An information sharing session between the Namibian Exile Kids Association (Neka) and the so-called “struggle kids” turned into a frenzied attack when unruly members of the struggle kids physically attacked NEKA staff.
Neka leaders were on Saturday assaulted and briefly held hostage by unemployed youngsters, unhappy with the manner in which Neka is addressing their plight.
The struggle kids were noisy throughout the meeting with six Neka leaders and apparently did not give Neka a fair chance to respond to their questions.
The emotionally charged meeting continued until the question-and-answer session, when a certain Foibe Shikufa – whose parents died in exile – provoked the meeting with a single question: “Why are the children of the liberation struggle who were born in Namibia whose parents died in exile not considered children of the liberation struggle?”
Before Shikufa, a security guard, could finish airing her point she was shown the door, after which the heated session continued with struggle kids demanding that the money they paid for Neka membership be refunded, because Neka apparently betrayed their cause and there are no tangible benefits from being members of Neka.
The irate protesters accused Neka of being liars, who only used them for personal gain. Group leader Martin Neumbo told the Neka leadership that Neka’s administrator is very rude and does not respond properly to their queries whenever they visit the office.
“Give back the money which we paid for membership and [we will] resign from Neka because you do not care about us,” Neumbo said.
Things turned ugly at around 11h00 when the heated meeting ended abruptly, as some struggle kids resorted to throwing objects, such as water bottles, cooldrink cans, plastic and papers at the Neka leadership, backed by serious threats to beat them up.
The struggle kids also returned their Neka membership cards and demanded back the N$25 each of them paid for membership. They then proceeded to tear up all documents from the files of the Neka leadership.
The scene was chaotic as some of the unruly ‘kids’ climbed onto tables and chairs to attack Neka’s leaders, who did very little to defend themselves.
Some ‘struggle kids’ used their Swapo scarfs to beat the Neka leaders, with one failed attempt to strangle Rauna Amutati, Neka’s secretary general, who shed tears during the attack.
Neka chairperson Benitha Nakaambo was struck with an object thrown at her head during the incident. The photo of founding president Dr Sam Nujoma, which was hanging on the wall together with that of incumbent president, Dr Hage Geingob, was also destroyed during the mayhem. Some chairs and a desk were also damaged.
Some angry protesters, who then left the Government Office Park auditorium also threatened to burn Nakaambo’s pub and to beat up the Neka leaders outside the auditorium. They stopped vehicles leaving the premises to see if any Neka leaders were hiding inside.
The Special Field Force was later called in to intervene.
The angry group their protest continued outside, with some provoking the police with remarks, such as: “You took our jobs”, while others hurled insults at the police.
They also chanted: “The police want to kill us for telling our truth,” and some yelled, “We just want our money back.” However, the tension subsided somewhat with the arrival of more police officers and the group was later convinced to leave and use better mechanisms to register their grievances.
“We were told to use a different approach. That is why we decided to go… We arrived here at 06h00, but the meeting started only at 10h00,” said Simeon Shikwambi, one of the leaders of the “struggle kids.”
He added there were 500 of them who attended the meeting. Neumbo further told New Era that the group attacked Neka’s leaders because they did not want to properly respond to their questions.
“They wanted to go out and we blocked them,” said Neumbo, who added that Neka does not care about them, as they hardly ever visit them to familiarise themselves with their plight.
The Neka leadership had to be escorted from the premises by the police after being kept safe for over three hours. Neka leaders present at the meeting included Penda Hangala and Sonja Heita.
A shaken Nakaambo told reporters that Neka would refund the ‘struggle kids’ money by today, or at the latest by Tuesday.
“We are going to part ways with them. It was disturbing. They threw everything at us. I’m not panicking now, but I know I will panic later,” said Nakaambo, who maintained that they answered the questions the struggle kids posed during the meeting.
Most of the protesters belong to the group camping outside Swapo headquarters in Windhoek, although there were also representatives from other regions.
Neka has 8 699 members, but there are at least 12 000 “children of the liberation struggle,” according to Neka.
See page 6 for more photos of Saturday’s clash as it unfolded.