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Namibia 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Africa > Namibia; Africa > Namibia > Windhoek

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Windhoek does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED WINDHOEK AS BEING A CRITICAL-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Please review OSAC’s Namibia-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Crime Threats

Americans have regularly fallen victim to street crime. Incidents occur more frequently after dark than during daytime hours. Walking alone at night is not advisable in the downtown areas, lower socio-economic/informal settlement areas, public parks, and other desolate or poorly-illuminated areas. Additionally, people walking the streets alone, especially after normal business hours or after dark, with purses, bags, or backpacks are frequently targeted for the contents of their bags, which may contain electronics that are easily sold on the black market. Criminals sometimes brandish knives and occasionally firearms. In most of these cases, assailants break contact with the victim after receiving cash and/or a cellular phone.

However, the most common incidents are non-violent crimes of opportunity (pickpocketing, purse snatching, theft/scams near ATMs, vehicle break-ins), committed by thieves who rely on stealth or surprise. Pickpocketing and purse snatchings are most likely to take place in downtown shopping areas and other high-traffic locations where foreign visitors congregate.

Theft from motor vehicles remains a concern. This usually involves smash-and-grab methods and is sometimes associated with violence. This often occurs when the vehicle is unattended or stopped in traffic at busy intersections. In the latter case, thieves often attempt to distract the driver by asking questions, begging for money, or knocking on the driver’s side door; meanwhile, an accomplice on the passenger side attempts to unlock a door or break a window to steal anything of value while the driver is distracted. This most commonly occurs in the downtown areas of Windhoek. More sophisticated criminals are known to use remote key fobs to unlock vehicle doors. Criminals jam key fob devices in malls and other publicly accessible areas with vehicles. Visitors should manually double-check their vehicle doors after they have exited the vehicle to ensure the fob signal was not interfered with and should not leave anything of value inside the vehicle.

Residential break-ins remain prevalent. Generally, criminals target unoccupied residences; however, home invasions do occur, with some resulting in violence, when criminals encountered residents. During the holiday season (Easter holiday week), this type of crime increases in frequency.

Cybersecurity Issues

Namibia has a growing communications network with reliable Internet and data services. Reports of cyberscams and cybersecurity issues are rare. Most of the cyberscams are via SMS, due to the large percentage of Namibians who own cellular phones. Most of these scams involve phishing messages purporting to be from a bank or other reputable organization. The SMS asks the user to click on a link or send personal information. Make a habit of regularly checking bank statements and online banking transaction history to identify any irregularities.  

Major credit cards are widely accepted at most businesses, and reports of credit card skimming and cloning do occur. ATMs are prevalent, and reports of ATM card cloning also occur. Report any theft/loss to your financial institution immediately. Use ATMs that are in public areas, are well-illuminated, and have a uniformed security guard presence.

Other Areas of Concern

The poaching of endangered wildlife species occurs. Visitors in national parks or game lodges should follow instructions from game wardens and law enforcement officials patrolling those areas. Poachers generally carry large caliber weapons, and shoot-outs between law enforcement officials and poachers occur, sometimes resulting in serious injury or death.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Driving can be hazardous. Although major roads are generally well-maintained, Namibia’s network of gravel secondary roads can be dangerous, with areas of washboarding on heavily used roads developing year-round, and flooding is possible during the rainy season. Defensive driving is essential to compensate for road conditions and the excessive speed and reckless passing tactics used by many drivers. Driving at night outside urban areas is dangerous, as darkened roads make it difficult to see road obstructions and animals that frequently cross the roads. Visitors planning to drive outside of Windhoek should plan to arrive at their destination before dark. Vehicles should be in good condition and equipped with spare tires and plenty of water, food, and emergency medical supplies. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.

Road accidents remain a major concern despite a relatively good road infrastructure and good road conditions. Road accidents are one of the most common causes of fatality in Namibia. Traffic fatalities among foreign visitors occur periodically. In addition, auto accident victims are vulnerable to theft by those pretending to be helpful. Drivers in urban areas should be aware that taxis often stop abruptly to pick up/discharge passengers, resulting in frequent rear-end collisions. Visitors involved in a motor vehicle accident should report to a police station within 24 hours of the accident if police were not at the accident scene, and report the accident to the insurance company/car rental agency the next business day.

Traffic moves on the left, so it is essential to look right before crossing the street on foot or pulling onto a road in a vehicle. Drunk drivers are a major concern. As there are very few sidewalks or pedestrian crossings, visitors should be extremely cautious when walking, jogging, or biking. 

