While she could afford it, it was a group of unemployed Namibians who raised N$17 000 for the release of parliamentarian Inna Hengari. The Popular Democratic Movement’s (PDM’s) member was arrested last week over a protest to raise awareness on the plight of unemployed youth in the country. For the group who raised the bail money, she was “fighting on their behalf and is one of them”.
The gesture, Hengari said in an interview, reduced her to tears, while simultaneously fortifying her zeal to continue fighting for young people, irrespective of their tribe, religion or political affiliation.
The MP, alongside activists Dimbulukeni Nauyoma and Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters’ (NEFF) commissar Michael Amushelelo, were arrested on Independence Day last week in connection with a planned protest against youth unemployment. The protest never really took place.
Hengari, however, was only arrested at a police station when she went to enquire about the reasons for the duo’s arrest. She is currently out on N$5 000 bail, while Amushelelo and Nauyoma were remanded in custody. They will mount another bail application this week.
“Young, unemployed youth of Namibia paid for my bail,” the lawmaker confirmed. Hengari said she does not know what these youth had to go through to raise the funds, but she finds solace in that she can relate to their daily struggles.
“The thing that makes me emotional is that these young people, most of them are 21, 24 and 30 to 35 years old, availed N$17 000 to get me out. For me, when you don’t live luxuriously, you meet people who don’t live luxuriously and prioritise air-conditioned offices or S&T. For me, it’s a thing of availing yourself for your people, whether there is S&T or not,” she stated.
“Most people think I was suffering because I was in custody. But that is the bare minimum of what every young person goes through in the average Namibian society,” a teary Hengari said.
While she is gainfully employed as an MP, she looks after six siblings, her son and other family members. This reality, she said, is not unique to her as many other employed Namibians have to take care of extended families, mostly on miniscule salaries.
In custody, Hengari said she met a 21-year-old expecting mother of two.
Her encounter with the expecting mother will form part of the core objectives of her soon-to-be launched foundation.
“One of her kids [I can’t mention her name. I need to protect her], is a result of rape, while the other child was conceived while she was zoned out [drugged], so she doesn’t even know who the father is. But she is a fighter,” the MP remembered. Ironically, the PDM lawmaker also applauded government for the world-class correctional facilities. She spent three nights at the Klein Windhoek police station, where she said every holding cell has its own bathroom and shower. The arrest changed her approach to the struggle.
“It’s a different type of mental repositioning. It took a lot of time to get used to the environment. But the biggest thing for me has always been that we must build facilities that outlive us. So, even when I was there, I was like, I don’t want my children to go through this. I don’t want Saddam or Dimbulukeni’s kids to go through this. That’s the general agreement that, colleagues, if there must be an arrest, let it be on us, man. Let’s get arrested, it’s fine,” she emphasised.
She added: “The boys [Amushelelo and Nauyoma] were more concerned about me than themselves. I said no. We leave no soldier behind.”
On 21 March, Hengari remembers waking up at 03h25 to go for an urgent application regarding the protest after the police chief earlier refused to grant them permission to stage a peaceful demonstration on Independence Day.
Their application, however, fell flat after they could not convince the court about the irreparable harm they would suffer if the protest was held on a different day. The ruling was made public at around 08h00 on the day.
According to their version, they were informing protesters who had assembled at the Katutura youth complex of the court’s decision that the protest had been called off, and the group should disperse. That’s when the police’s Special Field Force was unleashed on them, leading to Amushelelo and Nauyoma’s arrests.
All three now face charges of public violence and malicious damage to property, while Amushelelo and Nauyoma face extra charges of violating a court order.
Lawyers representing the activists and MP say they have evidence depicting what transpired, contrary to what the State alleges.
Amushelelo and Nauyoma were previously released on bail on similar charges relating to a Chinatown incident, where one of the bail conditions was that they are not to be charged with public violence. That case was thrown out due to a lack of evidence.