15 February 2013

Namibia: Group Claims Police Involvement in Rehoboth Death

MEMBERS of the Khaibasen Community Development Community at Rehoboth claim that the police at the town dealt with the death of Moses Isak Haubab in a suspicious way, and now suggest police collusion in his death.

The 48-year-old Haubab's decomposed body was reportedly found in a field at Camp 15 close to the B1 road to Windhoek on February 4.

A post mortem conducted by the Windhoek Central Hospital's forensic mortuary services on February 5 found that the cause of death was "undecided".

Johannes Khachab of the Khaibasen organisation yesterday said Haubab's relatives believe he was assaulted and killed by two police officers at the town.

"The community is disappointed by the police because of the negligent and careless manner in which Rehoboth police have handled the matter, especially the rushed manner in which the corpse was buried," said Khachab, a former prison officer and now human rights activist trained by the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC).

Khachab said Haubab at the time of his death was working as a cattle herder for Ernst Cloete at Camp 15.

According to him, on February 1 Haubab walked to Cloete's house to report the disappearance of cattle from the camp.

Cloete reportedly phoned the Rehoboth police to inform them of the alleged cattle theft, and asked one of the sergeants who also keep cattle in the camp to take Haubab back to the camp.

Two police sergeants apparently drove Haubab up to the turn-off to Banhoff, which is some kilometres outside of Rehoboth, and dropped him there.

What happened then is not clear, but a witness driving past the next day stopped to find Haubab crawling in the bushes, unable to walk or use his hands. But the witness apparently said there were no bruises in his face.

Haubab reportedly told this witness that he had been severely assaulted. It is not clear whether he accused the two police officers, but Khachab said the names of the two sergeants were mentioned "in this matter".

Haubab allegedly told the witness that he had been robbed of his clothes and money. The witness said Haubab had his trousers on, but his shirt and one of his shoes were gone.

The witness phoned the police to report the injured man, but the police reportedly never went out to look for him, and neither did they record the incident in their occurrence book, which is used to report all cases on a daily basis.

"This means no case was registered and only an inquest docket was opened without the case being properly investigated," charged Khachab.

What irks the Khaibasen activists is that it is not clear whether relatives were allowed to see Haubab's body at the Windhoek Central Hospital mortuary, and were not allowed to see the body when it returned to Rehoboth in a coffin, since it was said to be too badly decomposed.

According to Khachab, the police "rushed" the burial, which was on February 7, without a proper identification of the body.

"It is as if someone is trying to cover something up," Khachab told The Namibian yesterday. "The family suspects bribery in this case and wants another post mortem. The community has lost trust in the local police, especially those who were born in Rehoboth and joined the force. The community requests a speedy transfer of such officers because they tarnish the image of the police force."

Khachab also questioned the involvement of Rehoboth councillor Edward Vambo, who bought a coffin for Haubab in Windhoek, and allegedly insisted to be at all family meetings or discussions about Haubab's death.

Vambo could not be reached for comment as his cellphone was not in use.

But the new police station commander at Rehoboth, Max Joodt, said the post mortem did not find any indication of injuries.

He denied the claim that the witness statement was not recorded and said the State, not the family, had ordered an inquest.

"These people are confused," Joodt said of the Khaibasen group. "They have been to the police station and the issue was explained to them."

He further said that the police had been in contact with councillor Vambo, who only wanted to assist the family with the coffin.

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