Geingob slams lethargic Swapo MPs

The Swapo president tore into his party's members of parliament who he said have lost ground to the opposition as far as engagement in the lower house is concerned.

17 July 2020 | Politics



President Hage Geingob yesterday made no secret of his discontent that members of his Swapo Party are trailing in the dust of their opposition counterparts' more energetic approach to debates in the National Assembly.

“Like many Namibians, I have spent the past several weeks keenly following the proceedings of Parliament on television.

“Many of you have done well but I must express my regret at the manner in which you, as ruling party functionaries, have allowed the opposition to gain the upper hand in the chamber,” the head of state, who is also Swapo president, said.

“One must ask the question, how can people who are leading by an extra 30 seats be controlled by others?” said Geingob, who encountered the opposition's combative style during his State of the Nation Address last month.

During his address, chaos erupted in the legislative chambers and interrupted the president persistently, with speaker Peter Katjavivi struggling to have matters under control.

Yesterday Geingob reminded Swapo members that they have the numbers and must use them to control the discourse in the National Assembly.

He stressed that a majority representation is not effective if MPs do not make it count.

“If one were to follow the proceedings of parliament without any prior information on the political landscape in Namibia, one would easily assume that the opposition is in charge. You have opposition parties with only two or one representative in parliament but they are exuding an air of confidence like they are in the majority,” he said.

Youth must play their part

The president added that he is aware senior members want to maintain a certain behaviour in parliament but it is upon the youth to provide counter responses to the “derogatory rhetoric” from the political opposition.

“If you are timid as Swapo MPs, we will continue to witness more unsavoury moments, such as the undignified and demeaning attacks on the Founding Father of the Nation (Sam Nujoma) and on several Swapo MPs, by the opposition. It is precisely during those moments where our majority needs to count and where Swapo MPs should present a deafening, united and resonating voice, to quell such abhorrent attacks,” Geingob said.

Speaking during an induction training session for Swapo MPs Geingob told members that it is their ultimate task to re-define the rules of engagement and to discharge their duties effectively and remember that the electorate has their eyes set on them.

“We do not want you, as SWAPO MPs, to go into Parliament and prioritise non-issues or engage in personality clashes, while leaving pressing matters that are crucial to national development, unattended. You must set the tone and the agenda, and not allow others to do so,” he said.

Tall order

Political commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah said Geingob's remarks were merely a countermeasure to change the narrative around Swapo, which has been embroiled in several corruption scandals, as the party is heading to the polls for the local and regional council elections later this year.

“He is right their performance in parliament has not really produced any tangible discussion or policies. It is going to be a tall order especially because of the Fishrot. As long as the Fishrot in the public discourse it will be difficult for the party to change the narrative,” he said.

No more sleeping

Political commentator Frederico Links said it was just right of the president to demand that the party members are present in parliament.

“It is a contested space and there is supposed to be debating and confronting. And I think that is what he is demanding, that they are more present and more visible. And that is what Namibians want, they want to know who these people are,” Links said.

He added while derogatory terms and aggressive behaviour are unacceptable, members of parliament ought to bring the issues facing their voters to parliament.

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