Rodman tells his side of the story

• BY MARTHA NANGOMBE AND ANDRE TINO

SUSPENDED Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) councilor, Vezemba Rodman Katjaimo has accused the British Deputy High Commissioner, Charlotte Fenton, of racially profiling Namibians who were prevented from going to the Commonwealth Games in August this year after giving instructions to stop Katjaimo’s travelling party because, “… the area all the passengers are coming from is an informal settlement and they have no money.”

Katjaimo said he understood Fenton feared people in the group could use this trip as cover to get into the United Kingdom (UK) and seek asylum.

“At the beginning of all this, we had over 600 people who expressed interest in traveling with me. I made it clear to them this was not an asylum-seeking expedition. I made it clear that I was only going to travel with people with genuine documents,” he said.

Upon receiving the message, Katjaimo said he approached the British House in Windhoek where he confronted Fenton.

“Upon meeting her, I realised there were many people who were against our trip. These people gave British Immigration Officers wrong information about us and they racially profiled us, deemed us not fit to travel to Birmingham,” he said.

According to the Journo-cum-Politician, their fight begun on 26 July when each person in the group of 45 that was meant to leave on the day had to go through a 20-minute screening process at the Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA).

“This was a delaying tactic, how long was it going to take for us if they were taking that long on a single person. The British High Commissioner’s Offices in Namibia and South Africa made sure we could not depart. The Qatar Airways employee told us he had received a call saying do not allow these people to board because the Namibian government does not know them, they were not sponsored by the government. Who told them we were sponsored by the Namibian government,” a bemused Katjaimo questioned.

However, Fenton rubbished Katjaimo’s allegations stating she has no authority and jurisdiction over United Kingdom immigration matters.

“The Deputy High Commissioner has no authority to issue such instructions, and the British High Commission in Windhoek has no jurisdiction over UK immigration matters. Airlines at Hosea Kutako International Airport routinely refer any potential immigration concerns to UK immigration officials (Home Office International Operations, or HOIO), normally based in Pretoria. HOIO officials were in Windhoek that week and were consulted by the airline, but were unable to process all the passengers before the flight. The decision not to allow the passengers to fly was taken solely by the airline. The Deputy High Commissioner was not involved in either the process or the decision. Therei s no restriction on travelers from informal settlements. The wealth and residential status of passengers seeking to visit the United Kingdom is immaterial, as long as they have the means to support themselves as genuine visitors to the United Kingdom for the duration of their stay,” she said.

Asked if there was any specific reason Katjaimo and his crew was prevented from traveling, Fentom said this was a question for the airlines.

“This is a question for the airline, who took the decision to offload the group. As far as the British High Commission is aware, Katjaimo did not allow sufficient time for check-in and pre-departure screening of the group, and the airline therefore decided not to accept them as passengers,” Fenton said.

British High Commissioner to Namibia, Charles Moore, said they had received a letter from Katjaimo three weeks before departure, asking if they could provide a letter to facilitate their travel.

“We told him we could not help with such a letter and it was up to British Immigration Officers to do the screening. We have every right to protect our country, the United Kingdom, and my deputy’s sentiments might have been taken out of context. Yes, she might have said these people are from Katutura, but in what context was she saying this? The people were from Katutura and its true Katutura is an informal settlement outside Windhoek and the people who live there do not have money. However, her sentiments might have been taken out of proportion,” Moore stated.

“We did not stop the people from traveling, it was the airline that did so because he, Katjaimo, had told the people not to be screened before he arrived. They were told to be at the airport at 9am but Katjaimo arrived at 10.30 and only two-three from his group were screened before gates closed. Was this deliberate on his part or not? He had events tickets and paid for accommodation for some days but not for the entire time they were going to be in the United Kingdom,” he said.

The Katutura councilor said he had written to the British Head of Mission in Namibia, Charles Moore, two months before the Commonwealth Games, informing him he was a leader of a local group which was interested in attending the Birmingham games.

“I asked if they could facilitate for us to be screened before-hand and be given Visas to attend the games, this despite Namibian not requiring Visas to go to the United Kingdom. I wanted my group to be screened in advance and flag fake documentations so genuine people can be allowed passage to the games. I trusted my group because before venturing in this, I told all who were interested in traveling with me that this was not an asylum-seeking adventure, we are going and coming back together. I gave specific instructions that those with fake documentation should not be part of the group because we had a contract with Kingdom Sport Group, who had Commonwealth Games exclusive rights to sell accommodation and venue tickets, which specifically made it clear that there could be no refund if we fail to attend the games,” Katjaimo stated.

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