Protests should not be criminalized - Amoomo

Protests should not be criminalized - Amoomo



 Zorena Jantze DEFENCE attorney Kadhila Amoomo has said it seems Namibia is still living in the dark ages, stating that there are still some instances where protests in the country are criminalized.

Amoomo aired these sentiments during the bail proceedings of Michael Amushelelo and his co-accused Dimbulukeni Nauyoma who are currently in jail after they went to China Town to protest and attempted to close some China shops, claiming that they sell counterfeit goods without prosecution by law. “It appears that we are still in the dark ages, this is not a political submission, this is a submission supported by the courts. 

Under Apartheid, the state took numerous legislative steps to ban public gatherings. The lights are not yet on it seems, as we still find some instances where protests are turned into criminal proceedings,” Amoomo said during his closing arguments. 

He noted that only three groups in the country are not allowed to protest which consist of Correctional Service officers, members of the Namibian Defence Force as well as Police officers, and that other than these groups protesting is a constitutional right. “If we criminalize protesting, people will think twice about going to protest and say, I would not like to end up like Nauyoma,” Amoomo shared. 

He further argued that it can not be argued that there are procedures for protesting. To this, presiding magistrate Masule Kwizi questioned the legal practitioner on the process of seeking approval from the Namibian police before holding a mass demonstration which is in accordance with the law. 

To this Amoomo stated that if the accused are in contravention of the Riotous Assemblies Act, it was not added to the charges, as they were only charged for public violence, and incitement to commit an offence, as well as an additional charge of assault through threat for Amushelelo. Amoomo further questioned the competence of the main state witness in the matter, Warrant Officer Lisias Nakanyala, who is the investigating officer. Kadhila argued that the witness was not helpful to the court as he could not identify the arresting officers for Nauyoma or Amushelelo. 

He further argued that the state prosecutor in the matter made a risky decision in choosing an investigating officer who was not present during the unrest in China Town on Friday 13 May, as he merely only provided hearsay evidence. 

Amoomo shared that the officer did not offer any video evidence or submit any witness statements to prove that the state has a prima facie case, adding that Nakanyala merely expressed his personal opinions on the case. 

He further noted that the two applicants are in a prominent political space and are activists, and added that he would not be surprised that the opposition to bail comes from higher authorities, as the other accused activists in the matter were all released on warning. The state prosecutor will submit his closing arguments in the matter tomorrow.



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