A little over a year since the Namibian Police Force launched its “Law and Order” campaign aimed at boosting security on state property and VIPs, more security measures could be adopted to protect lawmakers after education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa found a note deemed to be ‘threatening’ on her bench in the National Assembly on Wednesday.
Namibia last week commemorated the International Day of Democracy and students from the University of Namibia, Namibia University of Science and Technology and International University of Management were in the National Assembly to commemorate the event. During Wednesday’s session Hanse- Himarwa found a note on her table written: “Give us our rights back, give us our democracy back, let those who want to use EVMs…let them use it, and those [who] want to use ballot paper let them use it, International Day of Democracy. To Katrina Hanse-Himarwa.” United Democratic Front(UDF) Member of Parliament, Apius Auchab, commented on the note saying: “Today it may be a piece of paper, the next day it may be a bomb.”
However, National Assembly Speaker Professor Peter Katjavivi calmed the situation when he informed the MPs that the note was left in the chamber by the youth who attended the democracy day commemorations. “We did an investigation and I do not think it was intended for you [Hanse-Himarwa] as such, because the names were removed,” Katjavivi. The education minister responded: “I just wanted to alert the House, it may look innocent and insignificant but you never know.”
Last year, NamPol Inspector General Sebastian Ndeitunga circulated a confidential letter to the VIP Protection, Operations, Special Field Force directorates and all regional commanders directing them to intensify tat physical visits of duty posts and night patrols.
“Owing to some specific threats made by Affirmative Repositioning group, I am hereby directing you to intensify security at sentry duties and key Government installations or points and safeguard VVIPs within the ambit of your respective responsibilities,” reads the letter dated 15 July 2015.
Earlier this year, The Patriot reported that taxpayers will fork out at least N$1.3 billion from now until the end of the 2018 financial year to protect very important persons (VIP) in the country.
This comes despite the fact that the very same police officers who must protect the VIPs are among the lowest paid public servants in the country.
This figure, which is contained in the 2016 to 2017 Medium Term Expenditure Framework of government, indicates that during the 2016/17 financial year N$432 million is needed to protect VIPs, N$427 million in 2017 and N$484 million in 2018.
The funds will also cater for foreign missions and national visits by leaders in the country and abroad.
In 2014, the VIP Directorate within the Namibian Police Force had 1 861 officers who are specially tasked to guard the country’s very important persons.
Those entitled to protection include the president, former presidents, prime minister and his deputy, cabinet ministers, speaker and deputy speaker of the National Assembly, chairperson and vice chairperson of the National Council, governors and other VIPs.
On average, each government official classified as a VIP has at least three security men by his side, a bodyguard, driver and a guard at the private residence. VIP officers have in the past complained of alleged abuse at the hands of their principals whom they claim do not take their needs into consideration.
The complaints ranged from working long hours, lack of meals during working hours and mistreatment by those they guard. “Sometimes you drive the principal to the restaurant and you wait in the car until they finish eating, while you don’t eat and you are not allowed to go and get food for yourself,” one of the VIP police officers was quoted saying a few years back by one of the local daily newspapers.
“If you drive away while the principal is eating just to get a quick bite, you get reprimanded for driving the car. But I am hungry because I have been driving and protecting the person the entire day from morning without going out of sight.” Another bodyguard said as part of their job, they are at times asked to taste food before the VIPs eat, to ensure it is not laced with poison.
“We are also human beings. How do we stay hungry the entire day, except for tasting the food and afterwards go outside? The worst part of it all is that you have to stay with the person until whatever time of the day they want to go home,” moaned the guard.
Despite government spending millions to avail security personnel to VIPs, some officials continue driving around without any protection, especially at night.