Monday 12 April 2021
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Dungeon probe aimed at Swapo-Geingob

Why it should not be probed:

  • Only alleged wrongdoers from Swapo targeted
  • Negates provisions of UN blanket amnesty
  • Only alleged wrongdoers from Swapo targeted







Why dungeons must be probed:

  • Families want to know fate of relatives
  • Have access to deceased relatives’ remains
  • To clear names





President Hage Geingob says those calling for a probe into the dungeons and other war crimes have a political agenda that only seeks to expose wrongdoers from Swapo’s side. Human rights activists, on numerous occasions, threatened to challenge government in court to hold perpetrators accountable for possible war crimes such as the ‘dungeons’ during the liberation struggle. But their efforts so far, have proved fruitless.  But in 2003 already, while completing his doctorates’ degree with the University of Leeds, President Hage Geingob made it clear in his thesis that under the tutelage of the United Nations, Swapo negotiated a blanket amnesty for all before the Namibian exiles returned home. Explaining why war crimes should not be probed, Geingob said it would negate the provisions of blanket amnesty. “Second, many of the wrongdoers had left the country and it was impossible to secure their willingness and participation in the process; third, those arguing in favor of bringing the wrongdoers to book, based on the ‘revelations’ in Namibia: Wall of Silence, had their own political agenda, they had sought to bring to book any alleged wrongdoers to book from only one side, Swapo,” he said in the academic paper. He went on to say: “Their objective was to manipulate public opinion against Swapo. If wrong doers were to be brought to book, it was reasonable to argue that wrongdoers from all sides must be brought to book, such as the South Africans, colonial administration, the DTA government of occupied Namibia and Swapo.”
“Swapo felt that its cadres could be targeted for their actions during the liberation struggle. However, negotiating of a blanket amnesty meant that all perpetrators of apartheid atrocities were also given amnesty,” he said in his thesis titled State Formation and Consolidation: Strengthening the Institutions of State. “Because Namibia was an international territory prior to independence, the international community, too, was keen to create conditions that would bring about lasting peace, and was therefore in favor of blanket amnesty-so as to close the dark chapter in Namibia’s history. As a result of this effort, the Western Contact Group stipulated in its Proposal for a Settlement of the Namibian situation than South Africa must free Namibian political prisoners, and subsequently Namibians detained outside the country be released by Swapo,” he said. Geingob however expressed concern at the time that although both parties accepted the blanket amnesty as a practical approach towards reconciling the society, some of the local media began criticizing the government for not bringing wrongdoers to book. He said the approach of exposing wrongdoers and then let them go free with only limited recourse to justice, for the satisfaction of the wronged was not considered a viable option for Namibia. He did however acknowledge that some of the people who asked for accountability were genuine in their demand. “They wanted to know the fate of their family members, a child, a brother or the husband. Nobody told them of their loved ones. In order to address their concerns, Swapo published a complete of all the Swapo members who had died in exile and the cause of their death. Yet, some citizens continued to demand a general apology from Swapo,” he asserted. The Joint Committee of the Committee of Parents, Truth and Justice, Erica Beukes, in an open letter addressed to Geingob said “the argument that it[probe] will cause civil war is nonsense”. “Moreover, fundamental rights include the right to know when, how and where your people have died.
It is a fundamental right to have access to their remains. It includes to be informed of the fate or whereabouts of missing. This inquiry is further necessary to determine who were the spies and who were not; who collaborated with South Africa on the Cassinga Massacre,” she said. She also questioned: “Who were responsible for the massacre of young PLAN fighters on 1 April 1989? Why do SA police spies and collaborators qualify for war veteranship and many PLAN fighters and Freedom fighters inside the country do not qualify for it?” A local daily, Namibian Sun, reportedly earlier this month that the commission of inquiry into alleged human rights abuses and war crimes in exile will officially commence on 2 September, says the chairperson of the Committee of Parents, Erica Beukes. She reportedly has announced a final list of 13 national and international actors who have so far expressed their willingness to serve as commissioners. From the international community they are: retired High Court judge in Zimbabwe and acting High Court judge in South Africa Chris Greenland, South African advocates Carmen Beukes, Zinsele Khoisan, John Liebenberg, and Fuad Arnold, as well as Nick Bailey from Britain and Mirek Vodsln from Germany.

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