President Hage Geingob said the joint crime prevention operation by the Namibian Police and the Namibian Defence Force will not be stopped anytime soon despite complaints of violence and the loss of civilian lives at the hands of members of the operation.
Geingob said 'Operation Kalahari Desert' has yielded desirable results and that many people had told him that they were satisfied with it and want it to continue.
However, the president said only criminals were complaining and criticising the heavy-handedness of members of the operation because they were being stopped from committing crimes and killing people.
Geingob made these remarks on Friday when he inaugurated the new state-of-the-art police headquarters in Windhoek which took five years to construct.
"We will not stop that action to wipe out criminals. We are going to continue with that and I will defend both the army and the police. I support you and I stand by you. These operations are taking place with strict adherence to maintaining the rights and freedoms of our citizens," he said.
Geingob said a lot of people told him, via social media, that they were "very happy" with the operation despite several reports of abuse of power and the loss of lives at the hands of members of the NDF.
"Some criminals are complaining, but the people who are being saved by these forces are happy. I get the messages. People are saying we should not stop but criminals who are being stopped from killing people are the ones on social media condemning the army.
"Yes, there were two incidents with the army involved, and in both cases the culprits were arrested," Geingob said.
The president thus urged the police to ensure that members of the police are appropriately trained to fight crime, especially the scourge of gender-based violence and other contact crimes.
He added that the police should be prepared to respond swiftly to reports of gender-based violence.
He further urged the police to conduct research, in collaboration with other stakeholders, to come up with innovative methods and appropriate technologies to reduce accidents and the carnage on our roads.
The 10-floor building will accommodate more than 400 officers from various departments.
Police inspector general Sebastian Ndeitunga said the N$400 million building will address the issue of much-needed office space, ultimately saving the force over N$3 million per month currently being spent on rent.
Ndeitunga, however, emphasised that the police still face countless challenges, ranging from a shortage of accommodation for officers, inadequate technology and a further lack of office space.
He urged the government to assist them in acquiring state-of-the-art technology that could improve the work of the crime prevention unit.
"There is an urgent need to acquire and expand the deployment of information communication technology, such as CCTV, to implement safer city concepts and to expedite our business process re-engineering. All this will boost the morale of members of the Namibian Police, contributing to increased productivity and service delivery," he said.
Former police inspector general Raonga Andima also emphasised the need for the government to make resources available to meet the needs of the police and its personnel, and thereby to avoid compromise.
"A decent working environment is very important for our police officers, particularly our junior officers. They are so vulnerable to those who want to weaken the force with bribes, and so on. If an officer is not satisfied, it will be very easy for everyone to try to bribe them, particularly criminals," he said.
NOT TRAINED FOR POLICING
Meanwhile, the Society of Advocates of Namibia has urged the government to provide proper training to members of the armed forces, particularly where soldiers are engaged in policing activities such as in 'Operation Kalahari Desert'.
In a statement issued last week, the society's president, advocate Andrew Corbett, urged the minister of defence and the minister of safety, respectively, to take all the necessary steps to ensure the proper training of the operation's members.
"The desired objective is to conduct lawful crime prevention operations with the minimum use of force permitted by law, and that such members be generally sensitised to the sanctity of life," he said.
Corbett's call comes after the fatal shooting of Benesius Kalola (32) in September by a soldier who was a member of the anti-crime operation.
Kalola was shot at Katutura's Single Quarters area for recording a video of the operation members as they raided a home in the area.
He succumbed to his injuries later that day at the Katututa Intermediate Hospital.
Kalola is the second person to be killed during the joint police and defence patrols.
In June, Zimbabwean Fambauone Black (22) was shot dead when he allegedly tried to evade a police roadblock in Windhoek.
Furthermore, advocate Corbett denounced minister of defence Penda ya Ndakolo's response to the incident, in which the minister warned civilians against recording videos of Namibian Defence Force members and police officers on patrol with the anti-crime operation.
"The official response of the minister does not inspire confidence that the Namibian Defence Force has learnt its lessons from this past conduct. The society also disagrees with the minister's statement that the taking of videos of the NDF members is prohibited," he said.
"The society can find no basis in law for this statement," said Corbett.