NEW police boss inspector general Joseph Shikongo says they are gearing up to implement a countrywide operation to crack down on criminal activities amid a spike in armed robberies and other crimes.
Asked yesterday specifically about the potential return of Operation Kalahari Desert – a joint police and army initiative launched by his predecessor Sebastian Ndeitunga in 2019, Shikongo said: “We are coming back with a stronger operation and we are not just going to be conducting it in Khomas but will extend our operation to every corner of the country where crime is a concern.”
Shikongo was speaking at the farewell party for former Khomas police commander commissioner Ismael Basson, who has been shifted to Omusati to head the police there. The event doubled as welcome party for commissioner David Indongo, who was moved from //Kharas to the Khomas region.
Shikongo said members of the media would be invited to the upcoming operation, saying it would start “very, very soon”.
“We want to make sure that Namibia remains among the safest countries in the world,” he said, while warning criminals that the force is ready to combat crime and would remain an effective organisation.
“We do not need to be told by anybody where to start when combating crime because that is our responsibility and our mandate,” Shikongo added.
Earlier this week, Windhoek residents said robberies are getting out of hand and they no longer feel safe on the streets.
Some suggest the return of Operation Kalahari Desert.
The operation was marred by controversies linked to the abuse of power, with at least two civilians killed during operations.
A total of 73 cases of alleged unprofessional conduct of law-enforcement officers during this operation were reported in 2020.
“Although they would abuse us unnecessarily sometimes, we need them now more than
ever, because robberies are getting out of hand,” Maria Japhet (27), a resident of Windhoek’s Havana area, says.
Japhet says after witnessing her personal belongings being taken from her forcefully, the return of Operation Kalahari Desert would be a dream come true.
“We are tired. All these small boys you see walking on the streets are on a mission, and it does not matter what time of the day it is.
“It will be better to return with guns to scare them nicely. I am sure if the soldiers came back to the streets this would not happen,” she says.
Windhoek resident Magret Kakoo says the return of Operation Kalahari Desert would make a big difference in society.
“Kalahari should return so we can be free again. Nowadays you can’t even walk around with your phone, because it will be gone.
“The force must return, but my fear is that they also abuse people. It would be better if they came back with just sjamboks to discipline these thieves,” she says.
Although many residents are pleading for the return of the NDF, not all residents agree they should.
“So many times I have been abused for no reason. The one time I was coming from a shebeen, I was beaten so badly for nothing,” says Abed Uukunde.
Uukunde says the police should rather find another way to reduce crime.
Police spokesperson warrant officer Silas Shipandeni says the police are currently working on different strategies for setting up operations to reduce the high crime rate.
“We are not only focusing on Kalahari, and we are not making that our only strategy.
“Kalahari is just the name of an operation, but we do have other operations on the ground. The only thing we are looking at is to intensify those in existence,” he says.
Shipandeni says one of the strategies the police are working on is to use officers working from 08h00 to 17h00 in patrols.
“We are aware of the high crime rate, and we are working hard to ensure we fight crime to the core,” Shipandeni says.
‘We miss the AK-47s of the solidiers’
Meanwhile, Walvis Bay residents have called for the return of armed soldiers on the streets of the town to restore law and order as implemented during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic and joint army and police operations.
At a recent meeting with the Erongo police and owners of liquor establishments, residents discussed ways to make the town safer.
“Corona is gone, but we miss the AK-47s of the soldiers. You now only patrol at the end of the month or on Fridays. We need the manpower that was used during Covid,” resident Simon Shilongo said.
Another resident, Petrus Iyambo, said: “Criminals are terrorising us, especially women who are coming from the factories. We need a plan for the streets to be patrolled. The criminals start at 19h00 in the evening. There is a lack of manpower. We also need a car to patrol around the town.”
Erongo Police commander commissioner Nikolaus Kupembona said the police are trying their best to deliver quality service.
He said there has been no police recruitment for the past few years, meaning available officers are utilised to the maximum.
He encouraged community members to unite with the police by volunteering as police reservists.
“We also need community members to become police reservists. Some business owners are self-employed. You are the right candidates to become police reservists if your hours allow,” Kupembona said.
Kupembona said soldiers are deployed when police officers are challenged in certain situations.
Covid-19 involved a state of emergency, and soldiers were required and thus ordered to patrol the streets.
He said soldiers are only deployed if the police cannot handle a particular situation alone.
Kupembona urged police officers to listen to all complaints and to serve all community members equally.
He, however, advised community members to know their station commanders and communicate with them if their cases are not being attended to.