Namibia: Geingob Blasted Over 'White' Comments

Namibian President Hage Geingob (file photo).

The Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) says it will file a complaint with the ombudsman against president Hage Geingob for his "threatening and intimidating hate speech against white Namibians".

During the launch of the Swapo party's campaign for the upcoming elections on Saturday in Windhoek, Geingob said he has noted a trend in which white Namibians have been registering themselves to vote "in big numbers".

The problem was they were conspiring to vote for "anything else but Swapo".

This development, the president said, was a declaration of war against Swapo, despite the ruling party having had made sure that they [white Namibians] enjoy peace, unity and comfort for "all this time".

"I have never seen it that way, and they said anything else but Swapo. I have noted that and I will not forget that. People are declaring war against Swapo. Swapo who made them enjoy peace and unity and enjoy their comfort. The comfort you have been enjoying all this time and you declare war against Swapo. I heard you (sic)," Geingob said.

Geingob's comments on white Namibians drew public criticism on social media over the weekend with some likening his statements to the recent remarks by defence minister Peter Hafeni Vilho, who was criticised for accusing white Namibians of being greedy despite allegedly controlling 70% of Namibia's economy.

PDM vice president Jennifer van den Heever, in a statement issued yesterday, condemned Geingob's remarks, saying they were "blatantly threatening, intimidating and indeed an attempt at blackmail against white voters and do not foster the notion of nation building".

"President Geingob clearly suggested that white Namibians are not at liberty to exercise their own political choices, and participate in political activity, both of which freedoms are enshrined and protected in the Namibian Constitution. The freedom to participate without fear or favour in political activity in Namibia is a fundamental human right protected under Article 17 of the Namibian Constitution," she said.

She said white Namibians, like any other Namibian, have the right to freedom of choice and are not under any obligation to vote for Swapo.

PDM leader McHenry Venaani said the president should have acknowledged the fact that more white Namibians have registered to vote, as "it is a good sign that they effectively show their civic duty".

"Trying to victimise them or declaring a vendetta on their real or perceived stance is unconstitutional," he said.

Republican Party leader Henk Mudge also condemned Geingob's remarks yesterday and called on the president to apologise, as his remarks were "unfortunate and shocking".

He said the insinuation by Geingob that Swapo was responsible for the peace, unity and comfort that white Namibians enjoy was "absolute nonsense".

"The rest of Namibia is responsible for that because we are a peace-loving nation and we don't have to thank Swapo for that. The fact of the matter is that we were reconciled before independence made it easy for independence to take place in a peaceful manner and everybody accepted the results and we carried on," Mudge said.

RACIAL INTOLERANCE

Political analyst Ndumba Kamwanyah also condemned the president's remarks, saying it was wrong for Geingob to question white Namibian's rights to participate in elections.

Kamwanyah said the president's remarks were dangerous and could promote racial intolerance.

"No power, not even the president, should question Namibians' rights to participate in our elections. Any real democracy would welcome such trend. The president's statement is unfortunate and threatens our democracy. If anything, it is tantamount to voter intimidation. He is also playing a race-card, which is dangerous because it promotes racial intolerance," he said.

Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) director Graham Hopwood said Geingob's statements undermine the principle of 'One Namibia, one nation' which Swapo has always stood for".

"You cannot equate registering to vote with an act of war and if you do, it's an anti-democratic statement. How does the president presume to know what is in the minds of people when they register to vote even if they are from one racial group?" Hopwood stressed.

However, another political commentator Nico Horn believes the president's remarks were not as racial as perceived by many. He said he does not understand how Swapo is appalled by the surge in white Namibians registering to vote because "their numbers were insignificant".

"The whites are just too divided and small to have an impact on the election. Swapo was never in the past the party of choice of the majority white voters. So, wherever the whites make their cross in this election, will make little if any difference to the political balance of power," he said.

Horn said the president's statements were "rather an attempt to mobilise Swapo members to go to the polls and show the whites that Swapo is still in control".

Horn added that: "It will be a pity if it brings a racial tension. But even that will not make an impact on the election results".

CODE OF CONDUCT

The political code of conduct guiding the behaviour of political parties and candidates during an election specifically speaks against political hate speech and voter intimidation by political parties, registered organisations or any office bearer or member of such party.

All political parties and candidates are expected to adhere to this set of rules during an election process.

The code gives the Electoral Commission of Namibia the power to cancel the "registration of the political party or organisation, after having given the political party, organisation or authorised representative an opportunity to be heard".

Don't Miss

AllAfrica publishes around 800 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.