The so-called struggle kids and members of the riot police engaged in tense running battles yesterday after the police were summoned to Brakwater, where the group had yesterday morning blocked off the B1 road between Windhoek and Okahandja.
The trouble started at around 07h00 yesterday and massively disrupted the flow of traffic. The group placed stones, road-signs and wooden poles on the road and also erected a tent in the street.
Despite glaring evidence of their unruly activities, the group later denied blocking the road, saying instead that they were marching to Windhoek to see secretary to Cabinet George Simataa following a meeting they had on Friday about relocating them to Berg Aukas or Farm Du Plessis in the Omaheke Region.
Plans are to relocate the group to Omaheke, where they will undergo training in various courses – an offer they apparently refuse to accept.
During the confrontation yesterday, as the group walked back to their camp later in the morning, they set fire to the dry grass and tyres. Several unidentified explosions were also heard. The police are said to be investigating the cause of the explosions.
Law enforcement officers fired four canisters of ‘white smoke’, while applying minimum force to disperse the about 300 protesters, who earlier refused to move off the road. The group retaliated by throwing stones, bottles at police officers and their vehicles – leaving two police cars slightly damaged.
Nampol spokesperson Inspector Slogan Matheus said the police requested the protesters to remove the obstructions from the road and to return to their camp, but they refused and instead started hurling insults and throwing stones and bottles at the police.
He said no injuries were recorded on the police officers’ side and criminal cases were filed by both the police and the struggle kids.
“As they were pushed backwards to their camp, one of them refused to move and physically confronted the police officers. As the police tried to forcefully remove him from the road, other ‘children’ threw stones and bottles, thereby hitting their colleague, who later complained about injuries to the head and was taken to Katutura State Hospital by the police.”
Matheus further said, based on the instructions they received from the owners of the plot, Swapo Party, the struggle kids were given an order to vacate the premises. He said some had already relocated, while those who are still camping there have blatantly refused to relocate.
Asked for comment, Swapo Party secretary Nangolo Mbumba said he was not in Windhoek and would not get involved in security matters.
Group leader Jerry Hamukwaya said they were on their way to see Simataa to air their grievance about relocating to Berg Aukas following Friday’s meeting. Hamukwaya said they were told to go to school, but do not want to, as some already have qualifications higher than what they will get at Berg Aukas.
Simataa explained at a media briefing that on Friday he received an invite from the struggle kids in Windhoek and showed up, although the letter threatened that should he not show up they would march to his office.
“My going to Brakwater was two-fold: to meet them as a whole group and inform them about the Cabinet decision, as well as to enlighten them about the current developments regarding the relocation of the CLS (Children of the Liberation Struggle) to Berg Aukas”.
Simaata said following a Cabinet meeting on July 5, it was resolved, amongst others, that the struggle kids camping around the country should undergo training at Berg Aukas in Otjozondjupa Region and on Farm Du Plessis in the Omaheke Region.
The group will be trained in various technical roles to equip them with technical knowledge and skills, so that they can become employable, as well as possibly employ themselves in various useful trades, such as plumbing, agriculture, auto-mechanics and electrical installation.
He said during the training, the trainees receive meals, free accommodation and a monthly allowance. Upon completion of their training there will be employment opportunities in the government and state-owned enterprises.
Simataa said after addressing the group, most of them rejected government’s decision to relocate them to Berg Aukas and insisted instead that government provide them with jobs.
He added that while the meeting was in progress a crew of One Africa Television appeared at the meeting and started filming. The police then intervened as the television crew did not have permission to film the meeting. Simataa said chaos nearly erupted and calm only returned when the crew was allowed to film the meeting.
“One of the speakers expressed tribal sentiments that I do not know their language, background and their situation, while another said I have allowed myself to be used by those who know the problem. Some shouted in the background, saying: “These Muyongo people”.
Simataa said the list of so-called ‘struggle kids’ in their possession was compiled in 2008 and has 10 000 people on it, but some have since acquired a new status and have moved up. The new list they obtained recently has 1 000 names, but does not indicate whether they previously received any training.
“I told them on Friday at Ndilimani camp that when we register them now we will capture [the data] and find out who has training. If you have appropriate training then there is no need for training, we can place you. “However, I want you to understand that most of the training people have gone through is not accredited by the Namibia Qualifications Authority. There are many people who run courses and are not registered and accredited,” Simataa noted.
He added that about 84 CLS from Ndilimani camp had already been relocated to Berg Aukas. He further said mothers with children would be well accommodated and that there is a crèche, where the childen will be taken care of while the mothers are in training.
He said the government has also provided extra beds for mothers with children.