Police checkpoints are positioned approximately 15 kilometers outside of the principal cities and towns on all major highways. During the holiday season, additional checkpoints may be established along the Windhoek-Swakopmund highway (B2) and near medium-sized towns. Most vehicles are allowed to proceed without inspection, but drivers should be prepared to produce vehicle registration documents, personal identification (driver’s license, passport, Namibian identification cards), and/or car rental contracts on request. All drivers should plan to stop and proceed only when waved through.

Public Transportation Conditions

Traffic laws (including signage) are routinely ignored by many public taxi drivers, who often possess poor driving skills/training. These taxis are usually marked with a large letter and identifying numbers on the driver’s side door and rear window. Many of the taxis are in poor mechanical condition, with worn tires and broken/missing tail lights and headlights. In addition, these taxis routinely pick up multiple persons. There have been reports of such additional passengers working in tandem with taxi drivers to rob passengers. Taxis found at the major hotels, reserved via phone, and reserved shuttle services tend to be more reliable and will not pick up additional passengers.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

The Hosea Kutako International Airport in Windhoek has not experienced any prominent accidents in recent years. Small airplanes and helicopters are commonly used to transport passengers and cargo between Windhoek and distant farms and lodges. There were several airplane and helicopter crashes involving privately-owned aircraft in the past year.

Terrorism Threat

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED WINDHOEK AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

The Namibian government is sensitive to the threat of terrorism and is engaged with international partners to combat terrorism. Visitors should consider attendance of any large public gatherings (concerts, sports matches) that could become attractive targets for terrorists. Transnational terrorism is a concern throughout the African continent, as increased law enforcement and anti-terrorism activities in the Horn of Africa have the potential to force terrorist organizations to seek targets in areas outside of their traditional sphere of operations. 

Anti-American/Anti-Western Sentiment

Bilateral relations between Namibia and the U.S. are good. Small-scale demonstrations to protest U.S. foreign policy have been held near the Chancery, but such demonstrations were non-violent and have not occurred in several years.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED WINDHOEK AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Civil Unrest 

Public demonstrations are rare and are almost always non-violent. Most of the local protests in 2016 involved labor issues (working conditions, wages). On occasion, a group known as the “Struggle Kids” will stage spontaneous protests, which can lead to violent interactions with the Namibian Police Force.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Namibia is an arid, semi-desert country of over 318,000 square miles and is the second least densely populated country in the world. It can experience extreme temperatures, especially during the summer (November-February), and can experience seasonal flooding during the rainy season (October-March) in the central and northern regions. Dry river beds occasionally flood, resulting in roads being inaccessible. Motorists should be alert to warning signs posted at riverbeds and not cross them when water is flowing.

Namibia has a long coastline of mostly uninhabited beaches. The seawater is frigid, and the current is very strong. Trained lifeguards and other rescue personnel are rare, so visitors should be cautious when swimming. Ocean drownings are not uncommon, even in populated areas such as Swakopmund.

Critical Infrastructure

Namibia is a large country with extensive open territory between cities. Fuel stations and vehicle repair facilities can be hundreds of kilometers apart. Motorists should be prepared by bringing additional fuel if long-distance travel is planned. Most major roads have cellular phone coverage, but remote areas, secondary roads, and even stretches of primary roads have no cellular coverage.

Economic Concerns

Diamond and precious stone scams are prevalent, despite government licensing and other controls. Visitors seeking to purchase precious stones should use reputable dealers. Any unsolicited business proposal should be thoroughly researched before committing any funds, providing any goods or services, or undertaking any travel. It is virtually impossible to recover money lost through these scams.

Drug-related Crimes

Namibia is not a drug-producing country. Most of the drugs that are locally available are smuggled in. The most popular drug is marijuana (dagga), and it is relatively cheap. Other drugs (cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, mandrax) are also available. The use of cheap, readily available crystal methamphetamine (tik) is also on the rise. Namibia is being used as a transit route. Anti-drug laws are strictly enforced, and no bail is granted without a court appearance.

