Namibia: Shaningwa 'Insect' Remarks Draw Ire

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Namibian flag (file photo).
22 November 2019

Recent remarks by Swapo secretary general Sophia Shaningwa to supporters to "beat the insect and hammer its head" has drawn wide-ranging condemnation.

Many on social media platforms regarded the remarks as a call for violence.

Shaningwa, who was addressing a Swapo rally at Mariental in the Hardap region on 1 November, can be heard in a widely circulated video speaking in Oshiwambo in an audio clip recorded on Kati FM, which is now circulating on social media.

Although she did not clarify who the 'insect' is, the remark was allegedly believed to be aimed at independent presidential candidate Panduleni Itula, according to observers.

Shaningwa, who started off her speech in English, quickly turned to Oshiwambo when she called on party members and sympathisers to go out in numbers and "beat up the insect, and hammer its head severely".

"Beat up the insect, you must beat it up, and hammer it on the head. It has touched Swapo where it's not supposed to be touched. Go out there and beat up the insect, beat it up and don't make any mistake. Aluta!" she urged.

Contacted for comment to clarify her statement yesterday, Shaningwa denied that her remark was aimed at anyone, saying the insect she was referring to was in fact the "ballot papers".

She said she would never say anything that would threaten peace and stability in the country.

"I did not call anyone an insect, neither do I have any intentions of inciting violence upon anyone or any political party. I said indeni mukadhenge oshipuka in Oshiwambo, meaning people should go out there and beat up the ballot papers - meaning that they should go out there and vote wisely.

"Why would I call anyone an insect? You fully understood what I meant in the audio, so stop asking me unnecessary questions," Shaningwa said before hanging up on this reporter.

However, Shaningwa's statement has been met with condemnation from the chairperson of Action Coalition Namibia, Frederico Links, who this week warned that such remarks could incite violence and equate to defamation of character.

During a press conference in Windhoek to iron out a number of issues that have emerged on the electoral landscape ahead of the elections, Links said some political actors are engaging in disinformation, hate speech and incitement to violence.

"Of particular concern were the recent comments on radio by Swapo Party secretary general Sophia Shaningwa, in which she used language reminiscent of the language used to stoke genocidal activities in Rwanda in 1994. Additionally, they [parties] should actively discourage their supporters and associates from producing and sharing such content online.

"In order to avoid being accused of/perceived to be spreading such content online, political parties and related actors should ensure that their statements and pronouncements are factual, accurate and realistic, and their engagements civil, open and transparent," he stressed.

Links also called on political parties and related actors to refrain from engaging in negative campaigns that involve the production and dissemination of mis/disinformation in furtherance of their political objectives. Action Coalition likewise called on all political parties and candidates to sign up to the ECN code of conduct.

ECN chairperson Notemba Tjipueja this week in a statement urged all Namibians to participate peacefully in political activities.

She said all political parties still have to comply with the electoral code of conduct, including those that did not sign it.

Similarly, earlier this month, police inspector general Sebastian Ndeitunga appealed to the public to behave in a civilised manner during the election campaign period in an effort to ensure peace is maintained.

He cautioned the public from carrying any dangerous weapons to meetings, while assuring the nation that the police will be on standby to curb violence that might be associated with political gatherings leading up to the national elections.

Information executive director Mbeuta Ua-Ndjarakana said in a press release this week that the government has in recent weeks noted with concern the manner in which some political parties' campaigns are conducted which could potentially incite violence.

"As a nation, Namibians are peaceful people, and it is imperative to note that election campaigns are battles of ideas, and not platforms to create enemies. The government would like to urge all Namibians to desist from provocative behaviours that may lead to the destabilisation of peace and stability in the Namibian House," said Ua-Ndjarakana.

The national elections are set for next Wednesday.

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