Young activists leading the #ShutItAllDown movement say their demands remain unchanged and that they still want President Hage Geingob to declare a state of emergency over sexual and gender-based violence, which is rife in the country.
The group had a closed-door meeting with President Hage Geingob, Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, Minister in the Presidency Christine //Hoebes and gender minister Doreen Sioka on Friday.
They said they will, from hereon, transparently engage government – and should this fail, they are planning on going back to the streets, using their voices to assert the right to safety.
In a series of tweets, Bertha Tobias said they did not have prior knowledge of the discretion of the meeting.
“It should have never happened and it won’t happen again. The purpose of the meeting was to formally engage the Presidency,” she tweeted.
She also informed that although they do not recognise the leadership of Sioka as gender minister, they will be engaging with the line ministry on their demands.
Tobias reiterated that the #ShutItAllDown is leaderless, urging those interested in these engagements not to feel left out and join.
She pointed out that the teargas, detentions and brutality were not in vain and that their convictions remain firm; they will continue to demand change.
President Geingob reassured the delegation their goals were achievable and that fighting against the scourge of gender-based violence was not only their struggle but also a collective struggle.
The head of state told youth leaders it was essential for them to express themselves in a democracy.
“It is a manifestation of hope that things will change and that there is light at the end of the tunnel,” the Presidency said in a statement.
He specified the petition was addressed to the Speaker of the National Assembly, which, as the Legislature, is a separate arm from the Executive.
“In light of the principle of separation of powers in the Namibian government, the Prime Minister, as Leader of Government Business in Parliament, was mandated to deal with the petition through that platform,” he said.
He said it was an opportune for him as Head of State and the Executive to meet with the petitioners following the processes they had followed with the Prime Minister.
“It would be wrong to assume that we are at war against each other; we have to address this issue together. Gender-based violence is something we have to address together as a nation,” the President said.
He stressed the need for solidarity in fighting the shared challenge of gender-based violence and urgency in building safer communities, informing that misunderstandings could occur when people do not talk to one another.
“Countries go to war when diplomacy fails and when you don’t communicate. Dialogue and unity are key,” he cautioned and hinted.
In addition to continuous engagement during the implementation of the response measures in the petition by youth leaders, the meeting agreed to the establishment of a technical committee comprising youth leaders against sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), as well as other stakeholders, including government.