THE Ministry of Defence (MOD) has brushed off suggestions by the public that the military should be removed from the streets in the crime-fighting police and Namibia Defence Force (NDF) joint operation Kalahari Desert.
The executive director of MOD, Rear Admiral Peter Vilho, justified the presence of the military by stating that some sections of the population are threatening to render the country ungovernable by advocating and agitating for the destruction of the current government.
These actions, he noted, have necessitated the presence of the military on the streets as some people are a threat to the stability of the country as a whole.
On 21 January 2020, the Society of Advocates of Namibia issued a statement arguing that the actions of the NDF is blurring the mandates of the military and the police.
Vilho noted that this is not an accurate interpretation of the functions of the military, adding that the military is not only responsible for the strategic level of stability in the country, but also freedom from foreign interference, from the indirect effect of conflict elsewhere and from problems such as smuggling, illegal fishing and theft of natural resources.
“Most of these will be the responsibility of the military, but many other actors, such as foreign ministries, intelligence services, customs and border guards will be involved as well,” he explained.
He further explained that the military can also be concerned at operational security level, which includes stability of the country as a whole, and with threats from nationally organised crime, ethnic or regional tensions and violent dissidence, either political or separatist in nature.
“Both the military and the police will be involved. Peaceful dissident activities will mainly be the responsibility of the police; however, violent dissident activities will attract the involvement of the military,” Vilho said.
He noted that towards the end of October and the whole of November 2019 there were sections of the population who, for reasons known only to them, were threatening to render the country ungovernable by advocating and agitating for the destruction of government and individual properties, as well as threatening the lives of individual citizens.
“Those types of threats were at the operational level and therefore led to a proactive stance by the military. That was the basis for the media releases warning against any violent conduct aimed at making the country ungovernable and thus negating its security and stability – and that warning still stands. For the Namibian Defence Force, prevention is better than cure,” Vilho warned.
He further stated that law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear and that there is no blurring of mandates.
“The statement by the Society of Advocates is therefore irresponsible and may even appear to be a covert incitement to violence and lawlessness. The uninformed might interpret it to mean that the NDF is constrained by the constitution and the Defence Act to act against would be perpetrators of such violence. If that were the case, the NDF wouldn’t have acted against the Caprivi Secessionists nor would it deploy troops in antipoaching operations or national emergencies,” Vilho said.