Landless People’s Movement leaders Bernadus Swartbooi and Henny Seibeb have been found guilty of misconduct by a parliamentary committee, which investigated them after a scuffle, which erupted during the state of the nation address in April.
Although the National Assembly’s standing committee on privileges recommended that parliament should impose a penalty on the two MPs, it also suggested they should not receive further punishment. A decision has been taken that the two shall not be subjected to any further suspensions.
The two MPs on 15 April 2021 brought the joint sitting of parliament to a standstill while President Hage Geingob delivered his annual state of the nation address.
The pair caused several disruptions and got embroiled in a shouting match that eventually ended in their removal from the session.
Swartbooi also knocked off the ceremonial mace from its stand and Seibeb was led out the door by Geingob’s security by his ear tearing his suit in the melee. The sitting was then adjourned and in May, the High Court dismissed, with cost, a case in which the two parliamentarians were challenging the decision by Speaker Peter Katjavivi to bar them from attending parliament.
However, the Supreme Court appeal against a decision by Katjavivi, to suspend them from parliament succeeded and when parliament resumed this week, they were back in action.
The report was yesterday submitted in parliament by Swapo’s Philipus Katamelo.
Swartbooi, in response said, “it is so false, factually inaccurate and presents itself legally very shamefully.”
He said it is not true that they did not make themselves available and said they met with the speaker and raised their objections, in writing, about how the process was unfolding.
He said their lawyers asked Katjavivi to recuse himself but he refused to hear it.
Swartbooi said it was “procedurally wrong” for the speaker to submit a report to a committee that he is chairing.
“You can’t be the one who reports the matter, sits on that matter, hears the evidence and is also the judge in that matter,” said Swartbooi.
He further said he was never given the opportunity to recuse himself from the committee of which he is a member but was removed by Katjavivi.
The recommendation, to find them breach of clause 3.1 (b) of the Code of Conduct, read with the preamble to the Code’s Article 60(1)(a) of the constitution, is based on Seibeb and Swartbooi’s actions on that day. The parliamentary committee on privileges said the duo, which failed to acknowledge wrongdoing and did not cooperate with the committee’s work, conducted themselves in a manner that did not maintain the dignity and image of the National Assembly.
“In mitigation, the committee takes note of the fact that the two members’ suspension in terms of rule 124(a) spanned a significant amount of time and as a result, the committee does not wish to recommend any further suspension to the house,” the committee said in its final report.
Witnesses, including presidential security chief Johan Ndjaronguru, who gave testimony to the committee, all said they saw Seibeb slamming and tearing the pages of the Harambee Prosperity Plan document on his desk, that Swartbooi flipped the ceremonial mace off its place and that the two members behaved in a disruptive manner.
“The committee, therefore, finds that there is sufficient evidence to determine that honourable Seibeb acted in a grossly improper manner and in so doing, his conduct failed to maintain the dignity and image of the National Assembly,” said the committee.
Ndjaronguru also said Swartbooi threw the mace in the direction of President Geingob, while claiming Seibeb lost control over his emotions.