Two of the activists who were at the forefront of a protest against Chinese businesses being allowed to sell counterfeit goods spent another night in custody. Their case has reverberated across the borders and brought politicians from different parties together in their condemnation of the arrests.
The Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters’ (NEFF) economic commissar, Michael Amushelelo and the Affirmative Repositioning movement’s activist Dimbulukeni Nauyoma spent the weekend in custody, after the State strongly objected to the granting of bail during their first appearance at Katutura Magistrate’s Court, citing the seriousness of the charges, investigations being at a primary stage and the fear of interference with the investigation.
The duo made their first court appearance yesterday together with other six accused; the president of NEFF Epafras Mukwiilongo, Lawrance Mwatile, Emily Mununga, Anaacky Amupanda, Risto Ithikwa and Julieta Amushelelo. Amushelelo and Nauyoma were denied bail and the matter has been remanded to 5 July but they then appeared for a formal bail application scheduled for today.
Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema, of South Africa condemned the arrest of NEFF members who are charged with inciting disorder at China Town last week. Malema held a press conference today and cited the Namibian issue towards the end of his address. NEFF is an offshoot of EFF.
Leader of the official opposition, the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) McHenry Venaani and AR’s Job Amupanda were also present at the court to give support to those who were due to appear after they got arrested on Friday during the China Town protest. Venaani said the Namibia Revenue Agency (NamRA) burning goods that Namibians imported is not helping Namibians who are struggling and called for the issue to be resolved amicably.
“The prime minister must call a meeting. We will not ventilate this issue in courts. This problem can be solved through meaningful dialogue between political parties, NamRA and the police. “Why should the police act in such a heavyhanded way if they know the people are suffering?” he asked.
Amupanda said because of Covid-19, people are retrenched, jobless and have lost businesses. “Those young people selling goods do not have any other means.” He warned that the socio-economic situation in Namibia is going from bad to worse.
Prosecutor Victoria Likius said the investigations are at an early stage as 25 witness statements are outstanding. The statement includes the 10 police officers and 15 witnesses.
Likius argued that Amushelelo is facing serious charges of assault by threat, incitement to commit violence and public violence, while Nauyoma faces incitement to commit violence and public violence charges. Amushelelo pleaded not guilty to all the charges. He was represented by Nambili Mhata while the other seven accused are represented by Kadhila Amoomo and Henry Shimutwikeni.
The other six were released on warning but are all charged with incitement to commit violence and public violence. The eight suspects were arrested in Windhoek on Friday amid police and NamRA raids of counterfeit goods. Both the NamRA and the Namibian Police have been criticised for burning forfeited goods worth N$5 million, as this action is blamed for the China Town protest on Friday where several people were arrested and others injured after the police sprayed teargas and fired rubber bullets.
NamRA last week destroyed the counterfeit goods, including clothes, shoes, perfumes and bags. The destroyed goods were classified as counterfeit goods, meaning they were manufactured or sold under another brand name without the brand owner’s authorisation. Amushelelo, on the day of the announcement from NamRA, took to China Town to shut down the businesses while claiming they too sell goods that are similar to the ones belonging to “black people” and regarded as counterfeit.
Amushelelo was later ordered to hand himself over to the police by the inspector general of the police, Sebastian Ndeitunga. He complied with that order on Friday morning.
Chaos then erupted at China Town as a group of youths flocked there, threatening to shut the businesses and burn them down. The police then intervened to disperse the group.
In the process, some people were caught running during the crossfire, including a pregnant woman, a petrol attendant and three journalists who were all on duty covering the situation. When New Era arrived at Katutura Magistrate’s Court yesterday morning, the crowd that gathered outside ahead of the first appearance of the group was singing to give moral support to suspects.