Swapo’s handling of the land issue has come under serious scrutiny, especially now that three splinter movements have emerged out of the party citing a lack of urgency by the party to solve the land problems engulfing the country.
Coupled with this, the Swapo Party also seems to have met its Damascus moment over the manner in which it disciplines perceived dissenting party members, who stand accused of contravening party rules.
Following its court defeat against AR last year, the party has clearly opted not to take instant action against former deputy lands minister Clinton Swartbooi, contrary to its 2016 actions when it jumped at the opportunity to get rid of Affirmative Repositioning leaders even before following the due processes.
Politburo members deliberated extensively at this week’s meeting whether to take action against Swartbooi. However, some Politburo members opted to support a procedural disciplinary procedure to avoid another court embarrassment.
The Patriot, however, understands that some party members warned that the party runs the risk of being labelled as having “double standards” regarding its inconsistency on the Swartbooi matter, which many consider to be exactly the same as that which led to the ousting of Job Amupanda, Dimbulukeni Nauyoma and George Kambala from the party.
“There is nothing different in the two cases, it’s either the party admits that the way it treated the AR guys was wrong and procedures were not followed or it has more sympathy for Swartbooi,” said a member from the party’s central committee, who preferred anonymity.
Once a staunch party member who would defend the party’s policy at any given chance, Swartbooi has become a fierce critic and is accused of embarrassing the party by his utterances such as calling the lands minister Utoni Nujoma an idiot in the National Assembly.
His supporters maintain that their man is fighting a just course.
The youth leader has long been a controversial but popular figure.
A Windhoek based politician close to Swartbooi says the former deputy minister is being unfairly targeted for pointing out the truth.
So far, at least three movements spearheaded by young Swapo card-carrying members have sprouted up and all of them have one similar question – how, if at all, will the ruling party solve prevailing land problems given its own internal divisions and apparent disregard for dissenting views?
These movements are Affirmative Repositioning, Muzokumwe Volunteers Organisation and the Landless People’s Movement.
AR is spearheaded by Amupanda, Kambala and Nauyoma, LPM is spearheaded by Swartbooi and Muzokumwe is chaired by Swapo Party Youth League labour secretary Paulus Mbangu.
Swapo Party secretary general Nangolo Mbumba, however, noted that the party will not allow card-carrying members to have double membership.
He also indicated that the party will pronounce itself on the Swartbooi matter when the time is right.
Mbumba also indirectly indicated that the party did not target AR leaders when it booted them out of the party when he said: “The usual and standard way to deal with matters is to deal with them in a collective format, not to target individuals or groups that is not a solution to the problem.”
Referring to Swartbooi’s insult in Parliament, Mbumba said: “Everybody saw what happened, it was on television and it was reported by all of you [media]. So it is for all of us to judge if it was good to be seen in Parliament saying what was said. You are the owners of this country and you should be able to judge for yourself but at no material times can you say it [Swartbooi’s remark] was good.”
Mbumba maintained that this week’s Politburo meeting did not discuss the Swartbooi matter saying: “We did not convene to discuss one person, but all we are saying is that we do not want people who bring the party into disrepute. This is not only a question of Swartbooi.
“We must guard what we say and consider whether we are building or breaking. Some attitudes cannot be tolerated and we do not want people who say they are card-carrying members to belong to any organisations and political formations. It is your right to demand [for land] but let us wait for the land conference because it will guide us accordingly,” said Mbumba.
The secretary seemed rather perplexed by the overwhelming interest on the Swartbooi matter.
“I do not know if he is a good something or he has a good name because everyone wants to make him the hero or victim, some say why not punish him, some are asking why we allowed him to lose his job. But for me those are questions of yesterday. He is a Member of Parliament and he said what he said in Parliament, there are rules for those things. Today is not to decide the fate of Comrade Swartbooi, the party will pronounce itself at the right time,” said Mbumba.
According to Mbumba: “No matter who you are, if you want to be one of us and a leader in Swapo you are welcome but be a leader in Swapo only. If you want to lead wrong organizations you have the right to do so but we will always come up with whatever is necessary to ensure there is no double membership in the party.
“People can talk to their communities, but it cannot be right that when I am here I speak and behave like Swapo but when I am outside I say other things that have nothing to do with what is prescribed in the party’s constitution. But as I said that is not for me to decide, but it is their freedom to do what they want as long as it is within the parameters of the party,” he said.
This publication, however, understands that Swartbooi’s matter will be referred to the party’s disciplinary committee, which is led by party veteran, Dr Ngarikutuke Tjiriange, for further action.
Efforts to get hold of Tjiriange proved futile.
Last time around, the party’s top four, under the stewardship of acting party president Dr Hage Geingob, acted prematurely and exiled the three AR leaders for apparently bringing the party into disrepute over land activism; this was done even before the Politburo met. The legality of the banishment was widely questioned seeing that the so-called ‘top four’ is not a structure recognized by the party’s statutes.
The party was subsequently taken to court by the trio and then SPYL leader Dr Elijah Ngurare after challenging the legality of their expulsion from the party.
Soon after the trio was expelled, Mbumba was quoted saying: “The suspended SPYL leaders cannot appeal their expulsion, only a congress can overturn the decision.”
But the court had other ideas when it overruled the party’s decision and made it explicitly clear that the party was wrong when it banished the trio.
While delivering judgment in the High Court in April 2015, Judge Collins Parker said: “In my opinion, the leadership of the first respondent [Swapo] were wrongly advised on the true interpretation and proper application of the relevant provisions of the first respondent’s Constitution and the Code, particularly the dichotomy between discipline and correction; between disciplinary procedures and corrective procedures; between discussions and audi.
“I have no doubt that the decision makers of the first respondent acted to the best of their judgment and with utmost desire to do what they thought was right; but I think they have made a mistake; and so the right course is to grant declaration,” said the judge at the time.