Judgement on withdrawal of UPM parliamentarians in April

Jan van Wyk (left) and Frans Bertolini. Photo: Werner Menges

Two former members of parliament of the United People’s Movement (UPM) will hear in three weeks’ time if they have succeeded with legal action to have their withdrawal from the National Assembly by the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) declared unconstitutional and invalid.

Judge Boas Usiku postponed the delivery of his judgement on an urgent application that the UPM and two former parliamentarians of the party, Jan van Wyk and Frans Bertolini, filed against the PDM, following their withdrawal from the National Assembly to 19 April, after hearing oral arguments on the matter in the Windhoek High Court on Wednesday.

The UPM, Van Wyk and Bertolini are asking the court to declare the PDM’s decision to withdraw Van Wyk and Bertolini from the National Assembly on 5 March as unconstitutional and invalid.

They are also asking the court to declare the swearing-in of PDM members Loide Iipinge and Katrina Benz as members of the National Assembly is invalid and to set it aside, and to direct that Van Wyk and Bertolini should again be sworn in as members of the assembly.

Van Wyk and Bertolini became members of the National Assembly through the PDM’s list of candidates in terms of a cooperation agreement the UPM and PDM concluded before the national elections in 2019.

In a sworn statement filed at the court, PDM secretary general Manuel Ngaringombe says his party decided to remove Van Wyk and Bertolini from the National Assembly after the UPM formed an alliance with another organisation, National Empowerment Fighting Corruption (NEFC), around December last year, and after the UPM and NEFC announced near the end of February this year that they endorse the candidacy of Ally Angula in Namibia’s presidential election that is set to take place near the end of November this year.

By forming an alliance with the NEFC and endorsing Angula as presidential candidate, the UPM “breached its allegiance of trust towards the PDM”, Ngaringombe claims.

He also states in his affidavit: “The UPM cannot be in bed with two opposite political parties at the same time or have its bread buttered on both sides, so to speak. […] UPM members cannot continue to occupy seats in the National Assembly on a PDM ticket where they have clearly and publicly demonstrated that their allegiance lies elsewhere.”

Van Wyk says in an affidavit also filed at the court that he and Bertolini occupied seats that were allocated to the UPM under his party’s cooperation agreement with the PDM in 2019.

He says nowhere in the alliance agreement between the two parties was the PDM given the power to withdraw members of the UPM from the National Assembly in the event of a breach of the agreement.

Van Wyk also says the agreement stipulated that the UPM would support the PDM’s candidate in the presidential election in 2019, and did not refer to the UPM’s support of a presidential candidate in 2024.

The UPM’s new alliance with the NEFC does not affect the current functioning of the party’s agreement with the PDM, Van Wyk says as well.

He further says in terms of the agreement, a vacancy that arises in the National Assembly among members elected through the joint list of candidates of the PDM and UPM should be filled by a member of the specific party that held a seat that became vacant.

Iipinge and Benz, who replaced Van Wyk and Bertolini, are PDM members, though, and since they were sworn in as members of the National Assembly, the UPM does not have any representation in the assembly any more, Van Wyk says.

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