Police Response

The Namibian Police (“NamPol”) operate a Tourist Protection Unit (TPU) to assist tourists who have become victims of crime, but the TPUs are hampered by resource constraints that hinder deterrence of crime. The TPU in Windhoek is located at the corner of Independence Avenue and Bahnhof Street.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Under Namibian law, law enforcement officers are required to produce credentials and identify themselves before carrying out a lawful arrest. Whenever an arrest is imminent, it is advisable to comply with the arresting officer’s request. Travelers should not challenge the authority of police or soldiers. An arrested person has the right to contact his/her family or legal representative.

Incidents of police harassment can be reported to any police station, the office of the Inspector-General of Police, or the Office of the Ombudsman in Windhoek.

U.S. citizens who are detained or harassed by the police should contact the U.S. Embassy’s American Citizen Services at +264-61-295-8522 or via email at consularwindho@state.gov.

Crime Victim Assistance

In case of an emergency, visitors to Namibia should contact the local police in their area.

Windhoek
Police: 10111 /209-4111
Fire/Ambulance: 211-111
City Police: 290-2239

 

Outside Windhoek

POLICE

FIRE

Swakopmund

064-10111/415000/415060

064-410-4639/081-1279335

Mariental

063-10111/345000/345016

063-245-600/0812528152

Luderitz

063-10111/202255

063-202-255/

Gobabis

062-10111/566100

062-566-666/081-12-44936

Tsumeb

067-10111/2235017

067-22-1004/081-12-48677

Rundu

066-10111/266300

081-257-543/066-265500

Oshakati

065-10111/223600

065-229-500/081-29-63300

Otjiwarongo

067-10111/300600

081-2022-222/ 067-30 4444

Katima Mulilo

061-10111/25122

061-251225/0813216472

American visitors can also contact U.S. Embassy Windhoek at Tel: (264-61) 295-8500 if assistance is needed in communicating with law enforcement officials.

Police/Security Agencies

The major law enforcement agency is the Namibian Police (NamPol). Other law enforcement entities include Immigration, Customs, and the Anti-Corruption Commission (responsible for investigating and prosecuting official corruption cases). Several of the larger cities have their own city police force.

Medical Emergencies

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

MediClinic Hospital (061-4331000)(061-222-687)

Roman Catholic Hospital (061-2702911)

EMed Rescue 24 (private ambulance and medical evacuation)

--081-924

--061-411600

Windhoek Municipal Emergency Services (061-290-2702)

Lady Pohamaba Hospital (083 335 9040)

For medical emergencies outside of Windhoek, visit the closest hospital in the region.

Available Air Ambulance Services

For serious injuries, medical evacuation can be arranged through EMed Rescue 24, which has offices in Windhoek, Tsumeb, Ongwadiva, Walvis Bay, Swakopmund, Otjiwarongo, and Keetmanshoop. However, medevac planes may not be able to land in more remote areas of the country.

Insurance Guidance

The Embassy recommends that all visitors have medical evacuation insurance before arrival in Namibia.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

Windhoek’s 5,600-foot elevation can cause fatigue or light-headedness, and the dry, windy climate can cause dry skin. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report “Traveling in High Altitude.” Because of fine dust and pollen in the air, visitors who suffer from allergies or respiratory ailments should bring appropriate medication. Visitors who anticipate spending time outdoors should use sunblock, hats, and skin-covering clothing. Tap water is generally potable; bottled water is widely available. While Windhoek, the coast, and southern Namibia are malaria-free, malaria prophylaxis is recommended for visitors to rural areas in eastern Namibia and anywhere north of Otjiwarongo, especially between the months of October-April. Meningitis immunizations (types A, C, Y and W) and an adult booster for polio are also recommended. Visitors should be aware that HIV/AIDS is common, with an estimated general prevalence rate of 14.5 percent of the population infected.

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Namibia.

OSAC Country Council Information

There is currently no active Country Council in Windhoek. Please contact OSAC’s Africa team if you are interested in private-sector engagement in Windhoek or have questions about OSAC’s Country Council programs.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

U.S. Embassy Windhoek
14 Lossen Street, Ausspanplatz, Windhoek
Hours of Operation Mon-Thurs: 0800-1700, Fri: 0800-1200 (Closed on American and Namibian holidays)

Embassy Contact Numbers

Operator: (264-61) 295-8500
RSO: (264-61) 295-8564
ARSO: (264-61) 295-8517
Consular: (264-61) 295-8522
American Citizen Services (after Hours): (264-85) 686-0853
Website: http://windhoek.usembassy.gov

Embassy Guidance

All Americans should also enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) when traveling to Namibia. 

Additional Resources

Namibia Information Sheet