President And Other Leaders In Violation Of The ConstitutionBy: JOSEPH DIESCHO
NEXT year, Namibia will hold its fifth democratic elections, the fourth after political independence in March 1990. This time around, they will be held under the most volatile conditions thus far, accompanied by the spread of fear, intimidation and political violence. The spectre of political arrogance on the part of the ruling party and intolerance sweeping across the land is one of the most frightening of our time.
The three elections that Namibia held previously were characterised by relative peace, and to his credit, Founding President Sam Nujoma remained relatively above the fray characterised by insults and intolerance that seems to have invaded the political leadership of the ruling party today. We have not witnessed as much paranoia on the part of the ruling party as now, and it is seriously threatening the peace and stability the country has enjoyed thus far.
In the past few months, especially since the emergence of the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) on the political scene, the country has been witnessing a new culture: one of intolerance escorted by a language of hate, nullification and vilification, chiefly on the part of those who hold public office. The sad part is that the nation seems to be tolerating this new political behaviour on the part of those who are expected to serve the nation. This indicates that the Namibian public, including the National Assembly and the National Council, lacks constitutional sophistication and democratic consciousness, which is a dangerous sign for the nation’s future. It is expected in any democracy that parts of the electorate will always lack maturity and tolerance towards those who hold opposing views from their own. This can be said to form part of the pains of a new democracy in a climate of high illiteracy and low political education.
The real danger in Namibia is that those who hold public office are themselves guilty of intolerance! The records show that Ministers of State and Members of Parliament have hurled insults at leaders of opposition parties, as well as intimidating voters and displaying sheer lawlessness. Yet one would expect them to be harbingers of peace wherever they go to execute their duties as representatives and custodians of the laws of the State. As much as we must protect the freedom of individuals to hold and freely express their views, Ministers, members of national and regional houses are expected to behave in ways that uphold the Constitution of the Republic. It must always be borne in mind that upon assuming office they all take an oath that commits them to defending the constitution and protecting all citizens as Namibian citizens, not members of political parties.
The oath taken by ministers and deputy ministers says: ‘I hereby swear that I will be faithful to the Republic of Namibia, hold my office as minister/deputy minister with honour and dignity, uphold, protect and defend the Constitution and faithfully obey, execute and administer the laws of the Republic of Namibia, serve the people of Namibia to the best of my ability…’ Members of the National Assembly and National Council take a similar oath. There is no reference to the party here. The tax revenues from which they derive their income do not come from ruling party members only, but from all Namibians. When State and regional ministers uphold their loyalty to their parties above the call of duty to the nation, they are culpable of punishable offences.
The blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the President and Head of State. The sins here started when the nation generally, and Parliament in particular, allowed President Hifikepunye Pohamba to speak of the Government of Namibia as a Swapo-Party Government – because there is no such government in Namibia. There is only one Government: the Government of Namibia. We all have to take responsibility for having allowed this type of political buffoonery to become normal political language, and we are beginning to pay the price for our obsequiousness. Pohamba should have been called to order a long time ago.
Worse, for the President of Namibia to wrap himself in Swapo colours (scarf around his neck, flag, T-shirt, cap) as if they were more important than national symbols is unbecoming of a President of all the people. Hence, numerous incidents have been reported when national leaders in the ruling party, including the Head of State himself, can be said to have been inciting people to do harm to members of the opposition parties in person or their businesses –calling them enemies or traitors or unpatriotic.
When President Pohamba at one point called the leaders of the RDP Judas Iscariots, the nation’s Parliament should have called him to order. That conduct, on the part of an elected President of Namibia, to all intents and purposes was an unjustifiable offence that warranted impeachment of President Pohamba by Parliament. At the very least, the President should have received a public reprimand from the National Assembly and put on notice for impeachment.
Here is the oath the President has sworn: ‘I do hereby swear that I will strive to the best of my ability to uphold, protect and defend as the Supreme Law the Constitution of the Republic of Namibia, and faithfully to obey, execute and administer the laws of the Republic of Namibia; that I will protect the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and the material and spiritual resources of the Republic of Namibia; and that I will endeavour to the best of my ability to ensure justice for all the inhabitants of the Republic of Namibia. So help me God’. Again, there is no reference to loyalty to the party here. It is Namibian citizens who must be protected in the same manner at all times.
In fact, Parliament had reason at that very point to recall Pohamba from public office because in describing fellow citizens as enemies and traitors he was no longer serving all Namibians, but only one party: He was no longer a unifier, but a divider. He was no longer bringing peace to the people but spreading conflict; he was no longer a defender of the values of freedom, equality and peace, but a distributor of hate and ill-will.
President Pohamba ought to have been impeached when he forgot that Namibians of different parties had elected him, not only Swapo Party members. By this act and others, President Pohamba used public office for personal gain, namely to garner favour from members of the Swapo political elite who have doubts about his ‘Swaponess’. At that point Pohamba ceased to be the President of Namibia. What he did was a clear violation of the Constitution of the Republic: by dividing instead of uniting the nation, the President ceased to be the Number One Defender and Custodian of equality, justice and peace for all Namibian citizens (Article 30 of the Constitution).
When the President himself is clearly in breach of the Constitution and in violation of the oath he took upon taking office, the National Assembly has reason to impeach him for becoming incompetent to hold the Office of President of the Republic. Fortunately for the ill-informed President and unfortunately for the nation, Parliament did not know that the President was in violation of the Constitution of the Republic, and thus did not act. This fundamental truth about our democracy we all forget at our own peril.
