CIVICUS

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Namibia

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Last updated on 04.11.2019 at 11:53

Namibia-Overview

Namibia can be characterised as a democratic one-party state. While elections are free and fair, it has been ruled by the same party – SWAPO – since independence, organised political opposition is minimal and there is close overlap between ruling party and state.

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 Namibians take to the streets in separate protests

Namibians take to the streets in separate protests

Namibians hold separate protests on various socio-economic issues including employment, police brutality, land and housing, mining and environmental protection

Peaceful Assembly

On 8th February 2019 it was reported that residents of Karasburg marched in the streets to protest against police brutality. The protest followed complaints by two residents that they had been assaulted by police officers who also pepper sprayed them for no reason. The residents demanded that officers involved in the assaults be arrested and be held accountable, and the assault allegations be investigated. They also demanded that their concerns be heard by the police without assault or racial profiling.

A petition which they intended to submit to the police commander, who was out of town on that day, read in part:

"We demand that all police officers committing these crimes [should] be held accountable for their actions and prosecuted."

On 18th March 2019, members and supporters of the Affirmative Repositioning Movement (AR), a movement aimed at improving the socio-economic conditions of urban youths in Namibia, held a protest in the capital, Windhoek, over land and housing issues. The protesters marched from the Katutura Magistrate's Court to the City of Windhoek Headquarters amid a police presence in the streets.

On 16th June 2019, it was reported that hundreds of protesters marched through the streets in Windhoek to protest against the construction of a new parliament building. Many schools in Windhoek were nearly empty as school children and teachers also joined the march, which started at Katutura Multipurpose Centre, defying orders from the Ministry of Education that they be at school. The new parliament, whose construction cost is budgeted at N$2,2 billion (146 Million USD), will include 400 offices, a chamber to accommodate 300 lawmakers and a gym that is part of a “wellness centre”.

Before the march began however, there was a disagreement between the police and Affirmative Repositioning, after police Inspector General Sebastian Ndeitunga announced that there would be a ban on demonstrations between 13th and 18th June because of international events happening in the country at that time. However, the parties reached an agreement to have the march proceed on condition that the protesters would march to Snyman Circle and not to Parliament. Speaker of the National Assembly, Peter Katjavivi met the protesters at Snyman Circle to receive their petition.

On 24th September 2019, employees of the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation held a demonstration to protest against plans by the company to lay off 156 employees as a cost reduction strategy. The employees demanded the reversal of all austerity measures by management in a petition they handed to the acting director general Vezenga Kauraisa. In addition to the layoffs, management had also announced other cost cutting measures including reducing television broadcasting from 24 hours a day to 14 hours (07h00-21h00) and cancelling all indigenous news bulletins.

In September 2019, it was reported that protests broke out in Windhoek and Walvis Bay as fishing industry workers and organisations opposed licensing miners to prospect for minerals on the country’s coastal seabed. The protests were held in the wake of increasing pressure from phosphate prospecting company Namibia Marine Phosphate Ltd (NMP) for the reinstatement of its environmental clearance permit for the Sandpiper Project, which allows it preliminary access to parts of Namibia’s offshore seabed. However, fishing organisations in the country opposed the reinstatement of the company’s licence that would pave the way for marine phosphate mining, which they fear will “compromise economic, environmental and social endeavours.” The Confederation of Namibian Fishing Associations, the Namibian Hake Association and the Midwater Trawling Association of Namibia – with support from the National Union of Namibian Workers and the Trade Union Congress of Namibia – petitioned Environment Minister Pohamba Shifeta to reject the issue of the environmental clearance certificate.

Association

Chapter 3 of the Constitution upholds the right of association. This right is largely realised, including for trade unions, although the government is sensitive about the expression of political and human rights dissent by civil society and has threatened and harassed CSOs on occasion.

Chapter 3 of the Constitution upholds the right of association. This right is largely realised, including for trade unions, although the government is sensitive about the expression of political and human rights dissent by civil society and has threatened and harassed CSOs on occasion. In 2016, the Vice Chairperson of the Caprivi Concerned Group reportedly received threats and sought asylum in Botswana; there is a history of intimidation towards Caprivi separatists. Trade unions remain close to the ruling party but have developed more critical distance recently.Civil society has expressed concern about the 2012 Combating and Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act, which contains broad and vague provisions that could be used to restrict human rights. Further, the Research, Science and Technology Act, which came into force in 2011, requires a permit for any research, and as this is defined in very broad terms, could potentially constrain advocacy-oriented research. A Civic Organisations Partnership Policy, produced by the government in 2005, was largely rejected by CSOs on the basis that they did not have input in its development.

Peaceful Assembly

Chapter 3 of the Constitution also recognises the freedom of assembly. This is generally upheld, although workers in parts of the public sector deemed essential have no right to take strike action.

Chapter 3 of the Constitution also recognises the freedom of assembly. This is generally upheld, although workers in parts of the public sector deemed essential have no right to take strike action. A spontaneous demonstration in 2014 against the mayor of Windhoek’s attempt to sell state land at far below its market rate to members of his circle attracted 14,000 people and forced the government to act.

Expression

The freedom of expression is recognised in Chapter 3 of the Constitution. Namibia ranks higher on media freedom indices than most African states, and a media ombudsman office has been in existence since 2009 and acts independently of the government.

The freedom of expression is recognised in Chapter 3 of the Constitution. Namibia ranks higher on media freedom indices than most African states, and a media ombudsman office has been in existence since 2009 and acts independently of the government. The state broadcaster depends financially on the government and tend to express government viewpoints, although there are also some programmes where people are given a chance to share other opinions, and the government-funded newspaper New Era also covers critical material.The government occasionally reacts angrily to criticism and makes threats; this may lead to self-censorship. A number of privately-owned newspapers are critical of the government. There are no restrictions on internet access and growing use of social media to express dissent, although limited internet infrastructure remains a challenge.A decade-long ban on government advertising in The Namibian, the leading English language daily newspaper, was lifted in 2011.Defamation remains a criminal offence.There is no access to information law, although civil society has campaigned for this and the government has committed to introducing one. In general, there is a tendency towards secrecy. Under the 2009 Communications Act, state intelligence services can monitor internet usage without requiring judicial approval, while some apartheid-era secrecy laws remain on the books.