ARE WE consciously moving to root out one of the biggest problems facing our country?
Violence, particularly domestic violence, which has extended to wanton murders, has become part of Namibian culture. Too much is said about this malaise, but action [we can't say it better than the proverbial cliché] speaks louder than words.
The charge of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm against Willem Konjore, the former Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, our most powerful chamber of parliament, has highlighted how lightly Namibia takes this problem.
In March 2012, Konjore slapped a woman, Julien Kido, and whipped her with a sjambok while two of his accomplices held her down. Last week, the three woman beaters were found guilty and sentenced to N$2,500 or six months in jail for Willem Konjore, and N$1,500 or three months in jail each for Michael Konjore and Jeffrey Stephanus. To say the sentences were light is an understatement.
The punishment meted out suggests that the courts, the laws, the police, parliament and the ruling party Swapo, are failing vulnerable Namibians dismally. Swapo is drawn into the fray here because the ruling party recently appointed former government minister Konjore to its disciplinary committee while the assault charges hung over him.
All these institutions, like many individuals, seem to miss the symbolism, which this mere reprimand conveys - that violence is not a big deal.
Exerting one's power is at the root of the violence against mainly children, women, the elderly and other weaker members of society.
That Konjore, a highly respected member of society, only has to pay N$2,500, case closed, only means other women beaters will be comfortable following his example, hoping that they too will be let off the hook.
At the very least, Konjore should have been sentenced to community service, even if it means going around the country preaching that violence is wrong. He should be made to recount his case and explain why it was wrong.
The Ombudsman recently released a study citing examples of men stating that women should not deny them sex and, if they do, they must be punished. Men, just as Konjore did in Kido's case, believe they are entitled to punish women when they "misbehave".
Namibia does not need Konjore's brand of disciplinary measures, which only re-enforce violence.
This week a newspaper reported that the former education director in Omusati Region, Anna Mwifi-Nghipondoka, was found guilty of assaulting a male teacher at a conference attended by 600 people. She was represented in court by a government-paid lawyer. Again the state sent the wrong message through its actions by defending wrongdoing.
Konjore and Mwifi-Nghipondoka's incidents come amid police reports of very high numbers of violent crimes reported by the Namibian Police. Our law enforcement agents recorded more than 2 000 cases of 'gender-based' violence between January and September this year. In a five-month period from April to September, about 200 rape cases were recorded. There were 100 murders during the same period.
We all know that often the most serious crimes stem from what society views as minor incidents and that is where society has to draw the line.
Therefore, when the court does not, or cannot, punish 'minor' acts, other institutions, [the Ministry of Education in Mwifi-Nghipondoka's case and Swapo in Konjore's instance] should send an unequivocal signal.
Swapo, for instance, must not reward Konjore's brand of disciplinary action by appointing him to their disciplinary committee. He must be removed immediately as he should never have been appointed in the first place.
The symbolism of the decisions we take can help determine whether our country will rid itself of the culture of violence or not.