Slit defectors’ throats

Shalli defends shocking comments as ‘figurative’

09 November 2020 | Politics

OGONE TLHAGE







WINDHOEK

Former Chief of the Namibian Defence Force Martin Shalli yesterday attempted to pour cold water over shocking remarks he made during a Swapo rally at Okahandja on Saturday, where he said those who defect from Swapo to form or join other political formations must be killed.

In a shocking video that has gone viral and led to opposition parties laying charges against the retired general, Shalli is seen insisting that the translator must repeat his remarks, which he made in Oshiwambo, so that the audience understood him fully.

Addressing an audience at Okahandja's Five Rand informal settlement, Shalli painted a graphic picture of how defectors must be killed – saying and gesturing that they must have their throats slit.

In the video, he is heard making reference to former Swapo blue-eyed boy Ignatius Shixwameni, who defected to the Congress of Democrats (CoD) in 1999, as an example of defections that warrant death.

He also referred to former CoD president Ben Ulenga as another example of such defectors.

‘Slit the bastards’

Ulenga was prominent in the labour union movement that mobilised support for Swapo ahead of the decisive elections of 1989, which the former liberation movement won.

A decorated combatant of Swapo’s military wing, the People's Liberation Army of Namibia, Ulenga was wounded in combat, captured and sentenced to 15 years in prison on Robben Island.

Speaking on Saturday, Shalli said persons who had defected from the party should excuse themselves from earth.

“Such people of such character, who would stand today and speak on behalf of the party and later be traitors of the party and establish new political formations, they must excuse us on earth,” he said.

The retired general went on to say that such people deserved to be killed.

“They must be slit. They must be killed. They must not be shot, they must be slit, slit the bastards,” Shalli said.

Much hullabaloo

When called to elaborate on the comments, Shalli yesterday told Namibian Sun that he did not exclude himself from such punitive measures if he defects from Swapo.

“I also made a reference to myself. You cannot stand with people and tomorrow you turn against them,” he said.

The call to slit defectors’ throats was also not meant at inciting violence, he insisted.

“No ways. This is not inciting violence, use your common sense. If a friend betrays you, it’s nonsense. Use your common sense, no incitement of violence, for what?” he said.

Comments ‘misinterpreted’

According to Shalli, the comments he made were being misinterpreted.

“I put [it] in a different context,” he said.

He also referred to comments that had been made by Landless People’s Movement leader Bernadus Swartbooi in which he referred to founding president Sam Nujoma as a ‘liar’ in the National Assembly in June.

“We get offended when people sit in Parliament and insult the founding father [Sam Nujoma]. Calling him a thug, liar, loser, what do you mean?” Shalli said.

“We sacrificed a lot for this country. People must look at the bigger picture, we have feelings, all of us. By insulting the founding father, you are insulting all of us, what manners are these?” he questioned.

‘Figurative speech’

With Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), Affirmative Repositioning (AR) and Walvis Bay Urban constituency councillor Knowledge Ipinge all taking legal action against Shalli – PDM and Ipinge opened criminal charges against him – the retired general later released a written statement, saying he used ‘figurative speech’ to attempt to defeat Swapo’s political adversaries.

“This figurative speech should be seen in the context of a democratic political campaign in which opponents are fighting for votes. Cutting off the head of the snake [is a] proverbial expression used in our African languages all the time,” he claimed.

According to him, opportunists were now making use of the opportunity to paint him in a bad light.

“Political opportunists want to use symbolic language I’ve used to make it to appear that it was some form of declaration of physical harm to fellow Namibians who are political opponents. It says more about them than me,” Shalli said.

According to him, the statements he made should be seen in the proper context.

“Suggesting otherwise is a pathetic attempt at scoring cheap political points,” he said.

Pending legal action

AR said it has taken offence with the statement Shalli made as it violated the country’s constitution.

“Our client is aggrieved and concerned by utterances attributed to yourself being circulated by way of video footage wherein you are heard to communicate/direct/order the execution of members of the opposition parties. The aforementioned utterances are a direct violation of Article 6 of the Namibian Constitution,” AR said through its lawyer, Kadhila Amoomo.

The movement has in the meantime demanded that Shalli withdraw his remarks, failure of which will result in it seeking legal action.

Meanwhile, Ipinge said: “I defeated Swapo in the by-election held on 15 January 2020 and took oath of office on 16 January 2020 to uphold the Constitution of Namibia. On the 26th of August 2020, I resigned from Swapo and [I am] currently a candidate running against them against the upcoming elections, so I feel my life is at threat”.