11 February 2013

Namibia: Homeowners' Petition Stopped in Tracks

THE police stopped a group of demonstrators under the Home Owners Association (HOA) from continuing with their march on Friday.

The march was intended to petition the High Court against alienating houses from poor households.

On February 7, High Court Registrar Elsie Schickerling requested the police to stop the demonstration, asking that the Demonstrations In Or Near Court Buildings Prohibition Act of 1981 be invoked because from a letter to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and High Court Judge President Petrus Damaseb, it appeared that a protest march would take place close, near or at the High and Supreme courts.

In terms of this law, demonstrations or gatherings are prohibited within 500 metres from any court building.

In her letter to Ndeitunga, Schickerling wrote that neither Damaseb nor the JSC was prepared to receive any petition or any document.

The HOA group of demonstrators were stopped at the corner of Independence Avenue and Hosea Kutako Drive, some kilometres away from the High and Supreme courts.

An elderly member of the HOA, Rachel Muinjo, asked: "The Wambo's can walk from Wamboland, but we cannot [referring to 'struggle kids' that have started a march from northern Namibia to Windhoek to demand for government jobs]."

Another elderly demonstrator, Isak Goa-Goseb, said: "This government knows what we were fighting for [referring to the pre-independence liberation struggle] but now it is worse than the apartheid regime. Today we have to fight the same battles as we had before independence. Who is the owner of this country? This government allows children to take houses from their parents."

A legal practitioner preferring anonymity when approached for comment, said there was no reason why the demonstration was stopped so far away from the courts, but noted that the law prohibiting demonstrations in close proximity of the courts has the purpose to stop any intimidation of the courts or witnesses.

The HOA group intended to hand over a petition to the JSC, Damaseb, CEOs of all commercial banks, including Agribank, as well as the Minister of Safety and Security and the Namibian Police in an attempt to stop evictions from homes.

In the petition, the HOA claims that since 2012, the banks, magistrates and the High Court "have worked together to isolate homeowners and then evicted them illegally".

"The violent manner in which they did it was clearly designed to break the morale of homeowners trying to unite in their struggle against criminal mismanagement of their home loans, open theft and fraud leading to illegal judgements against them," the petition signed by HOA member Erica Beukes reads.

The petition states that a certain Jerry Pedro was evicted without a court order by the police in Rehoboth, and then arrested for trespassing on the property "where he witnessed police brutality banging arrested persons' heads against the wall and cement floors".

In 2012, the petition reads, Frieda January, Louis January, Deon Meyer, and Terence Noble were also evicted without a court order.

It further states that the HOA "physically assisted" Frans Naibab in Windhoek to "violently resist eviction" from his home.

"The courts and the banks have caused a situation in which homeowners are forced to defend themselves physically," the petition continues, and demands that all the institutions to which it is directed should "call off your attack" and that banks forthwith cease "to cause theft from home loans".

The HOA group further demanded a meeting between the judiciary, banks and the police to discuss evictions and what it described as illegal actions of the police and the courts, and concluded: "[The] courts are spawning lawlessness and chaos as against upholding law and order, and is causing a situation in which lives may be lost."

Edward Xoagub of the group said that Schickerling, as High Court registrar, is granting eviction orders, and with the intended peaceful march, the group wanted to deliver the petition to her.

"From now on we won't allow the messenger of the court to evict anyone in Khomasdal and Katutura; we don't want this to result in violence," Xoagub said.

Members of the group vowed to take action every week, opening water taps cut off by the municipality, or physically stopping evictions from homes, even if they get jailed.

Beukes said the drastic action is called for not because people are flippant, but because the HOA has proof of incidents where houses have been alienated corruptly.

The group's planned actions are also directed as speculators that push up the prices of housing.

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