This is a sequel to a column published last August in which I predicted that the case in which the four Swapo youth league members – Job Amupanda, Dimbulukeni Nauyoma, George Kambala and Dr Elijah Ngurare – were challenging their expulsion from the mother body would be an acid test of the extent to which Namibians adhere to the rule of law and the law of natural justice.
A test of the extent to which the doctrine of the separation of powers is more than just on paper, but whether it is practically observed and adhered to. Judge Collins Parker eventually delivering a ruling in favour of the four expelled youth league members.
His verdict, inter alia, is that: “The decision taken by the first respondent (Swapo Party of Namibia) to deprive the applicants of their membership of first respondent is declared unlawful and null and void and is set aside.”
Judge Parker ruled that the four men’s membership of the Swapo Party must immediately be restored, and thus last year’s suspension of Affirmative Repositioning trio (Amupanda, Kambala and Nauyoma) from Swapo was equally be declared unlawful and null and void.
In my column on the matter last August I wrote that the case instituted by the four against their party would test whether the expulsions are in line with the code of conduct of the party and all its structures, and ultimately the Namibian Constitution.
When the expulsion was decreed – because of the apparent arbitrariness of the decision to expel them without due process – one could not but start to question what the rules of natural justice are and what they mean, as well as ask whether they apply at all to Swapo.
Or it would mean the Swapo Party and of all people, its leaders, who are expected to set the standard and lead the way in terms of adherence to the rule of law, do not subscribe to the rule of law and the principle of natural justice.
“Like the powers of government, the powers of political parties are capable of misuse and abuse. Similarly, too, the important question is this. Has the law any means of controlling the abuse or misuse of powers of political parties? The instant matter revolves primarily around this important question,” Judge Parker said in his judgment last Friday.
In reaching his verdict the judge highlighted three intertwining issues for the court’s consideration in the application before it: a) The competency of the court to intervene in the internal dispute of a political party, an unincorporated voluntary association; b) the applicants’ right under the constitution of the first respondent (Swapo Party) as supplemented by the code of conduct and disciplinary procedures; and c) enforcement of the applicants’ rights and appropriate remedy.
In dealing with the first matter of the competency of the court to intervene, in what may be considered purely “a political matter”, Judge Parker relied on the contract between the applicants and first respondent, which is enforceable by a court of law just like any contract.
Most instructive about Collin’s judgment is his assessment that: “In Namibia issues concerning justice and fairness are not seen as ‘political matters’. As I have said more than once the applicants in the instant case have approached the seat of judgment of the court in order to enforce their contractual right on the basis of their entitlement to natural justice, including fairness and justice.”
As pointed out earlier the jury has been out on this matter, but this may not be the end. Swapo Party reserves the right to appeal the judgment. Yes, the old guard may accept the judgment, but they may not necessarily bury the hatchet with their junior fellows.
Surely, the Swapo old guard and seniors are expected to show leadership, make amends and engineer rapprochement for peace and unity to prevail in the party. After all, they erred in their initial decision to arbitrarily suspend and eventually expel the four men without following due process, especially as laid out by the party’s Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures.
One cannot but note that the Swapo Party has not only been professing to espouse democratic values and ideals, but to live by them, especially at the national level where it has been professing to be the guardians of democratic values, if not the epitome of democracy themselves.
Thus, only the Swapo Party can convince the Namibian people, and even its own structures, that its adherence to democratic values is more than hollow talk. Hence, the notion of Acid Test Number 2, depending on how the Swapo Party accepts the verdict and how it handles matters within the party post-verdict, including the accommodation of their junior compatriots, not only in the spirit of adherence to the rule of law, but also to buttress its tried and tested leadership.