Meeting Turns into Near Riot

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By Mbatjiua Ngavirue

WINDHOEK

Community meetings are useful forums for politicians and government officials to interact and exchange information with the constituencies they serve.

During its recent tour of the Otjozondjupa Region, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social and Community Development held several public meetings with communities it visited.

The committee however soon discovered the need to adhere to certain essential requirements in order to make community meetings successful.

The meetings require good planning, need to be widely publicised in advance and have to target the relevant audience.

The committee held community meetings in Otjiwarongo, Okatjoruu in Otjituuo district, Tsumkwe, Gam and Okandjira in Ovitoto.

But the parliamentarians present would probably agree the idea to hold an open-air community meeting in the Tsaraxaibes informal settlement in Otjiwarongo was ill advised.

In the latter stages, the meeting degenerated into a near riot with the aggressive mob almost ready to lynch Otjiwarongo constituency regional councillor Ferdinand Kavetuna.

If not for the diplomatic skills of committee chairperson Elia Kaiyamo, the mob might well have strung Kavetuna up in the very tree where organisers decided to hold the meeting.

The first mistake was to even attempt to hold a community meeting in an area of Tsaraxaibes where every second house seems to be a shebeen.

The meeting began well enough, after community leaders and the more sober residents assembled at the designated meeting place.

Local shebeen patrons however soon got wind of the meeting and staggered out of their favourite watering holes – by this time quite inebriated – to come and join the fray.

The mood of the crowd soon turned ugly and the attacks on Kavetuna became increasingly personal.

One of the first questions shouted out by various members of the crowd was, “Who is our councillor anyway, we have never seen him?”

This became a recurring theme throughout community meetings in the region, highlighting one of the many teething problems of decentralisation.

Communities throughout Otjozondjupa complain they never see their regional councillors, and that they do not perform the duties for which they elected them.

To be fair to Kavetuna, most of the crowd seemed unable to distinguish between a municipal councillor and a regional councillor in the intoxicated state they were.

Most of their complaints centred on the pre-paid water meters recently installed by the municipality and the high prices charged for water – for which they can hardly blame Kavetuna.

The topics on the agenda for the meeting included gender issues and gender-based violence.

As usual, men were among the most vocal at the meeting and the bar flies from the shebeens appeared to have little patience for the subject of gender-based violence.

The only positive contribution – if one can call it that – made repeatedly by one middle-aged man was, “Are you trying to say men don’t also get killed”.

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