Landless People’s Movement leader Bernadus Swartbooi yesterday launched an attack on his Popular Democratic Movement counterpart McHenry Venaani, labelling him as “unethical and immoral”.
The fallout between the leaders appears to have been triggered by Venaani’s acceptance to be one of the members presiding over the parliamentary standing committee on privileges that is tasked to investigate the conduct of Swartbooi and his LPM colleague, Henny Seibeb, following their suspension from parliament.
Venaani and Swartbooi are the two opposition members who are part of the privileges committee. Others include National Assembly Speaker Peter Katjavivi and Swapo parliamentarians Sebastian Karupu and Phillipus Katamelo.
“We ensured that Mr McHenry Venaani deputises the speaker Peter Katjavivi (in the committee of privileges). The same McHenry Venaani now sits in judgement of those that help him get there.
How unethical?” Swartbooi said yesterday, while reacting to a Supreme Court judgement that ruled in their favour after him and Seibeb were booted out of parliament following a scuffle that erupted during President Hage Geingob’s state of the nation address in April.
The Supreme Court ruled that the suspension was outside National Assembly Speaker Peter Katjavivi’s powers.
“Even after a gun is planted, even then, these people cannot come over and say our morality does not allow us for this type of cacophonic movements to be made against fellow opposition politicians, yet you go and complain about another opposition politician that was arrested in Tanzania but here you are sitting and presiding over an irrationally and illegal process,” added Swartbooi.
He was referring to an incident when LPM lawyers, Patrick Kauta and Mercy Kuzeeko alleged that a pistol was detected by a screening machine in their bag at the entrance of the National Council building on 20 July 2021.
“There you (Venaani) are playing moral high ground and here you are in political mud, and you persist to remain in the political mud.” The standoff between the two parties have seen the LPM snubbing a PDM invitation to support a legal challenge lodged yesterday by five opposition parties against the alleged irregular procedure, which paved way for the reappointment of Paulus Noa and Erna van der Merwe as director and deputy director of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
Responding to the invitation by Venaani to partake in the planned demonstration and subsequent court challenge, Seibeb said, “after thorough consultations with my fellow MPs, I regret to inform you that we will not be able to be part of your litigation process.”
“The reasons being that PDM president is part of the privileges committee which is adamant on keeping us out of parliament and also that none of the opposition parties offered to LPM any messages of solidarity,” he added.
Also, he said, the PDM chief whip Vipua Muharukua provided a witness statement on LPM’s ongoing case at the privileges committee and the same person made inflammatory comments in the New Era interview with the hope of turning the public against the LPM.
“We feel that all political parties are on their own in parliament. We respectfully don’t want to be a party to such a litigation process,” Seibeb said in a short letter to Venaani.
In an interview with New Era in April, Muharukua said, “what occurred during SONA was despicable. The LPM should have let other parties make their contributions. There was nothing wrong done against the LPM during SONA. Frankly, it was childish from LPM’s side to have disturbed SONA in that fashion, but I suppose that is their political strategy. The speaker and Presidency are equally culpable for the denigration of the house on that day.”
When asked for comment yesterday, Venaani said, “I am a member of the privileges committee who remains impartial and judicious when dealing with any matter and history will absolve me.”
“Their leader is also a member of the privileges committee only that he is being investigated, so why blame my membership if they haven’t resigned?” he asked.
LPM yesterday became the second opposition to snub the opposition protest and litigation following the Independent Patriotic for Change (IPC) who this week said they have no standing in parliamentary affairs to throw their weight behind the disgruntled parties.
Despite the snub, Venaani yesterday said the majority of political parties are on board and litigation will continue.
Those on board include, the PDM, Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP), All People’s Party (APP), the Namibian Economic Freedom Fighters (NEFF), Republican Party (RP) and the National Unity Democratic Organisation (Nudo).