Ohangwena children steal money to roll dice

NESTOR Moses, the chairperson of the Men and Women network – a vigilante group aligned to the Namibian police in their efforts to curb says they have received countless reports of school–going children gambling in the streets and that parents in the region have expressed worry and have requested the regional police to intervene and nip the unholy practice in the bud to save the future of their children.

Moses spoke to Confidente this week about the group’s operations and crime-fighting strategies. According to him, children in the region as young as 10 – are involved in criminal and illegal activities at home and school to the extent that their parents can no longer manage them, and the police are always called in to assist.

“We have a problem in the region when it comes to young people especially school – going children. First it was the drug problem which we started addressing last year. We visited different schools especially the high schools and sensitized the children about the dangers of using drugs and its effects on their health and lives. Today we have another cancer which has penetrated our communities and it destroying homes,” he says.

According to Moses, pupils from four schools top the list when it comes to cases of theft in which teachers’ items, such as cell phones, are stolen and sold for gambling money.

“Unfortunately, I cannot mention the names of those schools because I have no authority from the principals but they are all in Ohangwena and located in or near towns or settlements. Teachers have experienced losses and when the suspects are confronted, they mention they have either sold the items to get money to gamble or gamble the items itself and get some change in return,” he noted.

Moses indicated that since the beginning of the year, about 28 cases have been recorded involving teacher’s items only and that other 25 cases involved parents’ items stolen.

“Unfortunately, only a few cases were registered which would also subsequently be withdrawn when suspects’ parents or guardians agree to pay for the items,” he added.

The head of the Ohangwena vigilante group explained that many of the pupils entangled in the practice were influenced by older people such as taxi and bus loader masters and drivers who gamble at shopping complexes and taxi ranks to waste time waiting for customers.

“These are the main culprits. The illegally gamble at open spaces and then the schoolchildren are lured to the game because of the quick buck which can be made there. They then go steal items to obtain the money.”

He indicated his team is currently using strategies to visit schools located in urban centres to sensitize pupils about the practice.

Meanwhile, Josephine Natangwe, a guardian of a child at Odibo combined school, told Confidente his son and a cousin, both staying in his rural home, have become addicted to street gambling. This, according to her, has resulted in them stealing to feed their addiction.

“I have lost count of the cell phones that have disappeared in the house. Just last month, one of our male goats did not come home. It was crystal clear to everyone they took and sold the goat. However, we had no concrete evidence,” he stated, adding the two youths always travel three kilometres to Oshikango to gamble under a marula tree called “mongo womanly – the fools tree named due to all illicit and unorthodox activities which take place there such as traditional liquor sales, street gambling, pickpocketing, kapana selling and prostitution. The tree has become a meeting and socializing point for common Namibians and their equal Angolan cousins. She implores authorities to devise strict measures ‘before it is too late’.

According to the Ministry of Environment, forestry and Tourism, it is illegal to gamble at an unlicensed place, and only licenced casinos and gambling houses can offer such activities. Those who have contravened these provisions could be heavily fined or stiffly sentenced.