Namibia unveils anti-terror bill to plug national security loopholes


Namibian minister of Ministry of Safety and Security Nangolo Mbumba has unveiled a new anti-terrorism bill which seeks to impose harsh sentences of life imprisonment, imprisonment for a maximum of 30 years and a fine of N$10 million, or all three penalties concurrently, on terror suspects, their funders and accomplices.

The presentation of the new bill comes nearly a decade after the previous one was drafted and presented to the government by a taskforce made up of officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs. Following the unbundling of the Ministry of Home Affairs to create the Ministry of State Security, the bill fell off the government priority list and was only revived in 2010.

Presenting the ‘Prevention and Combating of Terrorism Bill’ before the National Assembly last month, Mbumba said the government decided to act urgently after realising that the country has been exposed to terrorism since the repealing of a stringent raft of apartheid-era anti-terrorism laws soon after independence in 1990.
“The fact that Namibia is a peaceful country should not cause us to sit back and relax as our peaceful situation may easily be exploited by those involved in terrorist activities to either turn this country into turmoil for their own benefit or to use the country as a transit haven for the financing of terrorist activities,” Mbumba told the National Assembly.

The Bill was drafted by a national security taskforce composed of officers drawn from the Namibian Police, Ministry of Justice, the Namibian Central Intelligence Services and anti-money laundering specialists from the Bank of Namibia’s Financial Intelligence Centre.

The Bill seeks to clarify the Namibian definition of terrorism, criminalise its funding and set appropriate penalties as determined by its national security priorities. Among other criminal acts, the Bill defines kidnapping and the taking of hostages as acts of terrorism.

It also categorises the illegal use of nuclear substances and radioactive material in terror attacks as acts as nuclear terrorism, which can be prosecuted in Namibian courts. In mitigation, the Bill provides for sentences ranging from a N$10 million (R10 million) fine to life imprisonment or both for those convicted of planning, funding and executing terror attacks.

The Bill also seeks government approval to grant state security agencies and the judiciary sweeping rights to order the freezing and forfeiture of assets belonging to terror suspects in the context of protecting individual, national and international security from terror threats.

If approved without amendment, the Bill will also empower the police to employ specialised investigative techniques which include the interception and retention of emails and tele-communications while investigating terror suspects and money-laundering networks.

It will also grant law enforcement agencies the right to plant interception and listening devices on individuals terror suspects and sites. Security agencies will also be empowered to intercept postal articles belonging to individuals and organisations suspected of involvement in terrorism, but only with the prior approval of a judge.

The government says it wants the Bill to be approved and signed into law as a matter of urgency amid growing international concerns that global and locally-grown terror groups are spreading through continental Africa while commercial piracy gangs are setting up offshore bases and expanding spheres of criminal activity into the international waters off its coast.