The national oath Pohamba has taken in terms of Article 30 of the Constitution and, under the penalty of perjury and impeachment, to uphold, protect and defend the Constitution as the Supreme Law of the Republic, signifies that he ought to have been removed from office. It is a punishable offence for the President to defend unruly Swapo mobs, who have attacked opposition Rally for Democracy and Progress members over the past couple of months, as he did when he charged at the party’s Central Committee last Friday that ‘his party’ members were being provoked by “elements who call themselves democrats” while they occupy “self-imposed positions”. As Head of State and Commander in Chief, he should not make himself guilty of cheap political talk such as this.
Furthermore, in terms of Article 32 of the Constitution, enormous executive power is vested in the President to uphold, protect and defend the Constitution; and, in so doing, to perform all acts necessary, expedient and reasonable to guarantee the exercise of all basic human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Namibian citizens as contemplated in Article 5 of the Constitution, such as the right of association and of assembly. As both the Head of State and President of the ruling Swapo Party Pohamba is the First Citizen who is expected to be the father of all citizens, including those who ask vexing questions of him. For him to place the ruling party above the governing laws of the land renders him incompetent to be President, and he should be recalled.
In the current circumstances, as we move towards elections next year, it is important to remind the nation generally and Parliament specifically to honour the Constitution and the laws governing all of us.
First, the national leaders in one form or other ought to take leadership, even in the climate of electioneering, to act in the interest of all Namibians. There ought to be a national ordinance that should require that the use of political party symbols be toned down so as not promote and inflame emotions of hostility. All Namibians, be they leaders or followers, ought to direct their loyalty to the national flag and symbols and the values such as freedom and equality, for which the struggle was fought.
Second, the President ought to be made to promise Parliament and the nation that he is everybody’s President: even though he is a member and/or the leader of one party as Head of State and Commander in Chief, his conduct ought to be above party politics.
Third, the Election Commission ought to be given more power and authority to deal with public officials who preach hate. Namibia is one nation, and therefore is not the sole possession of one party, however powerful that party might feel at a given time.
Fourth, there ought to be an agreement early in the campaign that commits all party representations to a code of ethics, the violation of which should result in disqualification of any party or a party member who violates such a code while hoping to participate in the election.
Fifth, in light of possible violence, political rallies should be open to any person to attend and not just members. The purpose of rallies is for parties to educate their members and the nation about their party directions and programmes; they are therefore open to non-members to attend, in order to discern which party to vote for.
Sixth, holders of public office in parliament, in cabinet, in the law enforcement agencies, in regional houses – all leaders, in short – are expected day and night, and must be seen, to uphold the laws of the land. In this climate, the wearing of party colours at meetings, weddings and funerals ought to be prohibited as these promote differences and hostilities amongst the people. The Swapo leaders and other political party leaders breed prejudice, intolerance, and the types of reactions that are becoming the order of the day in the body politic of the nation. Families are being torn apart, businesses are being destroyed, good citizens’ names are being stained and the fruits of liberation are slowly escaping us – all in the name of political party loyalty. Loyalty to the national symbols and the peace of the nation should come above the parochial interests of parties, which, after all, come and go; yet the nation remains.
Seventh, the law, without fear or favour, must deal with those guilty of promoting intolerance and lawlessness. When ministers, in their cheap party loyalty, resort to acts of violence in defence of the ruling party, they are automatically disqualified from holding office. When that happens they must be shamed as enemies of the democratic system of which we are proud. It is unforgivable for a minister even to use language such as ‘Swapo money’: there is no Swapo money in Namibia—there is only one national currency, the Namibian Dollar!
Lastly, all persons involved in the democratic election, candidates as well as election officials, should commit themselves to a code of conduct and uphold the unity and indivisibility of the nation more than the unity of their respective parties or organisations at any given time.
It is in this spirit that Tatekulu Andimba Toivo ya Toivo’s timely intervention and urgent call for tolerance in the country must be commended. Kulupa nomesho Tatekulu YaToivo!! After all, the nation of Namibia was there before political parties came into existence, and people will continue to exist long after political parties, however mighty they might think they are at a given time, will have come and gone. Let us not forget that Namibians did not fight for political parties to be founded and become the strongest, but for freedom, dignity, equality, justice and peace for all.
Finally, it is in times like these that elected leaders in the two national Houses ought to stand up and defend the values and virtues of the nation as enshrined in our Constitution, which is one of the most respected constitutions in the whole world. The serving national leaders ought to seize this moment and protect the interests of the nation, not the interest of a party, which can be out of power one day.
In times like this, the national leaders ought to pass a law that puts the interests and symbols of the nation above those of sectarian parties. If our National Assembly and National Council are to regain respect in the eyes of the Namibian nation and the people of the world, these Houses ought to take action against holders of public office who are guilty of unconstitutional conduct. The time is now for Parliament to begin impeachment proceedings against the current Head of State for violating the Constitution of the Republic by sowing disunity among Namibians, inciting violence and failing to defend the freedoms and liberties of all Namibian citizens. If we do not act now, we risk losing our hard-won freedom and the liberties that flow from this freedom. And our sins will be visited upon future generations.
Now is the time to restore leadership with accountability. Now is the time to send a message that democratic power is not an end in itself, but flows from a social contract, which in turn obliges the holder thereof to act deliberately and conscientiously in the interests of all the people!