Namibia: Presidency Welcomes Ombudsman Report On 'White Voters'

27 November 2020

Presidential press secretary Alfredo Hengari on Tuesday hailed the Ombudsman report which states that President Hage Geingob's remarks that white Namibians had declared a 'war' on Swapo by registering in huge numbers did not violate white people's constitutional rights.

During a Swapo political gathering last month, Geingob reportedly said he had noted with concern a number of white voters registering in big numbers and that they had seemingly declared war against Swapo.

The main opposition Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) complained against Geingob's utterances and lodged a complaint with Ombudsman John Walters last month. PDM claimed that the remarks by the head of state amounted to intimidation.

In its complaint, PDM viewed Geingob's comments as oppressive, intimidating and in contravention of a number of provisions in the Namibian constitution which protects the fundamental rights of all Namibians, in particular the right to participate fully in political activity without intimidation or coercion.

Walters in the report titled 'Persistence of Race' instead said that Geingob's remarks were rather unifying.

"The objectionable utterances, viewed contextually, were not likely to bring about hatred between different racial groups or between persons belonging to different groups. The objectionable utterances had just the opposite effect of uniting people in their condemnation of the President," Walters said.

Welcoming the report, Hengari said Geingob chaired the Constituent Assembly, which drafted the Namibian constitution, and is therefore fully conversant with the provisions of the constitution.

"The comments made by President Geingob at a political event on 17 October 2020 for the purposes of mobilizing and canvassing for political support for candidates of the political party of the President for the 25 November 2020 Local and Regional Authority elections should have been seen in that light," Hengari said.

"We knew from the beginning that the actions by the PDM were nothing but sheer political opportunism, which should have been roundly called by analysts and commentators," he added.

Hengari says consistent with what Geingob had maintained, the Ombudsman found that the "main thrust of the President's speech was the acknowledgement that 'we have heard you'".

Moreover, he said the Ombudsman's report found that the comments "did not constitute any violation of white people's Article 17 constitutional rights", and "when viewed contextually were not likely to bring about hatred between racial groups or between persons belonging to different groups".

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