The embattled former deputy minister of Land Reform Bernadus Swartbooi is inviting more trouble should he address a land meeting in Maltahohe next month, a senior Swapo insider said this week.
The former deputy land reform minister is a serving Swapo Party backbencher, but for now it remains a mystery regarding the capacity in which he will address the “landless masses” in the southern regions next weekend.
“It remains to be seen what his address will entail during the gathering, but it is a risky task to undertake because this might give the party ammunition to get rid of him and recall him from parliament.
His stance on the land issue is totally understandable but there is a feeling in the party that he addressed the matter in the wrong manner,” said the source who opted to remain anonymous.
The Patriot has learnt that Swartbooi will be the keynote speaker of different mass meetings organised by a group calling themselves “Progressive Landless in the southern regions of Namibia”.
Swartbooi is revered in the south and is often labelled as “the son of the soil” due to his unrelenting stance on the land issue which eventually cost him his seat in Government.
The first meeting is slated for 4 February 2017 in the //Karas regional capital, Keetmanshoop, at the J. Stephanus Stadium while a second will be held in Maltahohe, in the Hardap region the following day.
According to reports circulating in the media, Swarbooi who is also a former governor of the //Karas region, will address a string of mass meetings under theme “Landless People’s Mass Meeting”.
However, it remains unknown whether the former deputy land reform minister’s keynote addresses in the south were sanctioned by the ruling Swapo Party or he will be speaking in his private capacity as an ordinary Namibian citizen.
The Swapo quartet of Nangolo Mbumba (secretary general), Laura Mcleod-Katjirua [deputy SG] and Helmuth Angula (Swapo spokesperson) could not be contacted for comment this week.
When The Patriot contacted Swarbooi for comment to establish whether he had been sanctioned to speak to the masses on behalf of the ruling party or in his individual capacity, he responded by saying: “Just come to the meeting…that’s all” .
Swartbooi’s address comes a few weeks after a group of about 500 residents of the two southern town held a peaceful demonstration petitioning the re-tabling of the second Land Bill before the second land conference since 1991 is held.
According to the group, the re-tabling of the Land Bill is premature and is of no purpose when considering that President Hage Geingob announced in December that a land conference was due in September.
It remains to be seen whether Swapo will take action against Swartbooi in an event that he contravenes the party’s land policies seeing that the party has been brutal towards Young Turks who are seen to be going against the party’s standpoints on policy matters.
The question of land distribution and redistributing has been one of the major plights in Namibia since the country got its independence from the South African apartheid regime 26 years ago.
Late last year Swartbooi came under fire for referring to the conduct of his the superior and Land Reform Minister Utoni Nujoma with the land resettlement s “unacceptable”.
Swartbooi allegedly said Nujoma “must” be called to order and indicated that he (Swartbooi) does not work for Nujoma but for Geingob.
Land has been a contentious issue in Namibia for the greater part of the past decade and Swartbooi is one of the few high-ranking officials within the ruling party to have come out publicly to criticise the country’s snail-paced land reform policies.
Eventually, Swartbooi got the boot from Geingob after he refused to render a public apology to his senior, the land reform minister Utoni Nujoma.
Swartbooi publicly critised Nujoma for the way he was handling the resettlement programme during a cultural event at Hoachanas.