Tribal slurs brew parliament storm – The Namibian
NATIONAL Unity Democratic Organisation (Nudo) parliamentarian Joseph Kauandenge yesterday set the cat among the pigeons when he called out Swapo members of parliament (MPs) for allegedly shunning discussions on matters of genocide.
Kauandenge’s statements set the house virtually alight, with Swapo parliamentarians defending the party and instead fingering Nudo for having allegedly colluded with the apartheid regime under the umbrella of the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance – the forerunner of the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM).
In an emphatic motivation to his motion on the establishment of a genocide memorial museum, Kauandenge lashed out at Swapo MPs for not giving due credit and consideration to such motions.
He said the ruling party was deliberately avoiding discussions and holding back any support for motions to address matters relating to the genocide, as giving such support would purportedly change Swapo’s narrative on how independence was achieved.
The Nudo parliamentarian said Swapo was not supporting genocide motions as they are mainly set to benefit the Ovaherero and Nama people, which the ruling party was not comfortable with.
“No amount of historical distortion would change the fact that Namas and Ovahereros died in the fight for their motherland. They died in the genocide. Every tribe fought and died for this country, no single tribe should claim that they are the only ones. It is just not fair,” he said.
To emphasise the influence of history and in a rare move from the opposition benches, Kauandenge hailed founding president Sam Nujoma and incumbent Hage Geingob for having played pivotal roles in the liberation of the country.
He said both leaders remained firm in their respective resolve against injustices, despite facing several threats on their lives.
He said the roles played by Geingob and Nujoma can never be ignored simply because they are not Nudo members.
As such, Kauandenge noted, there was no way the history of the Ovaherero and Nama genocide could be ignored.
“We may differ on his leadership, or whether he was true to his oath as a leader…but we cannot deny the role that Sam Nujoma played at a time when it was not fashionable to do so. This is history. We cannot take that history away from him.
“We also cannot take the history away from president Hage Geingob on his role as chairperson of the Constituent Assembly. So, why is the Swapo government willing to change the history of the Ovaherero people? Why change the perspective?
It was, however, Kauandenge’s assertion that he was “a Herero first before being a Namibian”, which further caused a drift in the lower house of parliament.
“We are first and foremost Ovaherero and so on before we are Namibians. Let’s not fool ourselves,” he said.
Deputy prime minister and minister of international relations and cooperation Netumbo Nandi-Ndwaitwah was the first to intervene on behalf of the ruling party, saying Swapo was not quiet on genocide-related matters.
“The Genocide Rememberance Day that was proposed has been discussed at length here. We supported it. All that is left now is for a specific date to be set. Also, there are already plans to set up a museum on Shark Island to honour genocide victims and others,” she said.
Most vocal from the Swapo benches was Veikko Nekundi, who called Kauandenge’s motion a “Hollywood motion”.
He said although in principle the motion was good, it had strong tribal undertones that could be dangerous if left unchallenged.
“Some of the questions by Kauandenge are just useless and not worth responding to. There is no doubt that Swapo rules this country, including ruling over you and even the snakes,” he said.
Swapo’s Frans Kapofi said Kauandenge went overboard in the motivation of his motion by appearing unintentionally tribal, which could harm the motion.
Also, he said, such assertions by the Nudo MP could cause confusion in the general public domain.
“When we offered our lives in exchange for freedom, it was not just for a certain tribe. It was for all Namibians. It is easy to break something, but very difficult to build it. When we contribute to a debate such as this, be mindful.
“You must know when you are saying some of these things, you are hurting us, and I am sure you do not want to hurt us. We want to build our country, not harm each other.”
Swapo MP Jerry Ekandjo opted to take a personal swipe at Kauandenge, saying history would also judge him as he has “hopped from being an Oviritje musician, then an MP, and I understand he went to Unam and back to Oviritje. So, history judges all of us”.
The debate was postponed to today.