LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR CCG PUBLIC MEETINGS
There is a debate on whether or not Caprivi Concerned Group (CCG) is mandated to hold public meetings and to publicly advocate for boycotting Namibian elections in Caprivi Strip. Some have gone deeper to question the benefit of boycotting elections.
First of all I should inform you that CCG shall continue with its series of public meetings to share its conscious opinion on the upcoming Namibian general elections. As a peaceful pressure group, CCG resolved to use peaceful public gatherings and SMSesas a form of public expression on topical issues which concerns the entire Caprivipolitical society.
The supreme law of Namibia guarantees in Article 21 that all persons have the right to “freedom of speech and expression” and freedom to “assemble peaceably and without arms”. The same law, in Article 17(i) guarantees the right to participate in peaceful political activity intended to influence the policies of Government. Although fundamental freedoms may be subjected to reasonable restrictions, according to Article 21 such restrictions or limitations can only be imposed by law i.e. an act of parliament or court order.
No one have the power to limitthe fundamental human rights and freedoms of anyone as printed in the constitution. It is even worse, strange and unacceptable, for those who swore to uphold and protect the supreme law of Namibia to contravene it. It is advisable that if a Councilor or Governor, for example, has a reasonable concern against public gatherings held by CCG or any individual, he should rather lead his concern through proper channels to appropriate authorities instead of running to traditional authorities or the public because neither the traditional authority nor any member of the public have the right or duty to restrict us from the right to freedom of speech and expression, and freedom to peacefully assemble.
The Public Gatherings proclamation (AG 23 of 1989) requires advance notice to the police of the public gatherings involving more than 20 people, and the proclamation is very silent on whether permission to hold such meetings should be requested somewhere. This even means CCG can address less than 20 people without notifying the police and it also means we do not require permission from anywhere to hold a public meeting. However, the police are empowered to place reasonable conditions for specific reasons limited to serious threats of (physical) harm or violence. Our group is a nonviolent organization and police conditions are unlikely.
The Traditional Authorities Act (Act 25 of 2000) states that any practiceby traditional authorities “which is discriminatory or violates the rights of any person as guaranteed by the Namibian constitution or other statutory law” shall cease to apply. Generally, traditional leaders are not above the law and this means they cannot limit provisions of the Namibian constitution or the public gatherings declaration.
In his letter dated 11 September 2014, NampolChief, SabastianNdeitungaclaimed that his letter of 30 May 2014 have been used “to compel traditional authorities” to hold meetings with them! He also claims that CCG (through his letter) is using his “office” to coordinate the group’s activities! Therefore, the 30 May letter was withdrawn, and directed that CCG should acquire permission to have audience with tradition authorities from relevant traditional leaders and that CCG should notify his office three days prior the date of any public meeting.
I must make it clear here that the letter referred to above does not state that we should ask permission particularly to hold public meetings from Ndeitunga or traditional leaders. Permission required from traditional leaders is only to “have audience” with the Khutas not actually to have public meetings. We are entitled to hold public meetings anywhere in Caprivi Strip without interference from any individual or any political party.
As much as traditional leaders cannot by law permit, they likewise cannot reject a public meeting. Traditional leaders should from today learn that the disturbances and threats they are experiencing from Councilors and the Caprivi Governor whenever CCG holds public meetings in rural areas are illogical and unlawful. There is no legal basis for interrogating, threatening or arresting traditional leaders over a public meeting hosted by any organization or individual as long as it was done in compliance with the Public Gatherings Declaration.
The Electoral Act 24 of 1992 provides guidelines for conductingpolitical activities by political parties in respect of any election under the said Act. These guidelines “are read in conjunction with and subject to the provisions of the public gatherings proclamation of 1989 and the Intimidation Proclamation of 1989” as well. I am interested in the first guideline alone which says “Intimidation, in any form, is impermissible”.
In our conduct, not as a political party but a pressure group or a civilian organization, we have never threatened, injured or killed anyone. We never threatened to deprive anyone anything. However, those who claim to be public leaders are jogging around threatening the public that if they will not vote (for SWAPO) they will be arrested or deprived of their rights or civil benefits.
If for example, a Councilor offersdrought relief foods to get votes it is clear that he will be in office planning and working on how to keep the electorate hungry so that they vote for him again to get (drought relief) food. We believe that poverty in Caprivi is not a mistake but a planned situation. We therefore urge all Caprivians to reject these masterminds of poverty without fear or favor.We are taking note of all reports of intimidation by these shameless leaders as we will soon seek legal advice in public interest and protection of human rights.
It must be clear that all our activities are intended to “influence policies of Government” by peacefully pressurizing or compelling government to comply with domestic and international laws or statutes such as UN Charter (1945), UN Universal Human Rights Declaration (1948), Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoplesdeclaration (1960), UN Friendly Relations Declaration (1970), AU Banjul Charter (1981), UN Convention Against Torture (1984) in the interest of the Caprivian people.
You may recall that we have appealed on the Namibian government to consider a political dialogue with the leadership of United Democratic Party but government have not shown interest in this good faith call. You may recall that we petitioned government of Namibia on many occasions even on the issue of name change and western Caprivi but to no avail. The Namibian government should know that authority rests in people.
It is against this background that we have decided not to vote in Namibian elections as it is clearly showing us that it does not care about us, our parents in prison and those in exile. It is clear that this government of Namibia is not capable of solving our problems, which are mainly political problems. It is now clear that our votes can no longer be wasted on an unaccountable and incompetent government.
Looking back in history, we see that we are governed by a colonial government, a government which inherited power to govern us from another colonial regime, a government which sent our people to exile, prison and mass graves. When we talk about the Namibian government, we are talking about a government which cannot account for a lengthy treason trial, mass torture, a mass grave or take responsibility to solve a political dispute at hand.
As people, we have our own political issues we would sell to capable and willing candidates or political parties in Namibia or Caprivi but in the absence of such candidates and parties we have the right to withhold our votes. We cannot vote out of ignorance when those to be voted for are not ready to offer or work towards our demands or needs. People have the right to vote and the right not to vote. We are entitled to our opinion and have the right to engage, not to force, the public concerning our opinion.
The movement to boycott Namibian elections in Caprivi shall continue until the Namibian politicians or government boldly come out with a political solution to the Caprivi high treason trial, Caprivian refugees, the mass graves and the Caprivi political dispute in general. Again, the results shall be used to show the world that people of Caprivi are not interested in being governed by Namibia and that they wish to be granted the right to self-determination and total political independence.
I urge all No-Voting activists to intensify the campaign and continue educating people that they have the right not to vote, and the right to be protected from political intimidations. People must know that they were born equal to any other human being. Those intimidated should keep us updated and even consult nearest police stations or the magistrate office.
The struggle continues, no voting in Caprivi 2014!
Caprivi Concerned Group