in a better position to respond to your assertions," Kanguatjivi added.

Monique Marks, from the department of Sociology at the University of Durban, South Africa, who has done a study on police labour relations in Southern Africa wrote in her paper that the key concerns of police officers in the region centre on service conditions and wages.

"Communicating these concerns to the state is made difficult by the less than democratic approach taken by governments professing to favour democratization," Marks had written in her paper published in the African Security Review.

Her analysis on Namibia is that, unlike in South Africa where there were at least three main police representative organizations by 2002, police in Namibia are excluded from the general legislation governing labour relations. The Labour Relations Act No. 6 of 1992 covers only civilians working within the Namibian Police.

That is because if the police were to fall under the general legislation governing labour relations, they would be entitled both to join unions and to strike which, is viewed as problematic she said.

She says that a more democratic workplace for the police is of benefit to the broader community and is a crucial point to bear in mind when attempting to develop community-oriented professional policing.

Last week the Deputy Minister of Safety and Security, Erastus Uutoni, in his official remarks to some police officers at the Otjiwarongo Police Station was reported saying that the 163 police officers who have been sacked from the police force this year, and 25 others on suspension was due a lack of discipline and passion for the policing profession.

"This is a big number of police officers to be discharged in less than six months. Policing is a profession and all of you are supposed to be professionals in your duties," he was quoted saying.

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