Leaders of the Affirmative Repositioning (AR) group yesterday gave government an ultimatum of one month to respond to their petition, which demands that plans to construct a parliament building – at the cost of an estimated N$2.2 billion -should be halted.
A large number of young people participated in a mass protest against the construction of the new parliament building yesterday.
Speaker of the National Assembly Professor Peter Katjavivi eventually received the petition on behalf of parliament.
Katjavivi, whose facial expressions and hand gestures suggested he was not greatly interested in what the protesters had to say kept reminding the petition reader to hand him the petition, as he was pressed for time.
Katjavivi said he had an appointment to receive the visiting Indian President Shri Pranab Mukherjee. Prior to the Speaker’s arrival, a clerk in the National Assembly was assigned to receive the petition, which AR leaders refused.
The statement read by Jennilee Kohima said the AR movement has noted areas of high priority that need to be urgently addressed, before the country can entertain discussions to provide comfort to elected office bearers who were elected on a mandate of “the people first, our wants later”.
The servicing of urban land and housing delivery, improved education and health care for all, drought and the water shortages are the country’s priority areas, Kohima stated.
“We await a written response from your good office within a month from the date of handing in of this petition. Honourable Speaker, the response or lack thereof in the period stipulated above will accordingly inform our further or future actions,” Kohima said.
After reading and skipping some pages of the petition, because of Katjavivi’s persistence that he had to meet the visiting Indian president, Kohima concluded that the petition should be treated with the seriousness and urgency that it deserves.
Katjavivi received the petition under heavy police guard and was booed as he was escorted from the scene of the protest.
AR leader Job Amupanda said they are happy with the turnout of the youth from the various regions, as they feared there would be no other regions represented.
“We had a checklist. We have 100 percent from all 14 regions and 121 constituencies and it was exciting to see the young people walking all those kilometers from Katutura to here. It was a serious exercise. I don’t think I will wake up tomorrow,” Amupanda joked.
Kathleen Anne Bethune of the Legal Assistance Centre said money should not be spent on the new building, while there are many pressing concerns that need attention, such as health, housing, water and electricity.
“Those should be priorities of the government, instead of the new parliament and luxuries for themselves,” Bethune opined.
A former polytechnic graduate who joined the march, 30-year-old Mpho Slinger, said as a graduate she cannot even afford her own house.
“The situation is so bad that I am still renting. We were promised that if you want to be equal study and get a better life. Yet the more we try to improve ourselves the more government tries to keep us poor. So that’s why I am here to make sure that the government gets its priorities right,” Slinger said.