The youth protest against unemployment, which was supposed to take place yesterday in Windhoek, has resulted in the arrest of social justice activists Michael Amushelelo and Dimbulukeni Nauyoma as well as Parliamentarian Inna Hengari.
The group that organised the protest was denied permission to march by the High Court yesterday morning.
However, some angry youth persisted and gathered at the Katutura Youth Centre to commence their demonstration.
Khomas regional crime coordinator Chrispin Mubebo arrived at the venue and declared the protest illegal, and gave protesters five minutes to disperse.
However, some people continued protesting, leading to the arrests of the two activists.
Amushelelo and Nauyoma were among the first to be arrested, followed by Hengari, who had arrived at the Otjomuise police station to offer her support to Amushelelo and Nauyoma.
“The court told us we can’t have a protest, and since people were already geared to protest, we arrived at the gathering to inform them we couldn’t assemble today (yesterday), and that we should postpone it to Friday. However, as we were leaving, like we were informed by the police officers, they arrested us,” said Nauyoma speaking from behind bars.
The three were arrested for Contravening the Public Gathering Act 23 of 1989, malicious damage to properties, inciting public violence and violation of the court of order/contempt of court.
Their arrests have sparked outrage among activists and members of the public, who are demanding the immediate release of those detained.
Parliamentarian Hidipo Hamata, who also joined the group, expressed his sadness and support, stating, “these are just young people fighting for the rights of the masses. They don’t deserve to be arrested. They were informing the gathering to meet on Friday and not incite violence like their charges claim”.
“Unemployment in Namibia has become so rampant, and we cannot continue our everyday lives while the youth of this country are hungry and on the streets. We will return to the streets on Friday to continue the fight against this scourge,” he added.
Unemployment marches, however, did take place in other parts of the country.
“I am here today to demonstrate my constitutional rights. I have been unemployed for four years since I graduated. I have been seeking employment with no luck. The government should do something about this because we are tired of fake promises,” said protester Esther Munalye, who holds a master’s degree in Human Resource Management.
Sharing similar sentiments is Simon Simon, who has been unemployed for six years.
“Even with my degree, I am forced to do odd jobs to make ends meet. I have a family of 10 who depends on me. Life is tough for me, and that’s why I am here. Maybe they will hear us,” said Simon angrily.
Munalye and Simon’s plights reflect the lives of thousands of other young people on the streets without jobs.
The high unemployment rate in Namibia, particularly amongst the youth, has reached crisis proportions.
Fresh in memory is the recent incident when about 2 000 desperate Namibians thronged the premises of a local restaurant to compete for six casual positions.
According to a report by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Namibia’s unemployment rate stood at 33.6% in 2021, with the age group 20-24 making up 57.0%.
Just recently, the Popular Democratic Movement leader McHenry Venaani proposed the introduction of an Unemployment Benefit Grant (UBG) of N$1 500, which could serve as a safety net for many young unemployed people.
In response to the challenge of unemployment during his State of the Nation address last week, President Hage Geingob said the Namibia Correctional Services has commenced the process of recruiting 300 new guards, while the Namibian Police will recruit an additional 1 000 officers in 2023, which will significantly relieve the human resources’ constraints being experienced in the police force.
He added the Namibian Defence Force has recruited 1 470 intakes during 2022 and has made provisions to recruit an additional 1 500 new soldiers for 2023.
Geingob mentioned that more than 30% of the total population receives a government grant in one form or another, which translates to approximately 620 000 individuals, not considering the multiplier effect of beneficiaries per household.
“This naturally presents a long-term challenge, as it will not be sustainable for so many of our people to depend on government support for their livelihoods. For this reason, the fight against poverty must be responded to by using multifaceted strategies, including engendering job-creation through new, complementary engines of growth,” he said.