Independent Inquiry Should Tackle Heavy-Handedness

SENIOR government leaders who have in the past dismissed demands for improved human rights, saying that people don’t eat human rights or an enhanced democratic constitution, have hopefully received a harsh dose of reality following the fatal shooting of a protester demanding jobs outside the Swapo head office.

We can only join our colleagues at the government-run newspaper New Era in calling for nationwide introspection about how to deal with protesters, however much of a nuisance they are seen, or perceived, to be, or whatever prejudices are harboured.

The shooting dead, allegedly by the police, of 26-year-old Frieda Ndatipo, a mother of three, is a scar on the conscience of the nation and cannot be laid at the doorstep of Namibia’s law enforcement agencies alone.

It is both a personal and a national tragedy. It speaks to who we are as Namibians. The wound cuts deep.

New Era said in an editorial that the incident should serve as an “opportunity for a deep political rethink”. We cannot agree more. For a start, it is not the first time in recent months, or years, that the police have tried to block what seemed like a genuine and peaceful, if tense, demonstration. In addition to this week’s heavy-handedness, police were reported to have blocked and arrested protesters during the recent visit of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. In 2010, police banned civil society activists from protesting at a Southern African Development Community summit in Windhoek.

The common denominator in the heavy-handedness, or denial of the right to demonstrate, is that the police are often either acting at the behest of their political leaders, or to shield politicians from getting the messages of the protesters.

An independent and public inquiry is needed to get to the bottom of this latest incident in which the police claim they were “retaliating” against ‘struggle kids’ armed with sticks and stones.

More than that, however, the inquiry should focus on encouraging and strengthening freedoms of expression and assembly, including the freedom to protest peacefully – even at places frequented by politicians such as the Swapo headquarters, State House and parliament.

Swapo Must Exorcise Its Demons Without Sacrificing The Nation

SWAPO leaders often boast that when that ruling party sneezes, Namibia as a whole catches a cold. It is difficult to argue against that. We can only appeal to Swapo to take greater care in not spreading its bacteria or viruses.

Worryingly, really, is that Swapo leaders have adopted a suicide bomber attitude, or the geriatric Mugabe philosophy, of making sure if they can’t have something then they are prepared to set the entire country alight.

What else can we read into the statement by Prime Minister Hage Geingob that there are forces using the “struggle kids” to make the country ungovernable? Those sinister forces can only be within Swapo as the party has been the only one dealing with them. Another example are the attacks and proxy wars among the Swapo leadership, with several ‘notables’ resorting to drinking from the tap of tribal divisions. Some, such as a Swapo Party youth league spokesperson, has referred to minorities and majorities.

In another case, Hardap governor Katrina Hanse-Himarwa is reported to have shouted “down 0000” (an apparent reference to the so-called ‘Four O’, or former Owamboland, regions) and “down agenda 2017”. Agenda 2017 allegedly refers to a faction purportedly working to upend the rule of future president Hage Geingob.

Geingob himself has complained about tribalism being directed at him through the use of derogatory names referring to his ethnic origin. In turn, he has claimed that some people have criticised him for the latest constitutional amendment simply because he is a Damara.

The ruling party must deal with its demons without destabilising the country just because of selfish interest now and in the long term.

Source : The Namibian