Police dampen RDP sit-inBy: CATHERINE SASMAN
THE Rally for Democracy and Progress yesterday accused the police of using a “colonial” law which prohibits a demonstration in or near a court building to remove their supporters from the Supreme Court.
The party had staged a sit-in since Sunday to demand the verdict of the 2009 National Assembly election court challenge, but the police gave them until 16h00 yesterday to pack up and go or face the law.
RDP secretary for information Jeremiah Nam-binga yesterday afternoon said they sought legal advice and decided to move, but charged that the police used an outdated colonial law to victimise them.
The Police invoked two pieces of legislation to get the demonstrators to move.
The first is a piece of 1982 legislation that prohibits demonstrations within 500 metres from a court building, unless such demonstration is on weekends or on a public holiday.
The other is a piece of legislation dating from 1985, AG Proclamation 21, which prohibits squatting.
The RDP demonstrators pitched tents in front of the Supreme Court where they slept on Sunday night.
Caught between the Supreme Court and a private property – the open parking space belonging to United Africa Group that built the nearby Hilton Hotel – the demonstrators had no choice but to leave the area and not invite a confrontation with the police.
Nambinga said the legal advice given to the party was that it would be in a position to challenge the legislation on illegal squatting, but not the prohibition of demonstrations in or near a court of law.
“This is very painful,” Nambinga said.
“Inasmuch as we regard ourselves as a democratic state, we are still subjected to colonial laws that are used to victimise people. One wonders whether these laws are deliberately kept in tact to victimise people.”
The Khomas police commander, Commissioner Festus Shilongo, said he has not been selective in applying the law.
“I have my own principles,” Shilongo said when asked why these laws had not been enforced in the past.
“Namibia as a country inherited all systems of government in 1990. All laws inherited are valid unless they have been repealed by Parliament or declared unconstitutional,” countered Shilongo.
“The party must understand that the Namibian Police are not against its wish to demonstrate, but all demonstrations must follow certain rules.”
Since Sunday noon, more than 200 demonstrators have arrived at the Supreme Court from most regions of the country.
RDP secretary for agriculture Rudolph Kamburona said demonstrators from Ohangwena, Karas and parts of the Kunene Region were still on their way.
Most of the regional secretaries of the RDP had arrived by yesterday, while members of fellow opposition parties the DTA and UDF, and also Nangof, were expected.
Some members of the Democratic Party of Namibia (DPN) had arrived by yesterday afternoon.
“We are in full support of the sit-in,” said Paul Thomas of the DPN’s youth league. “The election verdict is three years outstanding; we want this matter to be finally dealt with so that we know which way we are going.”
Asked whether the party leaders were also sleeping in front of the court, Kamburona said leaders were doing day and night duty on a rotational basis, some having already slept over on Sunday evening.
The demonstrators, wherever they may pitch their tents now, are being fed with party funding and donations made by sympathisers.
They vowed that the sit-in, wherever it might be moved, will continue until the verdict is announced.
By late yesterday they were considering the Parliament Gardens as one of their destinations.