The parliamentary standing committee on foreign affairs, defence and Security left the Walvis Bay police holding cells in shock last week after a familiarisation visit.
The delegation complained of infrastructure falling apart and non conducive conditions for both inmates and officers.
Walvis Bay Police Station commander Patrick Muhita led a tour of the facility, during which the delegation witnessed the building in need of repair, as well as many broken down vehicles.
They also noted no ventilation in the kitchen, as well as a lack of food and blankets.
The group also visited the living areas of some police officers, and found broken and unsanitary toilets. Muhita confirmed that the fan in the kitchen is broken, and said they often experience a shortage of food which was never enough. “When there is no bread, we try to send some flour to the correctional facility to bake bread. Sometimes, we use our money to buy food items like soup.” Muhita also said the gas was never enough for use in cooking with three large pots, which consume a lot of gas while on for hours.
“It would be better to have electric stoves,” he said, adding that sometimes, they take their pots to the correctional facility to cook there. “The issue of cleaning materials is also a challenge,” he said.
“Fortunately, we have business people who sometimes come to the rescue. “Procurement is not giving enough stock, however, we recently received 10 blankets. The inmates, however, also sometimes make it worse, as they tear the blankets into ropes. We try to supply, but they damage things and end up complaining.”
Muhita also noted an urgent need for psychiatric care for inmates, with referrals to Windhoek taking years while patients end up in the cells with other inmates.
He said more psychiatric clinics in the different regions are needed, or the process of getting patients to Windhoek must be accelerated.
Gabriel Matilile, a cook at the facility, confirmed that food shortages are a big challenge. “Sometimes, we buy soup and salt out of our own pockets. Sometimes they bring maize meal, but no soup. Bread comes in small quantities. It forces us to cut some meals. The commanders really suffer, because they are human and try to buy items on their own. Some of the stoves are not working. There are days that we have to go beg somewhere else for gas. We also bring washing powder from home sometimes.”
Delegation member Tobie Aupindi said he was disappointed at the conditions.
“I respect and trust the men and women in uniform who are purposefully protecting and serving. Within the current context of what we have seen, you are not able to do that. Look at the vehicles. Your tools of operation are completely in a dilapidated state. Look at the cells. You cannot account for what is happening in there. There are no CCTV systems. The problems are much bigger. The building is collapsing.”
Aupindi called for a strategic plan to address the challenges of the Namibian Police, including the Procurement Act.
He, however, complimented the police for their hard work in spite of the challenges, while the delegation promised to follow up on the issues.