New political party on the cards for Namibia?
By Tileni Mongudhi
WINDHOEK – THE decision by Namibia’s ruling party Swapo to recall from the National Assembly former lands deputy minister Bernadus Swartbooi is being seen as a precursor to a long muted political party, whose sole purpose is to advocate for ancestral land rights.
The ruling party this week announced the removal of Swartbooi as a Swapo member of parliament.
Swartbooi was last year removed as deputy minister of land reform after he publicly criticised government’s land resettlement policy and also had a public spat with Land Reform Minister Utoni Nujoma.
Swartbooi felt that government was deliberately depriving people from southern Namibia, the Nama tribe, of land. He attacked the resettlement policy saying that government has been making commercial farming units it bought for the purpose of resettling black Namibians, only available to people who are not natives of southern Namibia.
As a result the Landless People’s Movement was created and he has been its face. The movement has been advocating for ancestral land rights for those who lost their land during colonialism. This is because the Namibian constitution prohibits land expropriation without compensation.
Since being removed as deputy land reform minister in December last year, Swartbooi has toured the country talking to those he considered marginalised communities who have been short-changed by government.
Swapo secretary-general Nangolo Mbumba this week announced that the party’s Politburo has decided to recall Swartbooi as a Swapo member of parliament from the National Assembly.
“I have been mandated, as the secretary-general of the Swapo Party, on whose party list honourable Clinton Swartbooi was nominated into the National Assembly, to notify the Speaker of and Secretary of the National Assembly of his withdrawal,” Mbumba told the media on Wednesday.
Mbumba said that the reason for Swartbooi’s recalling is due to his public conduct and behaviour.
The secretary-general proceeded to quote Swartbooi’s negative utterances towards the party at various occasions.
“I am 99.9 percent not Swapo. The moment they withdraw me from the National Assembly, in 30 seconds I will resign from Swapo,” Swartbooi was quoted as saying at one of the public platforms where he was speaking about issues pertaining to land.
Swartbooi is also accused of calling the ruling party the OPO, which stands for Owamboland People’s Organisation which was later transformed into South West Africa People’s Organisation (Swapo). The OPO founders decided in the early 1960s to change the name to Swapo to make the movement more nationalistic and inclusive of all Namibians instead of those who come from the Oshiwambo tribe.
His comments did not go down well with the party leadership which decided to remove him from his seat in parliament.
Mbumba defended the party saying that it will not expel Swartbooi from the party and that the party is not targeting him because of the land issue.
“We are not quarrelling with anybody demanding land or how it should be dealt with,” he said.
Swartbooi, at the time of going to press, confirmed that he received his marching orders but said such orders meant nothing.
“I am already starting to feel the warmth outside parliament,” he said adding that life goes on.
News of Swartbooi’s recall from the National Assembly was met with revolt by his supporters in the south, some of who started burning ruling party Swapo flags and party regalia bearing President Hage Geingob’s face.
Swartbooi has not made the possibility of forming a political party secret. But he has maintained that it was the people he represents who should make such a decision.
It is expected that he will join forces with other groupings in the country advocating for ancestral land rights and those who feel they have been marginalised by government since independence in 1990.