City cold-shoulders new civil rights movement

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Windhoek

An emerging community movement failed yesterday to draw the attention of the mayor of the City of Windhoek, Muesee Kazapua, when the group attempted to deliver a petition to the offices of the City Council.

The group, named ‘Restoring the Dignity of our People’, were disappointed when Kazapua did not show up to receive their petition, despite the group having written letters of their intention to deliver the petition to him personally.
In brief, their petition aims to draw to the attention of the municipality the extreme levels of poverty and the deplorable conditions of people living in the informal settlements of Windhoek.

“We demand proper housing with humane ablution facilities, the return of public institutions, such as libraries, playgrounds and sanitation sites,” the group, led by Olsen Kahiriri, Engelhardt Ngatjikare, Monica Nambelela and Robert Hindjou, wrote.

They called on the City to provide safe, clean and affordable drinking water for all, saying it is a fundamental right and “a prerequisite for the realisation of other human rights”.

They complained that local authorities are cutting off the water supply of poor people over water debts, while “the elite owe hundreds and thousands of dollars, yet their taps are never closed…”

“They were arrogant, those people,” charged Kahiriri, one of the leaders, moments after the aborted handover of the petition. “I had to throw the petition into their office, because they are refusing to take it,” he said.

The City of Windhoek says proper procedures were not followed. Although they admitted receiving letters from Kahiriri’s supporters, expressing their desire to deliver the petition, the police did not accompany the group yesterday when they arrived at the municipal offices.

When New Era contacted the mayor for comment, he was said to be in a meeting. A source within the municipality, who did not want to speak on behalf of the City of Windhoek, said: “We need proper procedures to be followed.” “We were not arrogant. They needed to get permission from the police, but there was nothing like that. We got the letter, but there must be somebody ahead of them… The letter did not state whether it was a peaceful demonstration or not and we need to be protected,” explained the official, noting that although there was no demonstration as such yesterday, the hand-over of a petition is similar to a demonstration or strike action.

Meanwhile, Kahiriri warned that if they do not get a response to the petition within 30 days, the group would be forced to get residents in the informal settlements to come and demonstrate with buckets of human waste and “throw that s**t in their faces”.

Kahiriri, who had no kind words for municipal officials, further charged that “thugs” are holding public office. “Those are public offices and they must respond – even to the cry of one person,” Kahiriri said.

The petition – which was signed by some 35 people – demands that the injustices many city dwellers face, particularly in informal settlements, be urgently addressed and gave local government officials three months “to address the injustices faced by our people”.

“We are tired of corruption. We are tired of poverty. We are tired of sh***ing in plastic bags. We are tired that our mothers and sisters are not safe in riverbeds where they go and answer the call of nature,” reads the group’s petition in part.

“If you think we are joking, stop using municipal busses for advancing political agendas and visit these informal settlements, then you will be stunned,” they wrote.

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