20 March 2017

Namibia: Pohamba Slams 'Zombie' Calling Youth

FORMER President Hifikepunye Pohamba berated youth leaders who go around insulting others by labelling them 'zombies' during a lecture on Saturday.

Pohamba made the chiding remarks during a public lecture, titled 'The Role of Swapo Party School', in Windhoek, during which he also said that he had not been appropriately informed of some of the challenges faced by the country when he was head of state and said that he would have done something about them had he known. Pohamba, who stepped down as President in March 2015, said he has been an observer of national issues since retiring.

"Being an observer you see a lot and hear a lot. I question, why was I not told all these things (problems) when I was in the office (as President). Perhaps, I would have made corrections," he said.

Pohamba said it was not a problem for party members to differ on issues, but cautioned that differences should not lead to animosity.

"We can differ, but we must not lose respect. If you are in an organisation of 'yes sir, yes sir' all the time, you cannot progress very well," he said.

He said he and other Swapo leaders have had differences in the past.

"But that did not lead to things like (calling each other) 'zombies'. 'Zombies', what is that? We spoke and tried to find a solution to the problem," Pohamba said.

Swapo appears divided by factional fighting around the ascension of party acting president Hage Geingob to the party's presidency, with one side campaigning for him to become leader of the party while there are others who want him out by the end of the year, with the rivalry reportedly set to intensify as the party approaches its elective congress later this year.

Former party youth leaders such as Job Amupanda have been criticised for labelling party elders, some youth leaders and other members 'zombies' for disagreeing with them.

Pohamba also echoed comments made earlier at the same event by poverty eradication minister Zephania Kameeta, who also criticised the name calling youth.

Kameeta said he has come to notice a lot of quarrelsomeness and disrespectfulness from some party members and he wondered whether such, who go around calling others names, were Swapo members or actually members of the opposition.

The young leaders who have been singled out as disrespecting senior leaders have accused elder leaders of disregarding the party's constitution in order to hold on to power.

Presidents Geingob and Pohamba, along with party secretary general Nangolo Mbumba, are some of the party elders accused of disregarding the party constitution when they expelled three youth leaders in 2015.

The former President called on party members to stop fighting.

"By all means, let's avoid fighting among ourselves. Swapo must not allow fighting in this country," he said.

"When you read the newspapers, you feel that the country is falling apart," he said, adding that he has travelled around the country since leaving office and it has given him the opportunity to witnes conditions first-hand.

"Let's face reality, the independence that Swapo has brought to this country has made wonderful changes. Some people are saying it has been 26 years and nothing has been done. You travel, you see the roads. I think we must sometimes thank ourselves for the work we have done," he added.

He said government could do more and that the country must grow just like a child.

"If you go to some other countries who got independence 10 or 20 years before our independence - things are not good," he added.

Pohamba also admonished President Geingob's critics to back off, reminding them that Geingob played an important role in the country's liberation history.

"Some people talk as if they are talking to a President who does not know anything," he said.

Pohamba pointed out that Geingob had been head of the United Nations Institute for Namibia, in Lusaka in Zambia, as well as the Constituent Assembly that drafted the Constitution.

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