PM Confirms Hostage Claims

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By Mbatjiua Ngavirue Windhoek Prime Minister Nahas Angula yesterday confirmed the startling claim that demonstrating shebeen owners have threatened to take both him and Minister of Justice and Attorney General Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana hostage. Former president Sam Nujoma first mentioned the threat when speaking at the launch of the Omusati Education and Training Fund over the weekend. Late yesterday afternoon, the Namibian Police announced that a member of the Namibia Shebeen Association (Nasa), Benny Petrus, was arrested in Swakopmund early yesterday morning on a charge of inciting public violence. Police spokesperson Chief Inspector Hieronymus Goraseb said in a statement that Petrus appeared in court and the case was remanded to September 4, 2006 to allow for further investigation. Petrus was released on bail of N$5 000. The statement explained that the arrest was a sequel to a police investigation carried out after reports that the suspect was inciting shebeen owners to commit acts of violence against government officials. Goraseb said in an interview with New Era before the statement was released that he believed the arrest in Swakopmund was linked to threats against regional commander of the police in Erongo, Deputy Commissioner Andrew Iyambo. Goraseb however stated that he was not in a position to say whether the Swakopmund arrest was also linked to the threats to Prime Minister Angula and Minister Iivula-Ithana. Angula alleged the threat to take him and Iivula-Ithana hostage was made during the noisy two-week demonstration held by shebeen owners outside parliament to protest the forcible closure of their businesses. “They were making the threats while here at parliament, and I am even aware of who was making the threats. When people are angry they can say anything,” he said. He pointed out that while the Namibian constitution provides for people to have the right to demonstrate and air their grievances, it does not give them the right to hurt others. “If such threats are made, then naturally the security agencies of the country will be forced to apply the due processes of the law,” he warned. President of Nasa, Veripi Kandenge earlier said he was unaware of any threats made to take either the PM or Iivula-Ithana hostage. When told this, Angula responded, “Obviously the threats will not be made through official channels. It was said by people from the Omuthiya area who know that I live around there.” Describing his feelings about the threats, he said that although he was concerned that they were made, he did not take them seriously but as something said in frustration. “I don’t take it as something serious, some of them are just angry,” he remarked. Iivula-Ithana said she heard about the alleged threats to take her hostage, but regarded them as just rumours. “I took them as just rumours, and there are so many rumours doing the rounds one doesn’t know what to believe. I am not convinced it is genuine, why should they want to kidnap me?” she asked. She added that as the reports were based on rumours, she was not really concerned about her personal safety. Kandenge of Nasa said that he knew of no threats against senior government officials, adding that he did not believe any member of his organization could have carried out such an act. He said that before the demonstration took place, Nasa invited Nampol and the City Police to be present when they prepared their members for the demonstration. At that meeting their members were clearly told what would be acceptable language to use at the demonstration, and what slogans they could have on their placards. “Nasa is negotiating with the government in good faith without threats, and we have a plan of action in place which is to be implemented by Nasa and the inter-ministerial committee appointed by President Pohamba,” he said.