N$1.4 million for shorn prison dreadlocks

02 June 2020 | Crime

Windhoek • [email protected]

A convicted inmate serving 35-years behind bars for the killing of his girlfriend eight years ago, is suing prison authorities for N$1.4 million for allegedly forcibly shearing of his dreadlocks.
Petrus Fridel Frederik claims his rights were violated in February 2018 when prison guards allegedly held him down and cut off his dreadlocks, which he had acquired as part of his Rastafarian faith while behind bars.
He claims that he suffered severe emotional stress as a result of the forced removal of his dreadlocks.
“It took Frederik many years to grow his dreadlocks and to care for them. Cutting his dreadlocks changed his identity as a Rastafarian and it will take a very long time for his hair to grow back to the same level,” court papers submitted to the Windhoek High Court state.
He is asking the court to award him N$1 million in damages for the cutting of his hair without his consent and a further N$400 000 for the emotional distress it caused.
Frederik is serving a 35-year sentence after he admitted to the murder of his girlfriend in Rosh Pinah in 2012. He allegedly stabbed her at least 27 times.
His lawsuit is based on a claim that in early 2018 while incarcerated at the Hardap Correctional Facility he was taken to a room by prison guards and told that dreadlocks, or long hair, are not allowed according to regulations.
He claims he was grabbed and his arms twisted to hold him still and that a prison guard then took out a pair of scissors and cut off half his dreadlocks.
Frederik’s lawsuit names the safety and security ministry, the commissioner-general of the Namibian correctional services, the chief of the Hardap prison and three prison guards he says were involved in the incident. All are defending the matter.
An attempt to mediate the matter failed last year.

Different sides
Witness statements submitted to the court by the prison guards accuse Frederik of stirring unrest at the Hardap correctional facility by having started an illegal gang in prison, named Vocos Logos.
As part of the gang’s identifiers, the prison guards’ court statements allege that Frederik “persuaded other inmates to dread their hair as a symbol of being part of the gang.”
Another gang symbol, according to witness statements handed to court, state that the gang “engaged in smoking tobacco as part of their manifesto”.
The witnesses furthermore underlined that long hair is not permitted in prison as a matter of hygiene and as per section 30 of the Namibian Correctional Services Act.
The guards also wrote that Frederik had short hair when he was first sentenced in 2015. According to the prison officials, on the day in question a report was received that some inmates were smoking contraband tobacco.
The guards investigated and say that Frederik was uncooperative.
They claim that while examining the prisoner’s fingertips for tobacco stains, he “refused to show his fingertips. He proceeded to boast to the other inmates he was an important person and how he does not want to deal with low-ranking officers”, Warrant correctional services officer Jackson Nghitoteiwa writes in his witness statement.
He claims that he and colleagues escorted Frederik out of the cell and reminded him that long hair was not allowed.
He and another colleague say Frederik was defiant and he was given an ultimatum: Either he cuts his own hair or we assist him.” He refused.
The guards then proceeded to cut his hair “without any resistance from him”. When they were halfway through, Frederik “calmly stated that he would complete the haircut himself. He walked back to his sectional cell without incident,” Jackson’s statement reads.
His colleague, warrant officer Gideon Kauko Nambahu’s statement, reflects the same wording.
Lawyer Titus Mbaeva of Mbaeva & Associates is acting on behalf of Frederik while government is being assisted by Monique Meyer of the Office of the Government Attorney.
Last week High Court judge Nate Ndauendapo postponed the case to 16 June for further submissions, after the hearing began last week.

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