Police at Walvis Bay have demolished several shacks built over the weekend by landless residents on land they illegally occupied behind Tutaleni since last Friday, resulting in running street battles between crowds of landless people and the police sent to restore law and order.
About 350 landless residents who settled illegally on land bought by ship repair company Elgin Brown Hamer for their employees, clashed with police over the weekend, with residents retaliating by stoning the police and by building more shacks.
Members of the riot control squad were called in to defuse the volatile situation after the group of landless residents surrounded Tutaleni police station, while holding a police officer hostage. They demanded the release of a landless resident arrested just prior to the clash while erecting a shack, who had been taken to the police station.
Even the mayor of Walvis Bay, Wilfred Immanuel, tried to talk sense into the residents, but had to duck for cover as the residents became agitated on Sunday afternoon. However the situation is slowly calming down, with no further violent outbreaks reported by yesterday afternoon. Waste material of the demolished shacks was by yesterday still lying scattered on the ground and several wooden pegs were still pegged to the ground.
About 50 police officers led by Commissioner Andreas Nelumbu, the police commander for the Erongo Region, were also on the scene to monitor the situation. Yesterday he described the situation as “under control”. Nelumbu warned the landless people not to resort to violence and illegal activity and rather to find an amibale way to resolve the dispute.
A group of landless residents could also be observed about 150 metres from the area with police cars parked between them and the land they had earlier occupied illegally. One landless resident, 38-year-old Sagaria Munehalapeke, yesterday said they feel like foreigners in their own country, as they have nowhere to go. “It is sad that the situation has come to this. We’re not violent people. We just want a place to stay. Is it so hard to understand that.”
He added government and the town council must really do something about their plight. “We were born and raised in Walvis Bay and live like outsiders who just fell from the sky. We want a place to call home as well,” he said.
Eto’o Katjimbari, who also lived illegally on the land owned by EBH told New Era it is indeed sad no politician came to their aid. “But it is us who stood in long queues and voted for our leaders. Today they cannot even come to our rescue. It is indeed a pity. The government has failed us,” he opined.
Meanwhile, four of the five landless residents arrested on Saturday appeared in the Walvis Bay Magistrate’s Court yesterday. They are 28-year-old Willem Shooya, Immanuel Huseb, 41, Mulike Mulike, 38, and Immanuel Kumbili, also 41 years of age. They made their first appearance in front of Magistrate John Sindano for malicious damage to property and were released on a warning. The accused were also informed about their legal rights and told they can apply for legal aid if they wish to. Their case has been postponed to June 2 for further police investigations.
The fifth suspect is currently being treated at Katutura State Hospital in Windhoek.
Tutaleni police station remains closed. On Monday all complaints were referred to the Kuisebmond Police station. The police yesterday said the extent of the damage by the protesters has yet to be established.
When contacted for comment regarding the situation the chief executive officer of Walvis Bay Municipality, Muronga Haingura yesterday said he was locked in a consultative meeting with Erongo Regional Governor Cleophas Mutjavikua and could not comment at this stage.
In response to the weekend’s developments Affirmative Repositioning (AR) land activist Dimbulukeni Nauyoma yesterday lamented what he claimed was the decision by “local politicians in Walvis Bay who chose to evict them like animals”. Dimbulukeni, one of the top leaders of the AR movement, said: “Our information is that as if the illegal evictions were not enough, the police came to destroy the dwellings of the landless citizens and started assaulting the peaceful landless masses and arresting some of the residents.
“Following the assault, citizens were left with no choice but to defend themselves. This led to the capture of one of the police officers, who is said to have surrendered his weapon. The citizen peacefully released the police officer unharmed. We have long expressed our dismay and communicated to the politicians that our people are not stupid and cannot be waiting forever.
“We have repeatedly told politicians that the programme of making land for housing available is moving very slowly. What is clear is that politicians were only interested in preventing the land occupation of 31 July 2015 and not really providing land to the masses of our people,” he further stated.