Government pays steep price for Hornkranz
01 September 2021 | Justice
The Namibian government was ordered this week pay N$30 000 in damages and legal fees for the assault by police and soldiers on a civilian during 2019’s infamous Operation Hornkranz.
This is at least the third loss notched up by the Namibian armed security forces this year revolving around unlawful assaults and violence against civilians by soldiers and police during the joint Operation Hornkranz in 2019.
In May, government signed a N$250 000 settlement agreement with Luise Taakambadhala Mwanyangapo following an assault by soldiers on 27 April 2019. Mwanyangapo sued government for N$500 000 in February 2020.
In March, the police and defence force agreed to a N$30 000 payment to Alexander Ngoma Afonso, whose assault took place on 3 May 2019 at the hands of soldiers and police during broad daylight. Afonso’s lawsuit had asked for N$160 000 in damages.
This week, High Court judge Dinnah Usiku awarded Kyle Sullivan N$25 000 in damages for assault and N$5 000 for unlawful arrest and detention, in addition to costs of the suit. Reasons for the judgment will only be given in late September. Sullivan’s lawyers had argued that N$100 000 would be a fair amount in damages.
Sullivan and Mwanyangapo’s assaults took place on the same day, 27 April 2019.
A spate of civilian lawsuits arose from the joint police and Namibian Defence Force (NDF) security operations Hornkranz and Kalahari Desert in 2019 and 2020.
At the time, government said they would launch full-scale investigations into the claims of assault.
Operation Hornkranz was officially launched in December 21 2018. Following a number of controversies around undue force by soldiers and police, the operation came to a halt in May 2019. Soon after, however, it continued, under the new name, Operation Kalahari Desert.
In all three cases mentioned above, the police and defence force initially denied all allegations against them.
In Sullivan’s case, government attorneys argued that there was insufficient evidence to prove that Sullivan’s assault took place at the hands of soldiers or police. They argued that it could have been a van laden with private security officers who assaulted Sullivan, and that there was no evidence linking police and soldiers to the assault.
In October 2020, the six defendants named in Mwanyangapo’s case, including the chief of defence, minister of defence, the inspector general of the police and the ministry of safety and security, submitted a plea in which they denied all the claims made against their armed officers.
In May 2020, the defendant’s in Afonso’s case, including the ministry of defence and ministry of safety and security, also denied all allegations against their officers.
Mwanyangapo’s attack took place at a bar in Katutura on 27 April 2019. During the attack, she was beaten to the ground and kicked while on the floor. She was also beaten with a sjambok, just as Sullivan said he was.
She was hospitalised and treated for a deep laceration on her forehead, an abrasion on her back and bruising over her nasal bridge and left shoulder.
Sullivan’s attack took place outside of Club London in the early morning hours, when a van full of police and soldiers, stopped close by.
The men beat, slapped and shipped him, he said, before bundling him into a van and driving around for an hour before he was let go. He said when he tried to take a photograph of the van’s number plate, the soldiers and police threatened to shoot him.
“At the threat of further injury or even death, he opted to run.”
He sustained lacerations and bruises, a swollen jaw and eye and open wounds on his back and arms. “The after-effects of the assault still haunt him. In the words of Mr Kyle Sullivan, he suffered from anxiety, had nausea and chronic headaches,” his final submissions to court noted.
Afonso was attacked by soldiers and police in the morning hours of 3 May, after he had been walking on the street.
He informed the court that he was approached aggressively and questioned as to why he was on the street. While some officers grabbed and searched a bag he was carrying, others began beating and slapping him.
Eventually they drove off in an army vehicle, leaving him lying injured on the road.
Afonso was represented by the Legal Assistance Centre, while Unomwinjo Katjipuka-Sibolile of Nixon Marcus Public Law Office acted on behalf of Mwanyangapo.