The recent ban on public demonstrations instilled by the country’s police has been declared provisionally unconstitutional by the High Court.
The police public relations division issued a statement last week saying ‘no demonstrations or gatherings would be permissible because the police would find it difficult, if not impossible, to provide people or individuals who may want to exercise their constitutional rights in the form of demonstrations or gatherings’.
The controversy concerning the proposed ban, (which was supposed to be between August 12th and 20th) was further intensified because it was supposed to be enacted two days before the country’s main opposition party, Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) was to hold a march demanding the release of an election case verdict.
Opponents of the ban (mainly civil society organisations) feared that it was an infringement of citizen’s democratic rights. According to the Namibian constitution, only the head of state may restrict citizens’ freedoms and this power may only be used when there is a threat to the lives of people in the country.
Gerson Hilda, an advocate and spokesperson for the police chief said that the police did not ‘ban’ demonstrations, but rather asked for ‘limitations’ in matters related to marches and demonstrations. However upon hearing both counsels speak, Judge Ndaudendapo declared that the move was beyond the realms of the country’s constitution thereby permitting marches to continue in the country.
NGO and civil society organisations have subsequently expressed their relief that the ban has been lifted. However as the declaration is provisional, the relevant parties will have to return to the High Court on September 17th to submit their concluding arguments. Following this, the court will release a final verdict.