Chaos broke out once again at the Katutura police station this week after a number of prisoners in cell 2 of the station’s holding cells reportedly rioted because of the police’s failure to heed some of their basic demands.
Prisoners are incensed that they are refused the right to be taken to hospital and that food parcels from relatives have been outlawed, a controversial new practice that has been in force since early May this year.
According to a relative of one of the inmates, the police, in an effort to subdue the rioting prisoners, allegedly stormed into cell 2 and started assaulting and pouring water on the prisoners. The inmates in turn reportedly set fire to their blankets as a form of protest on Tuesday evening, in the process causing a minor riot. No major injuries were reported from the side of the law enforcers or the inmates and the rebellion was quickly suppressed.
According to Inspector Jack Nangolo of the Police Public Relations division, who spoke on information from the Katutura police station’s second-in-command, Inspector Sabisa, denied that the station experienced a second prisoner riot in less than 2 months. “There was no riot. The police only went in to distinguish a fire in the cell in question after the inmates set their blankets alight. That method is usually utilised by prisoners to gain attention.”
This week’s incident comes exactly 54 days after the last reported riot at the Katutura police station. On 16 May 2012, following a ban on food from relatives, a group of more than 20 prisoners in cell one overpowered an officer during morning meals and stormed out of the station’s holding cells, demanding that they be allowed to receive food from family members, a practice the police say encourages the smuggling of illicit drugs and weapons into the police cells.
Katutura police station commanding officer, Chief Inspector Ismael Basson, was quoted in May as saying that “the move to outlaw prisoners receiving food from relatives had been a temporary measure, necessitated by the urgent need to curb the smuggling of illegal commodities, such as drugs, mobile phones and knives.”
“The smuggling of illicit substances is on the increase in Namibian prisons and is mainly initiated by family members. We stopped the food coming in while we are looking for alternative counter-measures to detect all prohibited goods,” Basson had earlier explained.
Basson did not divulge the nature of the counter-measures being devised by the Namibian police to stamp out the smuggling of unwanted goods to prisoners at the time, but had promised to inform the media once the police are done testing the new methods. Katutura police station currently holds about 150 inmates.