Namibia: Scuffle Erupts in Parliament

Parliament proceedings had to be adjourned early yesterday after a scuffle broke out between a Swapo back bencher and a member from the opposition.

Former deputy finance minister Natangue Iithete and opposition Namibian Economic Freedom Fighters parliamentarian Longinus Iipumbu had to be separated after they got involved in a physical confrontation.

Speaker of the National Assembly Peter Katjavivi failed to restore order in the chamber and subsequently adjourned the session with about six items still to be discussed.

The disruption followed a mob vote by Swapo MPs to reject a motion on national reconciliation introduced by Swanu MP Tangeni Iijambo.

Opposition members took issue with this ruling saying Iijambo should have been given the right of reply to the concerns raised by those who had contributed in terms of the rules guiding the discussions in the National Assembly.

After the ruling to reject the motion was adopted, all opposition members walked out of the parliament chamber leaving Swapo MPs to discuss the remaining six items without opposition. Swapo backbenchers who were seated in the parliament gallery then moved in to fill the seats left by opposition MPs.

Shortly after the discussions resumed, opposition members walked back into the chamber ordering Swapo backbenchers to vacate their seats.

This was the cause of the chaos which led to Katjavivi losing control of the chamber.

The speaker initially threatened to remove unruly members from the chamber but the opposition MPs stood their ground.

"Honestly, honourable members, things cannot continue like this. No, no, no, no! Listen to me! Wait, wait, wait! . . . Let me explain. I would like us to do this the orderly way. First of all, wait, because of the disorderly way, I will apply rule number 115 and I will adjourn the house until tomorrow," Katjavivi stressed.

Iijambo's motion was focused on the implementation of the national reconciliation policy to determine whether Namibia has succeeded or failed on the question of national reconciliation.

He wanted MPs to specifically look into the plight of some segments of the population such as the former Koevoet and South West Africa Territorial Force (SWATF) soldiers, and survivors of the Lubango dungeons.

In his motion, Iijambo said these people continue to suffer severe deprivation and insecurity as a result of the neglect by the government.

Iijambo said although reconciliation has been proclaimed as a government policy there was no evidence to suggest that it is in fact the case.

The situation of the former Koevoet and SWATF soldiers is one testimony that the policy of national reconciliation has failed, he said.

Iijambo said the failure of Namibia's reconciliation efforts can be attributed to the absence of a truth and national reconciliation policy.

He added that the policy of national reconciliation is also found wanting as the government, for the past 30 years, has become myopic "if not indifferent to some sections of our population".

On the contrary, the past three decades have been beset by the infamous "jobs for comrades" and rampant corruption, Iijambo said.

He suggested that the government creates a special programme or fund to alleviate the former Koevoet and SWATF members' suffering.

The majority of Swapo members who contributed to this motion rejected these suggestions and called for the motion to be removed from the order.

In stark contrast all Swapo members last year supported a motion moved by former chief whip Evelyn !Nawases-Taeyele with the intention of enacting a legislation to regulate social media.

!Nawases-Taeyele's motion was targetted to interrogate whether the nation's social fabric was still "intact and solid, or we are facing or threatened by new social dimensions in the process of nationbuilding".

Swapo member of parliament Jerry Ekandjo, who suggested the vote to reject the motion said the discussions on national reconciliation could open old wounds for those who were mistreated during the struggle for independence.

Ekandjo also refused to answer questions on the alleged Lubango atrocities committed by the ruling party against some of its members during the liberation struggle.

Ekandjo was asked by Rally for Democracy and Progress leader Mike Kavekotora to explain what happened in Lubango while he was narrating Namibia's history leading up to independence during his contribution to the motion on national reconciliation.

Instead of answering the question on Lubango dungeons attrocities, Ekandjo said the issue would open old wounds.

He instead threatened to name some MPs who were working for the South African army whom he said also tortured innocent Namibians during the struggle for independence.

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