Swapo's moral compass is lost - Pendukeni

The former justice minister says Swapo could have avoided the current hail of criticism if it had guided Hanse-Himarwa not to accept the controversial committee nomination.

25 February 2020 | Politics

Former Swapo secretary-general Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana said her party is encouraging a culture of 'convicted honourables' by not taking a firm and consistent stand on how to deal with leaders with criminal convictions.

She cited examples of how certain members who were only suspects of criminal activities were recalled from their positions, while those convicted in courts are glorified and appointed to new positions. She said the ruling party, and not necessarily Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, is to blame for endorsing the former education minister's controversial nomination to the parliamentary standing committee on constitutional and legal affairs. The endorsement, said the former justice minister who serves on the same committee, pointed to a loss of the moral compass in the former liberation movement.

Another member of the committee, Jan van Wyk of the United People's Movement (UPM), said the committee's pending work before this Parliament is dissolved is reviewing reports from some 2019 regional visits. “We will be busy for only two weeks. We won't be busy with very serious business,” he said. An online petition calling for the removal or resignation of Hanse-Himarwa from the committee has already collected more than 10 000 signatures.

Petitioners want her out of the committee as she was convicted of corruption by the High Court in July 2019. Her application for leave to appeal her sentence was dismissed early this month.

But the former minister dug in her heels over the weekend amid growing pressure, saying she has every right to serve on the committee as a member of Parliament.

She is not expected to return to Parliament when this term ends next month. Swapo endorsed Hanse-Himarwa's choice to serve on the parliamentary committee and asked speaker Peter Katjavivi to confirm her in the position. Approached for her view on the matter yesterday, Iivula-Ithana said the party has drifted from its principles, citing how former deputy minister of works Paulus Kapia was recalled from his position as a result of the Avid-SSC corruption allegations, before he was even convicted, as an example.

Swapo also suspended Kapia from all party activities, including from being a member of the politburo.

She said Swapo has a moral obligation to be seen as accountable and transparent in the eyes of the nation.

“I am at a loss of words. But my personal view is that we have lost our moral compass, or maybe we are still losing it… Now we have convicted honourables. I do not know what to say,” she said.

Iivula-Ithana, a trained lawyer, directed her criticism at the party itself rather than Hanse-Himarwa, saying Swapo has a responsibility to guide and direct its members.

“I do not blame Katrina. I am not condemning her; she must be guided by the party. Swapo is to blame. Katrina cannot decide her own fate, the party should have stepped in,” she said. Attempts to reach the Swapo leadership proved futile.

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JEMIMA BEUKES

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