WINDHOEK, 12 AUG – The Namibia Media Trust (NMT) has condemned the ‘heavy-handed actions’ of some Namibian Police Force (NamPol) members against students who were demonstrating alongside their representatives, the Namibia National Students Organisation in Windhoek on Wednesday.
In a media statement issued on Friday, NMT Executive Chairperson, Gwen Lister, stressed that the NMT is concerned with promoting the right to free speech, which is a necessary precondition to the enjoyment of other rights, such as the right to vote, free assembly and freedom of association.
“Although police claim they used ‘minimum force’, we do not consider the use of teargas and rubber bullets to disperse students as in keeping with the constitutionally-guaranteed rights of Namibians to exercise freedom of speech and to protest and assemble peacefully,” the former editor stressed.
She noted that the freedom of association and the right to peaceful assembly are non-negotiable in a democratic country.
“The chain of events on August 08, served to impede the right of students to voice their opinions on a matter that directly affects their lives and livelihoods.”
The NMT has therefore called upon the law enforcement in general to respect the rights of Namibians as guaranteed by the constitution and to refrain from forceful and intimidatory tactics against those taking part in peaceful public demonstrations.
About 300 students petitioned Higher Education, Training and Innovation Minister, Itah Kandjii-Murangi on Wednesday, demanding her to intervene in the situation between the students and the Namibia Student Financial Assistance Fund.
However after hours of trying to negotiate with the minister, they were forcefully removed from the building and some reportedly assaulted after they refused to clear the area, an action which (NamPol) Public Relations Division, Deputy Commissioner Edwin Kanguatjivi justified.
“In as much as fundamental rights and freedoms are guaranteed, such freedoms should not infringe on the rights and freedoms of other citizens.
As such, NamPol acted professionally by dispersing them, which should not have been necessary,” Kanguatjivi noted.