Shutitdown movement organiser accused of embezzling award money

Eba Kandovazu

ONE of the prominent figures of the recently established gnti-Gender based violence movement, ShutItDown, is accused of embezzling close to N$100 000, which the movement received from the African Union Youth Envoy in February this year for the Silencing Gender-based Violence Award.

Lebbeus Hashikutuva was making rounds on social media yesterday when the allegations surfaced. No criminal charges have been laid against Hashikutuva, although the movement issued a statement expressing its “deepest sympathy to everyone affected” by the incident, which they describe as “unfortunate” and “nauseating”. “We had all hoped to use the funds to truly enact change and program for victims and survivors of sexual and gender- based violence,” The movement wrote.

The award was valued at $5000.

Bertha Tobias, also a member of the movement, refused to comment, saying that the statement was enough. “The movement has issued a statement. That is the legitimate and only official stance. Refer to it. It is the only resource I can direct you to. You are harassing me. The movement has spoken. That is all the information we have. Good luck with your article,” Tobias says.

She did not confirm claims that Hashikutuva embezzled the money, nor did she say whether or not the movement will be opening a criminal case. The movement gained momentum last year after it organised mass protests against sexual and gender-based violence across the country. The protests lasted days and led to the eventual arrest of about 20 protesting young men and women, and three journalists on official duty. The journalists were released hours after detention. A minor, aged 16 years old was also part of the arrested cohort.

Prosecutor General Martha Imalwa subsequently decided to not prosecute the youngsters, when the group was scheduled to make their first court appearance in the Windhoek Magistrate Court.

The #Shutitdown hashtag trended not only countrywide, but also got recognised internationally, sparking international media households like BBC to cover the protests. South African media such as News24 also interviewed #Shutitdown protesters from Namibia.

The group also demanded that Gender Equality and Social Welfare Minister, Doreen Sioka, resigns. Some social media users yesterday called on the boycotting of the movement amidst the claims. Critics are saying that the organisers are not exercising their own mandate, to name and shame. Others are questioning why criminal charges still have not been laid.

Another figure at the forefront of the movement, Ndiilo Nthengwe also refused to comment. “The movement has issued a statement. I am in a meeting. Text,” She said before hanging up the phone. Hashikutuva could not be reached for comment.

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