31 January 2013

Namibia: Geingob Urges 'struggle Kids' to Call Off March

Photo: IRIN
File photo of street children in Zambia.

Prime Minister Hage Geingob has asked that the group of 'struggle kids' walking to Windhoek "return to their places of origin and select delegations to engage with the relevant institutions to start a positive dialogue on how youth unemployment can be resolved in a sustainable and practical manner".

The group of young people born in exile, who on Sunday started the 800-kilometre trek to Windhoek on foot, were reported to have reached the vicinity of Okahandja by yesterday afternoon. Among the group are pregnant women, the disabled and infants barely a couple of months old. Geingob has been informed that the youth are marching to Windhoek "to seek audience with me in my capacity as the Prime Minister and the Swapo Vice-President regarding their problem of not being employed".

Geingob issued a statement yesterday saying government understands the plight of unemployed youths and is committed to creating a conducive business environment in which the economy is able to create jobs, transfer skills and grow the production base. "We reiterate that the Namibian Government is equally concerned about the wellbeing of all citizens, and understands the frustrations of the youth who cannot obtain employment, but demonstrations and illegal occupation of government or Swapo property or any other private property will not solve the problem," the statement said.

Government "cannot be held hostage or be coerced through demonstrations or occupation of government or ruling Swapo Party property, or of any Namibian entity, to accede to demands for employment or any other grievances by any section of the Namibian society. We will continue to address the question of national unemployment in a holistic, systematic and methodical manner because this is the only way which can yield desired outcomes for all Namibians."

While the youth have the "constitutional right" to demonstrate and nobody can stop their demonstrations, "it is equally the constitutional right of people working in government offices, ruling Swapo Party offices, or any other offices not to be molested, harmed, or their freedoms curtailed through activities like illegal sit-ins and occupations. The laws of Namibia strictly forbid such injurious actions," the statement said. Government's position on unemployment, for both youth born in exile and those born to parents fighting against apartheid inside the country, is for such youth to approach the Ministry of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture, and the National Youth Council of Namibia (NYC).

"Social issues regarding youth unemployment should be referred to these government structures, and only in the case that the responsible line minister is unable or requires further assistance or permission would, he bring the matter to Cabinet," said Geingob.

Youth wishing to approach the Swapo structures should take their plight through the Swapo Party Youth League, which as a wing of the party resorts administratively under the secretary-general. Those are the procedures to be followed by "any section of the Namibian youth including both the struggle children and those who were not in exile but are children of those who fought against apartheid inside the country", the statement said.

"We beg to disagree with the notion that government only responds positively through coercive demonstrations and occupations of offices and advise that they reconsider and engage in constructive dialogue with responsible authorities both in Swapo and government," Geingob said.

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