Hileni Nembwaya, The Namibian | February 26, 2021
A number of police officers deployed at Etosha National Park for anti-poaching operations claim they are not supplied with enough food and are starving.
About 300 police officers have been deployed in the area. The officers, who want to remain anonymous for fear of being victimised, are also aggrieved over other living conditions. They say they sleep in tents at night, which makes them vulnerable to wild animals.
“Post Hesteria and all the posts at Etosha are inhospitable. All police officers at these posts are sleeping on the ground with no mattresses … and we wake up with severe back pain. Visitors to the park are told to stay in their vehicles for safety … yet we cover 14 to 16 km on foot between two and three times a week, risking hostility from the wild animals that live here.
“When we receive our firearms, we are not granted permission to test them, so during our encounters with hostile animals like elephants, lions, black rhinos and leopards, we are not even sure if the firearms are functioning,” the officers say.
They also complain of consuming contaminated water. “The food supplies we receive are never enough to last us until the next food-supply date. We are supplied with sour, contaminated water from boreholes, which sometimes gives us diarrhoea. I have encountered a threatening elephant and was saved by a warning shot. We have had multiple encounters with snakes coming to our bathing areas and tents, not to mention the scorpions under our tents. We are also not supplied with first-aid toolkits,” one of the officers said.
The nearest clinic to the Hesteria post is at Otavi, approximately 120 km away.
The officers are also dissatisfied with their wages of N$60 a day, while they claim officers at Onanke post earn N$260 per day.
Police chief inspector general Sebastian Ndeitunga says his office has not received any official complaint
“They are supposed to send their complaints through our structures. I heard some of their complaints when I visited Etosha last year, and we have attended to some of them. There are some problems that are beyond us due to budget constraints. However, we are always ready to assist them where we can. They have my cell number and they can always call me. They are our special people and we need to prioritise them at all times,” he says.
Ndeitunga confirmed that the working conditions inside Etosha and Bwabwata national parks are not pleasant as the officers are subjected to attacks from wild animals and snakes, and experience other harsh conditions.
“I was scheduled to visit Etosha and Bwabwata with the environment, defence and security ministers yesterday. However, our visit was postponed due to other equally important issues. Last year, when I visited them they had a lack of suitable tents and uniforms. We then supplied them with tents, boots and uniforms. I am well aware that the working conditions there are not that friendly, and we are working towards improving this,” Ndeitunga says.
The inspector general is scheduled to visit the two national parks next week.