In as much as the nation is cognisant of the Constitution of the Republic of Namibia, Article 21, Fundamental Freedoms, Sub-article (1) (a), (d) and (e), we should also be mindful of the same Article, sub-article 2. This sub-article states that such fundamental freedoms referred to shall be exercised subject to the law of Namibia, and in so far as, such law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the rights and freedoms conferred by the said sub-article. Peaceful public gatherings are recognised in democracies worldwide as being important and acceptable form of public expression. However, such exercise shall be conducted within the reasonable restriction of the law.
The reasonable restrictions are necessary and required in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of the country, national security, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.
Experience has shown that, an initial peaceful gathering can erupt in violence. The Namibian Police Force as per the mandate upholds its legal duty to protect life, and property of any person if is threated, and that shall include;
Uphold law and order
Protect public property and lives
Erect barricades and regulate traffic, and,
Inform organisers about applicable legislation
Public Gatherings Proclamation, AG 23 of 1989 further gives the police powers to place conditions on public gathering if there are specific reasons to do so. The grounds for imposing conditions are limited to serious threats of harm or serious endangerment of the public order and peace or; a danger that someone will be seriously injured, killed, or; a danger that vulnerable property will be destroyed or; a possibility that the gathering will encourage feelings of hostility between different sections of the population or interfere with the exercise of someone’s valid legal rights.
Notably, hate speech, threats and intimidations have been observed at several initial peaceful public gatherings in the country. Such exercises are unconstitutional and uncalled for.
For planned future gatherings the police inform the public to:
Seek permission from the police regional commanders
Conduct peaceful gatherings
Inform organisers of public gatherings to sensitise their members not to infringe on other people’s right during such events
Inform that all person shall respect the laws of the Republic of Namibia which include the respect of rights and dignity of individuals, and,
No person shall at any gathering have any weapon with him or her, and such weapon shall include; axe, spear, metal, chain, knife, including firearms and other weapons.
However, during this challenging time of the global outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, large gatherings have been suspended following the Declaration of a State of Emergency in Namibia by H. E. President Hage G. Geingob on 17 March 2020. Thus, until further notice, the Namibian Police Force will not entertain any request for assistance relating to gatherings.