Both the Namibia Revenue Agency and the Namibian Police have been criticised for burning forfeited goods worth N$5 million, as this action is blamed for the Chinatown 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. Michael Amushelelo, the economic commissar of the Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters (NEFF), on the day of the announcement from NamRA took to Chinatown 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. He was one of eight arrested, including NEFF president Epafras Mukwiilongo, activist Dimbulukeni Nauyoma and Amushelelo’s wife.
The others were arrested during the protest at Chinatown on Friday morning.
Chaos erupted at Windhoek’s 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 of hundreds of youths gathered there by firing rubber bullets and teargas.
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.
According to Nampol deputy inspector general Joseph Shikongo, Amushelelo was arrested under the Riotous Assemblies Act and contraventions of Section 17.
The charges include incitement to public violence, four counts of assault through threatening, and six counts of trespassing when he on 12 May at about or between 15h00 and 16h32 entered Chinatown and forced shops to be closed, also instructing a group of people to take items from shops without paying.
NEFF second-in-command Iipumbu Kalimbo said after a meeting held on Friday at the national police headquarters, protestors arrested at Chinatown at an illegal demonstration were released on warnings.
Kalimbo stated that the meeting discussed the police action on arrests and the detention of protestors “who were picketing at Chinatown against subjecting Namibian people to exploitation and the burning of counterfeit goods, while foreign nationals, Chinese in particular, are allowed to sell the same counterfeit products with no action taken.
Those released on warning do not include Amushelelo and Nauyoma.
The Namibia Media Professionals Union (NAMPU) strongly condemned the use of force by law-enforcement officers against journalists reporting the police operation meant to stop a public protest at Chinatown in Windhoek.
NAMPU secretary general Sakeus Iikela said it is worth noting that the incident at Chinatown is not the first of its kind in which journalists are treated with brute force by law-enforcement officers.
“It is disturbing that when dispersing crowds, the police continue to group and treat journalists as ordinary protesters. In situations like the Chinatown incident, law- enforcement has the duty to ensure the safety of journalists covering protests, and to guarantee the right of the public to seek and receive information about such social mobilisations,” he emphasised.
Iikela added that the use of lethal or less lethal force against journalists is prohibited under international human rights law, and contrary to best policing standards.
“Such action also limits the ability of the press to cover protests, and further prevents the public from getting crucial information about such protests. We, therefore, condemn the use of force against journalists, and plead with inspector general Sebastiaan Ndeitunga to ensure the protection of journalists when covering protests. In addition, we call on Ndeitunga to institute an investigation into the shooting of Elifas Bonifatius, who sustained injuries while covering the Chinatown demonstration on Friday,” said NAMPU.
The union further demanded that a full report of such investigations be made public, and that the perpetrators be brought to book.
The SWAPO Party Youth League (SPYL) also denounced the actions and different treatments towards people involved in the importation of counterfeit products in Namibia. They thus called on NamRA to investigate the public’s concerns and ensure there is equal treatment in how the issue of counterfeit products is dealt with countrywide, and that NamRA also ensures an increase in public awareness on their mandate and the dos and don’ts around business activities of this nature.
Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) president McHenry Venaani also issued a recorded video on social media on Friday, condemning the actions of NamRA and saying they must be sensitive to the economic situation in the country.
However, NamRA said destroyed goods have been in their warehouse for seven years, with the latest being seized last year. They are thus not goods that have been confiscated recently.
They denied that goods are confiscated only from Namibians.
“While we will not divulge the nationalities of those from whom the goods were seized, we can affirm that the majority of the goods were not confiscated from Namibian citizens,” read their statement issued on Friday.