By Risco Lumamezi
FIVE (5) United Democratic Party (UDP) supporters , made their first brief appearance in Katima Mulilo District Court on Thursday facing a charge of holding an illegal public meeting.
They were arrested by the Namibian Police on Tuesday April 25, 2023 for conducting an illegal meeting at Kalyangile, 60 kilometres west of Zambezi region in Sibbinda Constituency.
The accused suspects are Mr.Benjamin Kubona , Mr. Harris Mushe , Mr. Lister Mubonda, Mr. Ben Kumpoma and Mr. Dereck Ziambo. They are facing a charge of violating the Public Gatherings Proclamation, AG 23 of 1989.
Katima Mulilo Magistrate , Davy Kambinda granted them a bail of N$10 000 to each, while Ms. Cynthia Matiti , Public Prosecutor gave bail conditions to the suspects to hand in their travel documents to the investigating officer and not to conduct similar activities.
Their case was remanded to July 18, for plea and trial.
Section 2 of the Public Gatherings Proclamation,1989 restricts individuals from holding , presiding, officiating at, or addressing a public gathering unless they have given notice in writing to the commander of the police station nearest to the place where the gathering is to be held at least 3 days before the gathering.
An eye witness at Kalyangile who opted to remain anonymous told Caprivi Vision that the meeting was held by 9 people at Kalyangile.
Among the people arrested , three (3) are Dukwi refugee returnees who were repatriated in 2019.
“One of the members khuta induna called the police later , and they were picked one by one at around 7pm on Tuesday after the meeting ”
He alleged that the main agenda during their meeting was on the matter of the call for a referendum which was submitted to the speaker of the National Assembly by CCG.
However, Mr. Edwin Samati , Secretary General of the Caprivi Concerned Group (CCG) said that the arrest of the UDP members at Kalyangile was unlawful against the Public Gatherings Proclamation, 1989.
According to him , the arrest of the five UDP members was done unlawfully and He therefore calls for the intervention of the Prosecutor General to release them as they are arrested without valid reasons.
“As for now we are also trying to engage the lawyer to assist us especially on technical issues, and we have also placed a notice to the police through the office of the station commander about the intended demonstration if they are not released before Wednesday will demonstrate on Wednesday next week at 2 o’clock , and if not but we have other strategic system that we are going to activate to make sure that our people’s rights are not violated.”
Mr. Samati clarified that UDP accused suspects were arrested on a claim that they conducted an illegal public meeting at Kalyangile, whereas there was no public meeting that was conducted on that day.
“That is not even a charge, they were only five people but according to the statement that we got from the police, they recorded that they were eleven but the meeting of this 11 people took place in somebody’s court yard, a private place so it wasn’t a public meeting but a private meeting.
Even if it was a public meeting it doesn’t qualify in the sense that a public gathering according to proclamation, it says a public gathering is a meeting of more than 20 people, for 11 people don’t constitute a public gathering in terms of the very law they are charged against, that’s why we say the reason they are charged of are not valid but political persecution”. Explained CCG Secretary General
Asked on what was the agenda of the meeting He said, “We are not aware of the agenda but what we are aware of is that the people who convened are members of the United Democratic Party (UDP) and are the members of the branch in that area, so they have that privacy to discuss whatever issue they want to discuss and they cannot be charged under the public gatherings proclamation because it wasn’t a public gathering”
He however, urged the relevant authority to release the suspects because the charge they are facing is something rotten as they are no valid reasons on why they are arrested.
A historian and academician , Prof. Makala Lilemba cleared that UDP as a banned political party in Namibia remained banned , if the party is banned with some reasons it is illegal to hold meetings, “I think what they should have done is to get the police permit to do that. And then if the party is banned even if they could go there with police permit they couldn’t have allowed them, in Namibia there is a constitutional democracy there is a rule of law, it is important to follow the law…even if we are not in agreement , not everybody is in agreement with all these laws but even if you are in disagreement a law is simple a law you have to abide by that”.
He pointed out that he did not know what evidence the police had on their fingertips , saying picking them one by one there was nothing wrong on that if they did that according to the law with evidence.
“ The bone of contention here , UDP as it is now is a banned political party whether people are in agreement or not in agreement whether we have laws and rules in this country we are still using colonial laws some of the laws goes back to 1950s but they are still in operation, we are still using them they are still laws are not repealed.”
He said Article 17 of the Namibian Constitution states that any person has a right to join any political party as long as the political party is legal.
Prof. Lilemba further stressed that the concerned members of the UDP should take government to court on why the party was banned “ people should find ways and means through the courts; they should approach the courts if they want the party to be unbanned they should take the government to court to find out why the party was banned.”
The United Democratic Party was founded by Mr. Albert Mishake Muyongo in 1985. It is a political party in Namibia, and it represented people of the Caprivi when it affiliated in the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA) before and post-independence of Namibia.
September 1, 2006 the government of the Republic of Namibia banned UDP as a political party to hold meetings due to its advocacy for the call of secession of the Caprivi Strip.