23 October 2012

Namibia: Little Justice for Aminuis San

TWO San families in the Aminuis district are still hoping for justice despite the fact that the prospects are fast eroding as the years go by.

The one family is that of 21-year-old Piet Isak from Korridor 13, who sustained serious injuries and a permanently damaged kidney after an assault on him by a former employer who is still on the run from the law.

The employer allegedly attacked Isak in 2009 when he returned to work after having visited his parents for more than a week.

According to Isak, the employer kicked him in the abdomen and back out of anger at his absence.

Isak was admitted to the clinic at Korridor 13. Later that day he pressed charges against his employer, who had “run away” to Windhoek.

But Isak claims the matter was never fully investigated by the police, and no arrest was made.

“We red people mean nothing to the police. [Employer] does not want to go to jail, but he should do something so that I can find some peace,” Isak told The Namibian last week.

He said the former employer’s family had offered him N$1 500 to cover his medical expenses.

After the attack, Isak was in the Katutura State Hospital for three months, and because of his poor health he has since been unable to find a job.

He now lives with tubes permanently attached to his abdomen for intravenous feeding since he cannot swallow any food or liquids.

He also has to travel from Aminuis to Windhoek for regular dialysis treatment, without which he would die.

At Aminuis, 36-year-old Elfriede Geinamses told a similar story of justice that has so far been denied her.

Geinamses said she was kept in police cells for more than 10 days in April 2008 because her boyfriend was suspected of having stolen 10 cattle.

No charge has ever been made against her, and according to Geinamses, she was incarcerated to lure her boyfriend to the police station because the police could not immediately track him down.

“I was kept there with my newborn baby without any food or a blanket; I was interrogated because the police thought I was party to the cattle theft,” she said last week.

She said she was only released after the police found her boyfriend, but that the police would not take her back to her home which was 45 kilometres from the police station.

Geinamses did not complain to the police after her release, and has not sought legal help.

A researcher with the Legal Assistance Centre’s (LAC’s) Land, Environment and Development (Lead) project, Maarit Thiem, said these are typical examples of San communities’ feeling of exclusion from Namibian society, and the fact that many do not “use their rights”.

The LAC is currently finalising a survey on the livelihood and political participation of the San in various parts of Namibia.

The final findings will be released next year, but preliminary findings are that the San largely feel voiceless and not as strong as other language groups, Thiem said.

A police officer at Aminuis, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he was not aware of these cases, but reiterated that people feeling aggrieved should approach the police and register their complaints.

He did admit that San people are often locked up for alleged cattle theft, which he felt was usually committed at the behest of Herero farmers.

He also acknowledged that the San are regularly beaten up by other farmers in the area, but said criminal cases are rarely opened because the victims are paid off with paltry sums of money not to press charges.

The officer said there is currently an attempt to have meetings with various communities in the district to raise awareness of their rights and responsibilities.

“Our people still have a lot to learn about what they are entitled to; they also have the right to ask questions from us,” the officer said.

But for now it appears futile to revive the search for Isak’s assailant, and near impossible to find justice for the wronged Geinamses.

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