Geingob ‘attack’ on whites condemned

The head of state drew the wrath for singling out an ethnic group that he says is leaving Swapo en masse.

19 October 2020 | Politics

JEMIMA BEUKES

WINDHOEK

President Hage Geingob has been roundly condemned for equating white Namibians registering for next month’s election to an act of ‘war’.

Officially opening Swapo’s campaign over the weekend, he attacked white people presumably leaving the ruling party ahead of the November 25 election, saying they have declared war on his party.

Geingob remarked that he has never seen white Namibians taking greater interest in an election than right now.

“And they said, anything else, but Swapo,” the head of state said on Saturday.

“I have noted and don’t forget that. People are declaring war against Swapo. Swapo who made them to endure peace and unity and the comfort that they have endured all this time,” Geingob said in a widely circulated video clip.

Threats and intimidation

The official political opposition Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), which has historically attracted white voters, said it would lodge a complaint against Geingob with the Office of the Ombudsman today.

The party, in a statement issued yesterday, said Geingob’s remarks were blatantly threatening and intimidating.

PDM Vice President Jennifer van der Heever said Geingob’s remark was an attempt to blackmail white voters and went against the spirit of nation-building.

“In fact, such comments are so dangerous that they directly threaten the very fabric of Namibian society. Geingob clearly suggested that white Namibians are not at liberty to exercise their own political choices, and participate in political activity, both of which freedoms are enshrined and protected in the Namibian constitution,” she said.

Desperate times

Constitutional expert Nico Horn said Geingob’s remarks were out of place and reflected the saying that “desperate times call for desperate measures.”

Horn added that Geingob was taking his frustration out on the wrong group in the sense that the white vote is numerically insignificant.

“We are talking about roughly 50 000 people who will make no difference in the elections. The white people in Namibia are politically very divided and also have no leader that can make them a political threat,” he said.

He added that Geingob’s decision to use the white people as a scapegoat instead of concentrating on the real political threats such as the Affirmative Repositioning or Landless People’s Movement (LPM) was aimed at diverting the public’s attention.

“There is a middle-aged loyal DTA group who will vote PDM. I noticed that both LPM and Dr Itula Panduleni’s party (IPC) seem to have some white support. But the whites are just too divided and small to have an impact on the election. Lastly, Swapo was never in the past the party of choice of the majority white voters.”

Democratic values undermined

Political commentator Graham Hopwood said it was unlike Geingob to single out one ethnic group and it undermined the values he stands for.

Hopwood also said it was strange that the president would equate registering to vote with an act of war.

“Politically, I do not even understand the strategy to attack one section of the population. I do not see how that would bring Swapo any more votes. It is really strange that he would say this,” he said.

Hopwood also argues that Geingob’s remarks were aimed to create a sort of false enemy to divert attention.

“An attempt to distract people from looking too closely at the track record of Swapo in government and trying to unite Swapo supporters,” he said.

Over-exaggeration

Despite the circulating video clip, Swapo member of parliament Mandela Kapere said the media misquoted the president.

According to him, these misstatements were unfair and meant to drive a wedge between the president and citizens.

“The president was addressing a Swapo audience in a specific context. He was expressing concern at the high levels of organisation mobilised against Swapo especially by white Namibians, this unprecedented mobilisation is meant solely to dislodge Swapo from power,” said Kapere.

He added that Geingob’s concern was underlined not by the civic and political participation of whites in and by itself but the fact that this participation has the sole purpose of dislodging Swapo from power.

“Dr Geingob as leader of Swapo, speaking to a Swapo audience, made a fair observation to a legitimate audience.”

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