Young Namibians are refusing to stand idle and watch while lawmakers push ahead with their plan to spend more than N$2.7 billion on building an opulent parliament building. Hundreds of Namibians converged yesterday and marched from Katutura Multi-Purpose Centre to Snyman Circle in Ausspannplatz (a distance of nearly 11 kilometres) to express their dismay at the planned investment. Some travelled from as far as Keetmanshoop and Outapi to join hands and demonstrate together as Namibian youth. School learners also joined the demonstration, despite an order by the education ministry compelling them to celebrate the day at their respective schools. John Nakuta, a human rights lecturer at the University of Namibia, said there is no justification why the government would spend so much money on a new parliament. “Namibia is faced with so many challenges, it can never be stressed enough that we do not have enough water and there is poor sanitation across the country with people living in informal settlements the hardest hit,” he said. Nakuta added that as leaders, lawmakers should consult the people who voted them into power.
“Namibia is a democracy .The Republic of Namibia was established as a sovereign and democratic and unitary state founded upon the principles of democracy, the rule of law and justice for all,” Nakuta said, as other demonstrators shouted in unison for youth empowerment and the elimination of corruption. Government cannot just decide unilaterally without consulting the citizens, he charged. “The youth are very clear when they say they do not want the proposed building. The point should be nothing “nothing for us without us.” During a press conference held last week, the Minister of Information and Communication Technology Tjekero Tweya said the parliament building will be built for future leaders and not for the current members of parliament. MPs feel the current building cannot accommodate the increased number of MPs following the 2014 constitutional amendments.
At the said media conference, Tweya opposed a proposal to move the National Assembly to Ramatex, saying: “If you were a leader, would you want to sit in Ramatex?” According to Nakuta, Tweya’s sentiments show that lawmakers place their personal wellbeing on top of the wellbeing of the masses. While one of the leaders of the group, Jennilee Kohima, read the petition to National Assembly Speaker, Professor Peter Katjavivi, those in attendance repeatedly shouted: “The government must answer!” Presidential advisor for community affairs, Jeff Mbako, was overheard telling one of the demonstrators that: “We do not want you to dictate to us what to do, we are the government and we know what to do.” Mbako’s sentiments are not strange to African politics, as many politicians on the continent tend to ignore the plight of the electorate once elected into power. Nakuta added that those opposing the planned project should take the matter to court if the legislature refuses to meet the demands of the public.
Vice President of Namibia National Students Organisation, Steven Kaveto, said despite Namibia providing free education, the quality thereof is debatable. “We did not fight for a free education so that the learners can be taught under trees,” he charged, adding that Government should abolish registration fees at all public tertiary institutions. Paulina Hirus, a Grade 10 pupil, was among those who addressed the crowd and called on fellow young people to be cognisant of their rights and to stand up for them. “We are suffering, we need to stand up for our rights,” she said. Another demonstrator, Ndeshi Namupala, a sociology lecturer at the University of Namibia also expressed disappointment in the government’s adamancy to continue pushing for the new parliament despite stern opposition from the public. “Government must invest the money on plans that will benefit the nation. As a taxpayer, I want my money to be used to improve the lives of young people,” she said, while other demonstrators chanted “tired of the empty promises and massages” in the background.