A series of articles by Lebbeus Nghidimondjila Ndinoiti Hashikutuva
Over the past week, Namibia has seen a wave of nationwide protests demanding substantive action from the government in fighting against the sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) that characterizes Namibia.
The peaceful protesters – mostly women – are, among others, demanding for the declaration of a state of emergency, the establishment of a sex offenders registry, the institution of 27/4 armed patrols in all neighbourhoods in the country, the review of all school rules insofar as SGBV is concerned and the dismissal of teachers and students who have had sexual relationships with learners and students.
Named ‘#ShutItAllDown’, the protests were triggered by the death of Shannon Wasserfall, who had been missing since April this year until her remains were discovered by the Namibian Police, following an anonymous tip to the Police. Shannon’s tragedy joins many other unresolved murders of Namibian women and children; named and unnamed.
While the protests may have been triggered by this tragedy and the Police’s incompetence in handling Shannon’s case, it is important to point out that they are about demanding action that creates safer communities for everyone; especially women, children and people of sexual and gender minorities.
During the first protest (in Windhoek), reports put it that over one thousand women, men and children assembled at Zoo Park, in the central business district. On that day, protesters blocked the intersection of Independence Avenue and Fidel Castro Street; causing major traffic interruptions in one of Windhoek’s busiest streets. They then marched down Independence to the Windhoek Police Station, where the protesters chanted slogans such as “Do your job,” “Where were you”, “Ons is moeg” and “F*ck the Police”.
From the Police Station, the protesters marched back to the Ministry of Justice. Some went to the balcony of that building and others continued chanting in front of the Ministry.
A protester who seemed to have forgotten the composition of a fire extinguisher may have gotten too trigger happy, and so, the protesters left the office and marched to Parliament Gardens; where a National Assembly session was due to begin.
At Parliament Gardens, the protesters demanded the immediate declaration of a State of Emergency. While the protests, until this point, were not met with any violence from the Namibian Police, at Parliament Gardens, the Namibian Police Force began manhandling women, before throwing a teargas bomb into the protesters.
Despite this violence, the protesters continued using their voices, fists and posters to make their demands heard. They were unmoved, unwavering and unrelenting in calling for a safer Namibia. It is, perhaps, due to this energy that the National Assembly eventually accepted the official petition for tabling during that day’s session.
After the petition was handed over and the debate over the petition began in the National Assembly, the protesters began to disperse and by 18h00, after a full day of chanting, marching and disrupting, the protesters were off the streets; continuing the radical advocacy on Twitter and Instagram, where the movement began– a home run.
The first day of #ShutItAllDown was a small victory in a lengthy battle against misogyny, patriarchy and systems of power. It was also the beginning of one of Namibia’s biggest and most disruptive post-apartheid movements.
In later articles, these assertions will become clearer.
The Tweeted Revolution! is a series of articles written by Lebbeus Nghidimondjila Hashikutuva, written exclusively for Afterbreak Magazine and covering the #ShutItAllDown protests.