I am not soft, says Swapo chief whip

Windhoek-Swapo chief whip Evelyn !Nawases-Taeyele has rejected claims that she is soft on Swapo members of parliament who find themselves in the wrong.

Various allegations followed Wednesday's incident when chaos nearly erupted in the National Assembly after former land reform deputy minister Bernadus Swartbooi insulted his former boss, Utoni Nujoma, calling him greedy and accusing him of having raped the Namibian constitution.

"Those who are saying I am soft and did not do anything are completely devoid of any truth. I stopped the colleague. I went to him and tried to cool him down from his emotions. After that we called for a break and we went to consult," she said.

She said her job is not to stand in parliament and shout at members publicly, but more of a facilitator.

She said that during the break she consulted Prime Minister Saara Kuugongwelwa-Amadhila and National Assembly Speaker Peter Katjavivi on the issue.

"We agreed that we put any further debate on that particular item on hold. We stopped it there, and then the business of the house continued. So it's not true that I allowed things to happen, I intervened," she revealed.

Swartbooi insulted Nujoma while the latter was delivering his ministerial statement on the issue of the Land Bill, the re-tabling of which was earlier put on hold by President Hage Geingob for further public consultations.

At the same time Swartbooi reportedly said that Geingob made "nonsense statements" in public about land activists.

"For me as a chief whip, my positon has always been that all of us as MPs should take the stance of collective responsibility. It should go together with the discipline that each and every member should have when you are on a ticket of the party," she noted.

Asked if she took up the issue with Swapo's top leadership, she said it was too soon as she was yet to properly consult on the matter.

"The incident only happened yesterday (Wednesday). There are disciplinary measures that go with that. But at this moment in time I can't respond to you on what exactly will happen. You must give me time to apply my mind as I still have to meet the members involved," she reasoned.

She urged all MPs, but in particular Swapo members, to desist from using unparliamentary terms, saying they should be exemplary to those who put them in power.

The incident happened days after Geingob opened the fifth session of the sixth parliament where he urged MPs to rededicate themselves and engage in respectful debates to improve the lives of the masses.

"We should follow the directive of what the president said to members when he opened parliament. We should always have a united stand on issues that are of national interest. With regard to what transpired there in parliament it was very unfortunate," !Nawases-Taeyele said.

According to her, Swartbooi acknowledged that he had done something wrong and hence withdrew his statement.

She maintained that MPs are national leaders and therefore their actions should speak as such.

"We are representatives of our people out there that are looking up to us as role models and national leaders. I am calling upon them to not again find ourselves in such behaviour. There are platforms where party members can air their grievances," she advised.

She insisted that member use available avenues to seek solutions instead of openly and publicly defaming each other.

"It's totally uncalled for and completely out of order. I implore party members to show that we stand united in the same party," !Nawases-Taeyele urged.

Swapo Party secretary general Nangolo Mbumba said political parties have their own constitutions that prescribe how members should conduct themselves at all times.

"We should not bring things to the party and to ourselves where people are understanding that we are not worthy of the jobs we are entrusted to do. We want to follow the line set by our president. Peace, stability and unity in our nation are the cornerstones and anything else that does not bring those is really regrettable," Mbumba said.

He said members should behave like elected leaders at all material times - no matter the circumstances.

He added that unity among people and nations is supreme and that people's own personal attitudes towards each other must be guided by that.

He said there was nothing more to report on the incident as it's already in the public domain.

"It's public. What needs to be reported and to whom? It's public, in the newspapers, television, and I am sure even radios are talking about it. There is nothing to report. We will see how to advise and remind them again how we should conduct ourselves. But we have opened ourselves to criticism of the public by doing things like that," he said.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia