Swapo closes in on perceived tribalists

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Albertina Nakale

Windhoek-Swapo secretary-general Nangolo Mbumba has warned senior party members who have exposed themselves to making tribal utterances that action will be taken against them at an appropriate time.

Mbumba made the promise yesterday during a press conference where he officially announced that the Swapo politburo has resolved to withdraw former land reform deputy minister Bernadus Swartbooi from the National Assembly, where he served on the party ticket.

Swartbooi has accused the government and the ruling party of favouring “northerners” – essentially referring to the Owambo tribe that predominantly lives in that part of the country.

But perhaps the final straw was when he hinted last weekend that he intends to convert the Landless People’s Movement (LPM), which he leads, into a political party.

Addressing an LPM meeting in //Kharas Region at the weekend, Swartbooi said if Swapo recalled him from parliament, he would “resign within 30 seconds”. The former deputy minister is to address the media today in Katutura, at which he is expected to react to his being withdrawn.

Mbumba yesterday came under heavy media scrutiny, with journalists wanting to know why other party officials accused of tribalism have not been treated in the same way as Swartbooi.

The media also wanted to know whether any disciplinary action was taken against Swartbooi before the decision to withdraw him from parliament.

Just this week, Omusati Governor Erginus Endjala had to issue a public apology regarding tribally-charged remarks he made – in a secretly-recorded audio clip – against Aandonga people, politicians and youth activists. His Omaheke counterpart Festus Ueitele was also made to apologise last year after he was heard in another secret recording making tribal remarks against Ovaherero people in that region.

Mbumba warned that consequences, either through elections or decisions taken by the party, would follow against those guilty of advancing tribalism.

“It’s not a question of whether you are a member of the politburo, a governor or a regional coordinator – if you are doing wrong things… you are doing wrong things contrary to the constitution of the Republic and the constitution of the party,” he told journalists.
He said those who think they are comfortable hiding behind public apologies are gravely mistaken about the consequences lined up against them.

He explained that matters would be handled one at a time and action taken after thorough consideration and discussions.

Mbumba said he did not have to explain himself about Swartbooi. “I don’t want to be here analysing a person. You know what Comrade Swartbooi says and does. The issue of fairness will always continue to guide us.”

Mbumba said anyone who is familiar with the Swapo Party constitution will know that the party leadership considers all things such as tribal remarks about other people’s culture, language and history, adding that such utterances are not allowed.

He said the decision to recall Swartbooi was taken during a politburo meeting on Monday in terms of Article 4 of Schedule 4 of the Namibian constitution.

Paula Kooper, a senior private secretary-chief whip at Swapo Party Parliamentary Caucus, is next on the Swapo parliamentary list and will join the National Assembly if Swapo elects to expel Swartbooi.

Swartbooi yesterday refused to comment, saying he will address the matter this morning during his press briefing.

Last weekend he said people from the north of Namibia must keep their “damn hands” off the land belonging to people in the south.

“The north has no authority to lecture us about land – the north did not lose any land and they must keep their damn hands off our land,” he said.

Swartbooi was referring to recent media reports that people in the north have rejected ancestral land claims, and said the northern people have their own interests to protect.
Mbumba said the reasons for Swartbooi’s withdrawal are “self-evident” in his conduct, utterances and general attitude expressed in the pubic towards Swapo, its functionaries and government on diverse occasions and on various matters.

Mbumba cited as an example Swartbooi’s remark that he [Swartbooi] is “99.9% not Swapo”.

“The moment they withdraw me from the National Assembly, in 30 seconds I will resign from Swapo,” he was quoted as saying.

Mbumba said Swartbooi was notified of both the decision of the party and the action taken consequent to that as a courtesy.

He said Swapo is not worried that Swartbooi has a lot of followers and that the party might lose votes, as alleged by some.

Swapo would not allow itself to be destroyed from within under the false pretext of unity, he said.

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