Two youths, Johannes Ndaitwa (28) and Ngakuue Kapazu (30) suspected of poaching a rhino at a safari lodge near Etosha National Park have accused the police of beating a confession out of them, including caning them with a stick, resulting in severe injuries on their buttocks.
Police spokesperson Chief Inspector Kaunapawa Shikwambi confirmed the youth were interrogated but she could not confirm whether members of the police and the anti-poaching unit assaulted the suspects.
But the suspects insist the police attached to the anti-poaching unit beat them one by one with a thick mopane stick that inflicted contusions and bruises on their legs, buttocks and other parts of their bodies. Ndaitwa, who says he was forcefully seized around 02h00 from his residence on October 5 at Kamanjab village, allegedly by a group of police officers, says they took him to Anker settlement to pick up several others who were suspected of having poached a rhino at the safari lodge. Ndaitwa claims that together with a group of more than six others they were taken to the bushes and caned with a thick mopane stick.
The 28-year-old says he cannot remember the exact number of suspects who were brutally caned by the police. "We were more than six who were taken to the bushes and caned with a mopane stick. The police beat me with the mopane tree stick and kicked me while I was lying on the ground. They asked us the same question over and over, if we had poached the rhino," Ndaitwa said.
"I cannot sit on the buttocks ... they have not healed properly yet and I bleed a lot," Ndaitwa added.
The 28-year-old went to Kamanjab health centre after the interview with this reporter as the wounds on his buttocks had not yet healed.
Another suspect said the police took him from his residence and drove him to Kamanjab police station around 11h00 and interrogated him until 18h00 on October 5, while he was handcuffed, and this has resulted in his finger being injured and it now doesn't function properly.
New Era was told by a local police source that some of the suspects were suffocated with a plastic bag that the police put on their heads while some of the suspects apparently sustained "broken ribs".
"The officers suffocated some suspects with a plastic and also fired a gun next to their heads," said a police source who requested anonymity lest there are reprisals from fellow officers.
Both youths have denied having poached a rhino at the safari lodge.
Chief Inspector Shikwambi said the suspects "were taken to Kamanjab police station by the officials entrusted with the protection of our wildlife in Etosha National Park, comprising of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the NDF and the police".
According to Shikwambi, the suspects including Ndaitwa were interviewed, however only three suspects were detained after the interrogations while the rest were released.
The three were charged for hunting of specially protected game (rhino) as per police case Kamanjab CR 03/10/2018 for further police investigations and to enable them to apply for legal aid.
"The issue of them being assaulted at the station could not be confirmed. When they were brought to the station, the officers did not observe any injury. They were however taken to the hospital for medical assessments and their condition was stable," said Shikwambi, who did not respond to questions on whether the suspects were assaulted in the bushes outside Khorixas.
A firearm believed to have been used in the poaching is in Windhoek for ballistic testing and one of the suspects was granted bail of N$2 000 and their case was postponed to March 2019.