Clash Over Land At Katima

POLICE were called in to diffuse a situation where hundreds of land-hungry people held the Katima Mulilo chief executive officer and some council workers hostage.

What started as a peaceful protest at around 08h00 quickly turned violent when protesters demanded to speak to both the town’s CEO Charles Nawa and mayor Charles Matengu regarding their request for plots.

Members of the Special Field Force were called in when the crowd had blocked the entrance to the council offices for over three hours, making it impossible for Nawa and his staff to leave. The crowd dug in even after the police fired teargas at them.

Matengu confirmed yesterday that they were kept hostage from 08h00 until 11h00, and that they had to call the police for assistance.

He said there has been tension between some people and the council since last month when over 1 000 youths grabbed land at the Macaravan east area.

The events leading to yesterday’s stand-off, he said, started on Saturday when some people moved onto the land at Macaravan east area where they parcelled out plots among themselves.

Matengu said they had to ask the police to intervene, although initially the police said they could not act because it was a peaceful protest.

The mayor said he had been informed that the protesters were planning to build on the plots they allocated to themselves, despite the order that they should follow procedures.

“Whoever comes near those plots will be arrested and jailed immediately,” he said, adding that the municipality had contacted its lawyer and that they would apply for an urgent court interdict against the unrelenting protestors today.

Police Inspector General Sebastian Ndeitunga told The Namibian yesterday that he was forced to order law enforcement officers to the scene.

They had no choice but to fire teargas when the protesters started throwing stones at around 10h00.

Ndeitunga urged members of the public not to have themselves arrested and jailed because of barbaric acts.

“There are laws to be followed and we are governed by certain rules and laws in this country. People cannot take the law into their own hands,” he said, adding that police were being accused of not doing anything. “I had to order them to take a firm stand and talk to them.”

Leader of the Affirmative Repositioning movement Job Amupanda gave a thumbs-up to the protesters, but said the crowd did not act under the AR movement.

“They do not need me to command them to act. It is good that the youth are standing up for themselves. They must continue demonstrating,” he said.

Amupanda said he expects a full report from an AR representative in the region on what transpired.

Source : The Namibian