Scores of Keetmanshoop residents yesterday embarked on a consumer protest to force the shutdown of the local Shoprite store.
The group, led by Landless People’s Movement (LPM) parliamentarian Gerrit Witbooi, said they were protesting to show solidarity with the retail giant’s disgruntled workers who are demanding a decent salary and working conditions.
Shoprite workers countrywide are being led by their union, the Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau),
in the industrial action to demand a solution to their grievances.
“We want to close down this place until an amicable solution over the salary negotiations impasse between the Shoprite management and workers is reached,” said Witbooi.
“We as politicians and consumers stand in solidarity with the striking workers,” he added.
Local police officers had their hands full preventing the group, mainly consisting of LPM members clad in their party regalia, from shutting the retail shop.
The group assembled in front of the shop’s entrance and vowed to shut the shop, forcing the police, assisted by Southern Security guards to form a human chain to prevent them from shutting down the shop.
At one stage the group also blocked customers from entering the shop.
They accused the police of bias in enforcing the law, and turning a blind eye to Shoprite management’s contempt of court by replacing striking workers with new recruits.
“We will close Shoprite. Mariental and Tsumeb residents have done it. Why are the police interfering in our protest? We won’t budge?” chanted one of the protesters.
They group, however, only dispersed after Witbooi ordered them to back off following talks he had with //Kharas police regional commander, commissioner David Indongo.
Indongo told the lawmaker that he was supposed to uphold the country’s Constitution, explaining to him protesters were infringing on other customers’ rights by posing a threat and intimidating them from entering the shop.
The senior officer also noted that the protest was illegal because it had not been registered ahead of the stipulated 72-hours, and that it also violated the Covid-19 protocol banning large gatherings.
Witbooi insisted the aim of what he termed peaceful protest was to show solidarity with the striking workers and nothing else.
He, however, later submitted to the call by Indongo to convince protesters to move at least 500 metres from the shop’s entrance.
He warned the politician that failure by the protesters in adhering to his request may force the police to act against them for violating the Public Gathering Act.