And the struggle continues…
Windhoek – Protests by Namibia’s “children of the liberation struggle” – also known as the “struggle kids” or “exile kids” – just do not seem to be going away.
The group of Namibian youths who were born in exile during the fight against apartheid have been protesting for months, and it does not seem like there is any resolution in sight.
Their main demands: jobs and free education.
The youths believe the government owes them some form of affirmative action as they are orphaned. As such, they have been living in open spaces outside government buildings, and trying to organise marches to pressure SWAPO and the government to cede to their demands.
About a month ago the “struggle kids” walked from the northern part of Namibia in Outapi, some 800km away, to Windhoek where they were hoping to speak to the Prime Minister, Dr Hage Geingob.
When they failed to meet the PM, they decided to encamp near SWAPO headquarters in the capital city.
Last week, Namibia’s republic police and Windhoek’s municipal police had enough of the protestors and cracked down on them to stop the illegal demonstration by the group, which numbers about 200 “struggle kids”.
In an interview with The Southern Times, the group’s spokesperson, Hamopembe Abraham, said “No one has addressed us since the first day we started camping at SWAPO head offices and we decided to march again to grab the government’s attention.
“We went to the police station in Katutura to get permission to march to the Office of the Prime Minister to go hand in our petition but the police refused (to give) us the permission. So we marched regardless.”
He said the police caught up with them as they made their way to Dr Geingob’s offices near Windhoek’s CBD, and they dispersed the protestors by firing rubber bullets, which resulted in some people getting injured.
“The police then took us back to where we have been residing and ordered us to remove our belongings. When we refused to comply with their order, they started demolishing and removing our tents and took our things to the police station.”
Asked how long they would remain out in the open, Abraham said: “We are not going to move because we are camping in our motherland and we don’t have anywhere else to stay.”
Abraham added that they were waiting on the Namibia Exile Kids Association to deliver on a promise to provide the protestors with accommodation as they press on with their demands for jobs and free education.
“We are not going to move until they give us jobs and a place to stay, they must fulfill their promise,” said a visibly frustrated Abraham.
The police said the protestors turned violent, throwing stones at uniformed officers, when they were told to call off their illegal demonstration.
This, the authorities say, is what prompted them to fire rubber bullets to retain control of the situation.
But Phil ya Nangoloh, head of the National Society for Human Rights, said it was against the spirit of nation-building for the authorities to confront protestors in such a manner.
“We don’t condone such behaviour, if the ‘children’ have really assaulted the police then we condemn them as it is wrong because they are law-keepers. In the same vein, the police are also in no position to assault anybody. For future protesters please don’t get violent when protesting.”
On their grievances, he said: “The state is duty-bound to employ them, they have the right to demand jobs from the government and it’s the government’s obligation to employ them.”
Ya Nangoloh, however, commended the government’s efforts thus far to assist the “struggle kids”, some of whom have been given jobs.
“We can understand that the government fears that other citizens will also demand for jobs should they employ the ‘struggle kids’ but the only problem with the government is that they don’t want to distribute Namibia’s wealth equally amongst its citizens,” charged Ya Nangoloh.
There have been reports that some of the “struggle kids” who have benefitted from free education and jobs have abandoned their posts. This is said to have been the case with many who were given jobs in government departments, who allegedly stopped reporting for duty after getting a pay cheque.
Others allegedly refuse to turn up for work but still demand salaries come month end. This has seen them getting fired, which in turn spurs them to go back to the streets to demonstrate, thus fuelling a vicious cycle.