As I walked along the street in Ongwediva today at noon (23 July 2020) on my way back from an event where the Minister of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare Ms Doreen Sioka handed over Income Generating Activities (IGA) materials and equipment to beneficiaries in Oshana,
I made a stop at a building to inquire what government institution they were.
Two women who were behind a nontransparent glass spoke through a hole and asked me what I was looking for. I responded that I just wanted to find out what these offices were for. They asked me where I wanted to go to.
I replied that I went to the Ministry of Gender Equality, but now I wanted to know what these offices were for.
Then they said it was none of my business to know anything about their offices. If I came for the Gender Equality offices then that was where I had to go and that was it. But I insisted that there is a National Flag flying outside their offices; if the offices are private then why do they have to fly the national flag?
As I turned to go away I poked my head through the door leading to the offices. Suddenly a police officer (a lady for that matter) came over to interrogate me. She asked me what I was looking for, where did I come from, who sent me and what I was going around writing in my note book?
I said I just wanted to know what their offices were for.
The police woman closed the door and detained me. A while later she called someone who was apparently an “official” in those offices. But this official kept asking me what I was looking for instead of answering my question of what their offices were for.
Then I said I must record this confrontation. But the police officer took away my phone and said I will not be allowed to record. After what appeared to have been about 20 minutes of ping-pong I said I was a journalist for Omutumwa and I showed then the notes and the programme of the event I was coming from.
That was when they said I must go. The police officer opened the door and I left.
The building I am talking about is the green building opposite the Ongwediva Town Council.
As a journalist I was just doing my job. A journalist has to be curious and try to know everything about government operations.
Surely these people detained me because they didn’t know that I was a journalist. But my concern is that they knew that I was a member of the public who was entitled to know what kind of work they were doing for the public in those offices.
And should people be detained for asking? Should people be interrogated and harassed by the police just because they want to know?
When I phoned Oshana Police Spokesperson Warrant Officer Frieda Shikole, she said the offices in question could be offices of intelligence services. But Ongwediva Town Spokesperson Jackson Muma said these offices are called “office of the president”.
And it is well and fine if that is the case. But my concern is that offices of intelligence or offices of “president’s security” or whatever of that nature, should never be located in the main street. Such offices must be hidden somewhere where no member of the public or journalist will stumble upon them.
And if someone happened to stumble upon them they have an obligation to politely explain what their functions are without detaining the person.