Defence minister Peter Hafeni Vilho has accused leaders of the Landless People’s Movement of spying on the ministry’s affairs and passing on sensitive communications to foreign governments.
“If there are any threats to the Republic of Namibia it will probably come from them,” Vilho, who has been embroiled in a war of words with LPM leaders in parliament, claimed this week.
“It appears that the honourable members of the LPM are serving two constituencies. One constituency being Namibia and the other being foreign. I got two documentary proofs here that every communication that we have with them, they always pass this communication to foreign governments.” Vilho said this while responding to questions related to matters of the country’s defence force in parliament on Wednesday.
His response follows a constant demand from LPM members of parliament for answers related to the presence of Chinese military forces in Namibia. It was also sparked by accusations by LPM leader Bernadus Swartbooi who said Vilho has the biggest readiness to institute a military coup as well as to eliminate a huge section of Namibians.
Responding to questions swirling around the national defence force activities, Vilho said in a modern state, safety comprises the protection of the territorial and national sovereignty.
“Therefore, it goes without saying that information related to institutions and activities responsible for that safety should be kept under lock and key, away from the prying eyes of a potential advisory,” he told lawmakers. This, he said, is in terms of Section 54 (1) (a) (b) of the Defence Act, which among others, states that revealing “documents showing the location of our military facilities as well as the disposition of our force” and information showing the strength of the armed forces engaged in operations and quantities or nature of their equipment”, is likely to endanger national security and safety of the force.
Vilho said with the military it is not only that which “we have that is classified, but also that which we don’t have”. “Not every member of the defence force has information about everything in the defence force – I included. You will appreciate that the more people know about something the less confidential it becomes,” he added.
He said as military personnel they are just custodians of such information. “It is within the powers as lawmakers to demand it as we wish. It belongs to, and it is for the safety of the ultimate sovereign – the people of Namibia,” he said.
“We only get access to what is necessary for us to make an informed decision in given situations.” He said trying to get defence force information in an open forum such as parliament is fruitless.
“Now does this mean that debate on defence matters is completely off limits? Of course not. Defence has three strategic objectives or missions: national defence, contributions to regional and international peace and security, as well as aid to civil power and civil authority,” he said.
Last month Vilho assured that interactions his ministry has in any sphere with the Chinese government are within the normal course of the two countries’ bilateral agreements.
Vilho was responding to Swartbooi’s letter in which he queried the Chinese army’s “unconstitutional” presence in Namibia. Allegations include that the Chinese military had arrived in Namibia to defend the country, which the ministry has strongly refuted.
In his letter dated 19 August, Swartbooi questioned why the defence ministry continues to deny the presence of the Chinese army at the coast, while mentioning a plethora of so-called evidence from sources.
- Additional reporting by Nampa