Former land reform deputy minister Bernadus Swartbooi, sacked yesterday and replaced by Priscilla Boois, said President Hage Geingob should have exercised constitutional powers to remove him instead of claiming he (Swartbooi) has verbally resigned from his position.
In a letter late yesterday, Swartbooi took a swipe at Presidential Affairs Minister Frans Kapofi and presidential spokesperson Albertus Aochamub, accusing the pair of spreading falsehoods about the true nature of him leaving the ministerial job.
Yesterday Aochamub issued a statement in which he announced that Geingob has accepted Swartbooi’s ‘verbal resignation’, purportedly issued on Tuesday when the deputy minister met with the President at State House.
Swartbooi was summoned to State House where President Geingob explained to him why he should apologise for remarks he made recently in the South, where he said, amongst others, that he reports to Geingob and not Utoni Nujoma, his senior minister at lands.
The deputy minister has dug in for more than a week, refusing both to resign or issue an apology.
After State House announced on Tuesday evening that Swartbooi has resigned, the deputy minister showed up for work on Wednesday in a move that created more confusion.
Later that evening, Aochamub appeared on NBC TV on which he stated that the announcement on Tuesday evening was based on the remarks made by Swartbooi at State House that he would resign instead of issuing an apology.
Aochamub reveals that the meeting was so tense that Swartbooi allegedly slammed doors of the meeting venue, a move that shocked those in attendance, including the President. Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, Vice-President Nickey Iyambo and Kapofi were in attendance.
Yesterday State House announced that Geingob has accepted the verbal resignation of Swartbooi and that Boois has been roped in as new deputy lands minister.
Swartbooi wrote to Geingob after that announcement, accusing the President’s office of lacking leadership.
“That such untruths can be publically circulated demonstrates a total lack of leadership in the rank and file at State House,” he said.
“I thus reject the fiction in law and fact that you accepted my verbal resignation for such verbal resignation does not exist.
“You should have been bold enough, Mr President, to just remove me from office as per your constitutional powers, instead of basing your decision on fiction and falsehoods. What a shame,” he wrote.
Swartbooi found himself in hot water after publicly taking on his senior minister, Utoni Nujoma, over the resettlement programme, which he said was being used to resettle people from other regions in //Karas Region ahead of the local people.
The tit-for-tat between the Presidency and Swartbooi has been playing out in the media and has produced massive support for the young politician.
However, yesterday, the Presidency did not mince its words in saying Swartbooi is no longer welcome in that office.
“… President Geingob formally accepted… Swartbooi, former Deputy Minister of Land Reform’s verbal resignation… in conformity with the powers conferred upon him by Article 32 (6) of the Namibian Constitution,” Aochamub indicated.
“At the same time the President also announced the appointment of Boois as the new Deputy Minister of Land Reform,” stated the presidential press secretary.
Boois is currently the deputy minister of poverty eradication and social welfare.
“The appointment is with immediate effect. The President wishes Swartbooi well in his future endeavours and welcomes the new Deputy Minister to her new assignment,” Aochamub stated.
In response to the ongoing developments City of Windhoek Councillor for Nudo Josef Kauandenge said: “The decision to replace Swartbooi is but just the beginning of a dark chapter of sniffling [out] dissent and different opinions. We are back to the Stone Age…
“As Swartbooi’s personal friend – we entered politics together in students politics in the late 1980s – this development sets a bad precedent towards issues of free speech,” he said.
“This is a clear demonstration of victimisation and this decision is ill-conceived and at best not well thought-out.
“It is therefore regrettable that as young people we fought for freedom of speech and yet today my friend, Swartbooi, is made to pay heavily for daring to air an opinion that does not sit well with the powers that be,” Kauandenge opined.