‘This is why they call us baboons’: Iijambo

The appointment of Namibians into advisory capacity or on boards of parastatals should not be an opportunity to give jobs to comrades but to field competent Namibians, ideally the youth.

These were the sentiments of Swapo president Tangeni Iijambo in the National Assembly (NA) on Tuesday when he took swipe at the re-appointment of the four members of the Land Reform Advisory Commission by Land Reform Minister Utoni Nujoma on Tuesday.

The four commissioners are Rachel Nataniel-Koch, John Hamukoto Akwenye, Martina Kebiditsemang Mokgatle and Jeff Ugwanga Mbako.

They will be commissioners for the next three years.

It will be their third term.

However, it is how Iijambo vented his disappointment that caused a stir in the chamber.

Al dra n bobbejaan n goue ring, hy bly net n bobbejaan, Iijambo said, an expression that did not sit well with his compatriots.

It loosely translates even if a baboon is wearing a golden ring, it remains a baboon.

'Bobbejaan' or 'baboon' is a derogatory term that was/is commonly used by proponents of the Apartheid regime.

According to Iijambo, the appointment of incompetent people into critical positions is what has earned Namibians, especially blacks to be referred to as 'bobbejaan' by their former colonial masters.

It is not my expression. It is an Afrikaans proverb, he said.

According to him, the apartheid regime used the expression to say give a black person something [in this case a farm] that is good, it will end up being destroyed.

He said it is a long-held perception by those who sell land to the government.

Iijambo was asked to retract the expression, as other parliamentarians were of the view that it was not in line with the decorum of the August house.

It's very inappropriate in this house. Withdraw that, a clearly agitated National Assembly Speaker, Peter Katjavivi told.

Deputy Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration Maurin Hinda-Mbuende was also unimpressed by Iijambo's choice of words.

Iijambo was not in the mood to entertain Katjavivi and Hinda-Mbuende's requests, saying his expression was deliberately being blown out of context.

Iijambo was firm that before farm owners who sell their farms to the government they deliberately dilapidate these farms by pouring concrete in boreholes, destroying water points, poisoning trees and land to make it impossible for the new farmers, who are predominantly black Namibians to progress.

For this, he was unapologetic about as it is due to the lack of oversight from the commission.

My claim is that the formally advantaged want to justify that claim by vandalising the farms that they sell to the government. And then on our part, we are so weak or the people who we recycle as advisors to ministers and so on don't have the expertise to go deeper to scrutinise what happened to the farms. They really do a lot of harm, he explained.

He added that forensic audits ought to be conducted at farms bought for resettlement purposes before deserving Namibians are resettled.

I will not withdraw that, he said.

Iijambo, however, did retract, but only the Afrikaans version of his expression.

This was after Katjavivi threatened to chuck him out of the chamber.

Their re-appointment, according to All Peoples Party (APP) leader Ignatius Shixwameni is tantamount to the recycling of old people who have run out of ideas.

Can we just not look outside the box and find other people who are also capable? Why do we have to repeat recycling the whole old wine by just putting it in a new bottle? Shixuameni said.

United Peoples Movement's Jan Van Wyk echoed Shixuameni's sentiments.

Are saying that we don't have younger people to take up these positions? he said.

Workers Revolutionary Party's Salmon Fleermuys labeled the re-appointed commissioners incompetent.

He premised his analysis on his interaction with them through the Committee of Public Accounts, which he is a part of.

They have failed this country a million times because we cannot accept for then to give another chance again, he said.

On the opposing end was Justice Minister Sacky Shanghala, who supported Nujoma's appointment.

You people in the opposition just oppose everything. Even if Swapo supports the rain, you might as well oppose it, Shanghala said.

Premier Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila also joined the fray, saying the National Assembly was not the appropriate fora for MPs to raise issues of resettlement farms.

I agree with the minister of justice that indeed these persons are suitable to serve in the capacity in which they are being proposed to serve and indeed it is not in line with our procedures that we raise issues that are not related to the suitability and considering whether or not they should be approvedwe should rather focus on what we are supposed to consider in terms of the appropriate rules and systems that we have adopted, she said.

The motion was shelved until Thursday.