Windhoek-Swapo politburo member and former cabinet minister Kazenambo Kazenambo said he will never join the mooted new political party linked to former lands deputy minister Bernadus Swartbooi, but deeply criticised the manner in which the youthful politician was suspended and recalled from parliament yesterday.
Swartbooi has been at odds with the party leadership since last year, a situation that catalysed his sacking as deputy minister of lands last December.
He has since been leading the Landless People’s Movement (LPM), which started off as a civil rights movement fighting for land but hinted last weekend at becoming a political party.
During a series of LPM public meetings in recent months at which Swartbooi was the main speaker, the former deputy minister has been accusing Swapo of failure and advancing the interests of the Aawambo tribe. Swapo has consistently denied the accusation.
Yesterday Kazenambo, who himself was removed as minister after an avalanche of high-profile public utterances and confrontations, tore into the Swapo leadership for its supposed disregard for party rules and for treating members differently for similar offences.
He believes Swapo has enough legal instruments to use when disciplining party members, but charged these are often ignored in order to purge perceived intra-party opponents.
He cited as an example how the governors of Omaheke and Omusati regions, who are on record uttering tribal remarks in widely circulated audio clips, faced no real action from the party leadership while Swartbooi, a regular utterer of similar remarks, has now been suspended.
But it is the alleged rule of man, rather than of law, that Kazenambo took exception to. He said the politburo, which took the decision to suspend Swartbooi, did not have the authority to do so.
“Swartbooi is an elected member of parliament and cannot be removed just like that. The politburo that took this decision was an impromptu one, to which many members such as myself were not invited,” he said.
“All politburo decisions are to be approved by the central committee and this did not take place. It’s abuse of power.”
Swapo secretary-general Nangolo Mbumba yesterday said the politburo relied on Article 4 of Schedule 4 of the Namibian constitution to withdraw Swartbooi from parliament. Article 4 deals with citizenship, but in the Swapo constitution Article 4 states that a party member may lose their membership through resignation or expulsion.
Kazenambo said Swartbooi, who has been daring the party to fire him, is being victimised for the debate he is advancing on land.
“He is advancing the debate around the plight of the people south of the red line. Why can’t government publish the list of people who got land? Let’s prove him wrong. In journalism it’s called silencing the messenger,” Kazenambo, a former journalist, said.
Asked if planning to make the LPM a political party was not reason enough for Swapo to act, Kazenambo said the party is pregnant with legal tools to deal with the situation, but ignored that path.
“The party has a code conduct approved by congress. The judgement [in the Swartbooi case] is pre-determined.”
He said Swapo seems to have not learned anything from its expulsion of four youth league members in 2015, which was later overruled by the High Court that procedures were not followed.
“I sit in politburo meetings and what is discussed there all the time is personalities instead of issues. I distance myself from the decision to recall Swartbooi.”
When Swartbooi made the remarks that he made, Swapo should have simply followed its constitution and code of conduct to discipline him, he added.
“There was an easy and legal way of dealing with this matter, even if the conclusion is the same. I am going to campaign for Swapo but justice must prevail within the party,” he said.