Namibia: MPs Standoff to Be Dealt With

26 March 2020

Speaker of the National Assembly Peter Katjavivi was evasive yesterday on what possible action the August House would take after a war of words broke out between Landless People's Movement leader Bernadus Swartbooi and labour minister Utoni Nujoma.

The ugly scenes played out just before the start of the Tuesday session in the National Assembly. In a widely circulated video footage, Swartbooi and his deputy Henny Seibeb, in retaliation against inflammatory comments reportedly made by Nujoma against the opposition leader, could be seen being pulled away by other members of the National Assembly.

"All we can say at this point is that, there are rules and procedures to be followed in dealing with such matters. When that process is finalised, the appropriate information will be shared accordingly," Katjavivi said through National Assembly spokesperson David Nahogandja yesterday.

When contacted for comment yesterday, Swapo's new chief whip, Hamunyera Hambyuka could not comment despite promising to do so later. The LPM, through its chief whip Seibeb, claimed Nujoma used the f-word and "some explicit language", which according to him then bordered on cursing Swartbooi's mother.

"At that moment, Hon. Swartbooi reacted instinctively in a manner that he did: Confronting Mr. Nujoma. We hasten and add at this juncture that we condemn the unprofessional and uncalled for conduct by Nujoma, and urge Swapo Party to advise that person to desist from his provocative posture," Seibeb said in a statement.

"We are acutely informed that Mr. Nujoma has previously never been reprimanded for disrespectful behaviour towards other MPs of opposition parties in the 6th National Assembly and in other previous National Assembly sessions," he said, adding that LPM has advised Swartbooi to lay crimen injuria charges against the minister.

"I conducted on Friday, 20 March 2020 a meeting with Swapo chief whip, Hon. Hambyuka to specifically address the behaviour of Mr. Nujoma. Equally so, we are acutely aware of huge responsibilities placed on our shoulders and shall, going forward, maintain good collegiality with other members of parliament," he said. Attempts to reach Nujoma proved futile yesterday as his phone went unanswered.

Messages sent to his private mobile phone were also not responded to. There is open hostility between Swartbooi and Nujoma since 2017 when the former called his then immediate superior at the land reform minister an "idiot" in the National Assembly. Swartbooi had made the remarks whilst still serving as a Swapo MP and deputy minister of land reform. President Hage Geingob later fired Swartbooi after he refused to apologise to Nujoma. Swartbooi later quit the ruling party and founded LPM.

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