Protesters maintain innocence over protest arrests …as charges against 24 are dropped

Clifton Movirongo and Helena Johannes

Nearly 25 protestors who were arrested on Saturday during a march against gender-based violence (GBV) and rape in the central business district (CBD) of Windhoek, maintain they did nothing wrong. They claim their arrest was unwarranted.

This comes after the protesters, who were arrested by the Namibian Police on Saturday, had all charges against them dropped on Monday after the Prosecutor-General declined to prosecute the case.

The 24 had been charged with breaking the health and safety regulations, participating in an illegal demonstration and disturbing peace.

However, the protesters’ leaders denied the allegations of breaching the law, arguing that the ruling party had also held a marching rally in Windhoek with more than the COVID-19 regulation number of fifty participants.

One of the organizers of the GBV and anti-rape protest, Ndiilo Nthengwe, said the protesters did nothing wrong as no vandalism of properties was done. “All we were trying to do is let our voices heard by both the society and the leaders of this country,” she said.

She added that protesters who were brutally beaten and manhandled by the police need to lay charges against the Namibian police as “that is police brutality and it is a violation of our rights. The police are supposed to protect us and not turn against us.”

Her statement comes after the police on Saturday tear-gassed the protesting participants, with some people allegedly brutally beaten and mistreated by the Namibian Police.

Julia Nekwaya, one of the journalists who was assaulted by the police said that, “on Saturday you can tell that police came to beat people up by the gear they were wearing.”

“I was on the ground and one of the officers said to me, ‘dhipaga (that means kill)’, and I will never forget that,” said Nekwaya.

Immanuel Tobias, one of the lawyers representing the accused, confirmed to the Windhoek Observer that the Prosecutor-General (PG) applied her mind to the matter that was brought to her office and decided to withdraw all the charges against all the accused. He reiterated that there will be no charges and no further court appearances for the protesters.

“The charges were the contravention of the Public Gathering Proclamation Act Section 2(1), contravention of the COVID-19 regulations and the protocols that accompany them in terms of saying that they gathered more than 50 people. The PG said that people should note that it is not that the protesters did not violate the laws, but she basically used the discretion that was granted to her, after looking at the docket and the particular circumstances,” Tobias said.

According to Tobias, the PG decided rather to not prosecute as opposed to prosecuting. “This was done by the application of mind to the particular context,” he said.

Windhoek has been rocked by protests since Thursday last week, calling for an end to gender-based violence, rape and femicide in Namibia.

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