Namibia: MPs 'Guilty of Sodomy' Should Also Be Punished - Swartbooi

20 September 2021

LANDLESS People's Movement (LPM) leader Bernadus Swartbooi says if he is to be punished for allegedly tainting the image and reputation of the National Assembly (NA), Swapo parliamentarians who have been convicted of corruption and those involved in sexual relationships prohibited under the sodomy law should also be reprimanded.

Swartbooi last week in parliament said he feels the NA's committee on privileges and immunity, which investigated the alleged disruptive behaviour of himself and fellow LPM parliamentarian Henny Seibeb during the state of the nation address (Sona) earlier this year, has been biased against them.

He said the committee has a "selective" approach.

"There are members of Swapo who sit with criminal convictions as we speak. They are a disgrace, but not to the speaker, as it appears they are from another political party," he said.

Swartbooi said the responsibility to maintain the dignity of parliament should not be reserved for a few only.

He suggested that parliamentarians involved in sexual relationships prohibited under the sodomy law must also be punished for "bringing down the dignity and reputation of this house", because "the crime of sodomy is in our statute".

Swartbooi threatened he would sue NA speaker Peter Katjavivi and other members of the parliamentary committee on privileges if its recommendation to punish him and Seibeb are implemented.

He said the committee's report should also be rejected by the NA as according to him it is biased, malicious, dangerous and substandard.

The two LPM members of parliament (MPs) were indefinitely suspended from attending sessions of the NA after they were blamed for the chaos that erupted during the Sona on 15 April.

They returned to parliament earlier this month after they successfully appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn acting judge Kobus Miller's decision in the High Court, which upheld Katjavivi's decision to withdraw them from parliament.

The privileges committee, which is chaired by Katjavivi, found that the conduct of Swartbooi and Seibeb was in breach of the standing rules and orders of the NA.

The committee recommended that a penalty be imposed on the two LPM MPs for their conduct, and that they must be reprimanded.

The NA last week started to discuss the course of action to be taken regarding these recommendations by the committee.

During this debate, Swartbooi said the report should be rejected by the NA as it is in contravention of the Supreme Court judgement, which ruled that Katjavivi overstepped his power to withdraw the two LPM MPs from attending NA sessions.

He said the committee should have aligned its conclusion with the judgement of the Supreme Court.

Swartbooi said if any member is to be reprimanded and disciplined as recommended by the report, it should be Katjavivi "for misconducting himself".

"The decision of the Supreme Court is one that must be taken very seriously by this house to ensure that the speaker [. . .] doesn't act carelessly and overreach in terms of powers they don't have and cause prejudice to members which shouldn't have been the case," he said.

Swartbooi also accused the speaker of misconduct by taking a decision to suspend him and Seibeb and claiming in court papers that such a decision was taken by the NA as a collective.

"We have found that you are extremely eager to suspend members of the non-ruling party and that you are eager to protect those of the ruling party. You decided to replace parliament and make a decision to suspend us yourself as the speaker. That is dangerous and must prompt parliament to reprimand the speaker," he said.

Justice minister Yvonne Dausab expressed her disappointment with Swartbooi's remarks regarding "people's personal lives".

She said his remarks were derogatory and unbecoming.

However, Nudo secretary general Joseph Kauandange asked Katjavivi to apologise to the house for his "unlawful" decisions.

Swapo's Sebastian Karupu, who is also a member of the privileges committee, said the report should be accepted because it does not deal with matters dealt with by the Supreme Court.

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