Camaraderie of shame
Swapo's Kavango East regional heavyweights who on Tuesday flocked to the Rundu Magistrate's Court to show solidarity with a councillor accused of assaulting a woman, have defended their decision to stand in their comrade's corner.
Rundu Rural constituency councillor Michael Shikongo was arrested last week and appeared in court on Tuesday for allegedly slapping and punching a 63-year-old pensioner. Kristine Tjarura Likakatere, who claims she was assaulted until she coughed blood, had a swollen face when Namibian Sun interviewed her shortly after visiting a local hospital.
Flocking to court on Tuesday to show support to Shikongo were, amongst others, Kavango East regional governor Bonifatius Wakudumo, Kavango East Swapo coordinator Ottilie Shinduvi, Nkurenkuru constituency councillor Damian Nakambare as well as Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) Kavango East secretary Anselm Marungu.
The regional Swapo leaders yesterday said they did not go to court to intimidate the judiciary or show disregard for gender-based violence.
They watched as Shikongo, who allegedly assaulted the victim last Wednesday at Tyeye village following a heated confrontation over a piece of land, was granted bail of N$3 000 by Magistrate Sonia Samupofu. His next appearance is on 18 October for plea and trial.
'In good and bad times'
Members of the public have since condemned the Swapo heavyweights on social media for standing in solidarity with a politician who stands accused of an issue as thorny as gender-based violence.
This is not the first time Swapo officials thronged courts when one of their own faces serious charges in court.
When former education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa and Swapo Politburo member Tobie Aupindi had their cases in court last year, Swapo members filled court galleries to the rafters.
The State successfully proved its charges against the two officials when they were successfully convicted.
This trend continued this week in Kavango East, with the public questioning why the leaders deserted the victim and instead sided with the alleged perpetrator of the crime.
They defended themselves by stating that they are friends with the accused and decided stand by him “in good or bad times”.
Wakudumo said at court on Tuesday that Shikongo is a fellow comrade and that he was there to stand with him in solidarity.
“Comrade Sitaura [Shikongo] is a friend and I am here to witness the proceedings. As a friend, one has to be in solidarity with your comrade; it does not matter whether he is right or wrong,” Wakudumo briefly remarked.
Shinduvi shared the same sentiments as Wakudumo, saying that although she stands by the accused as a comrade and a friend, she does not condone gender-based violence.
She also indicated their presence at court was not to intimidate the court staff.
“Sitaura is a friend and a comrade and it does not matter if he is wrong or right; you don't run away from your own people because they are wrong, that is inhumane,” she said.
“We know he might be wrong and we also condemn gender-based violence. The councillor is innocent until proven guilty. I am against gender-based violence.”
Nakambare said it was fortunate that while attending to a Kavango West regional council programme in Rundu, a fellow comrade and friend was appearing in court and it was on that basis he attended Tuesday's court proceedings.
“You see, when a person gives solidarity, it does not matter what transpired,” Nakambare said.
“I am not saying I am supporting what happened, but when you have a friend no matter in good days or bad days, you need to comfort your friends, but what transpired is not a right thing.”
“What transpired is not right. I am not supporting what transpired but when something happens to a person you know, you go there. We are not supporting gender-based violence against any citizen of this country.” He added.
Marungu told Namibian Sun when contacted for comment that he only escorted the Swapo Party Kavango East Region secretary for the women's council, Ernestine Ndumba.
“Especially myself, I just went there to escort the secretary of the women's council.”
“It is not that we are in support of what happened. You just go there as there is a court and you know the person and you witness the proceedings, that's all.
“There is nothing like the youth league secretary was in solidarity. I know the person and I just went there to witness the court proceedings. I did not go there as a politician although it cannot be separated, I just went there as Anselm Marungu,” Marungu added.