Shalulile exercising his constitutional right – Swapo

GAME ON … Namibian professional footballer Peter Shalulile has joined Swapo, the party announced on social media on Sunday. Shalulile, who captained Namibia at the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations, is a striker for South African Premier Division club Mamelodi Sundowns. Photo: Conntributed

Pundits are defending professional footballer Peter Shalulile’s decision to publicly announce his affiliation with Swapo, citing his constitutional right to freedom of association.

Some argue his influence as a footballer, having captained Namibia at the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations and playing for Mamelodi Sundowns in the South African Premier Division could sway voters towards Swapo in the upcoming elections.

Swapo on Sunday announced Shalulile’s party membership on social media.

“Game on. Comrade Peter Shalulile joined the Swapo party. Be like Comrade Peter,” the party wrote.

Parliamentarian Maximilliant Katjimune from the official opposition, the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), says while openly associating with a political movement is a democratic right, it is not advisable to take an open political stance as a football player.

“Football is watched by all Namibians, and sport is generally seen as a unifier. Hence you rarely see sport stars take a public political stance in general,” he says.

However, political analyst Johan Coetzee says freedom of association is a fundamental freedom of democracy and sustainable governance, as provided for in Section 21 of the Namibian Constitution.

Coetzee says for any individual to be denied freedom of association, a law needs to be introduced and applied across the board, which is not advisable.

“The criteria needs to be consistently applied. All while our government has no track record of the excellent implementation of most policies.

“More government bureaucracy and more public servants mean more cost being passed on to the private sector and customers, the taxpayers. What other restrictions will follow?” Coetzee asks.

Swapo central committee member Willem Amutenya says every citizen is constitutionally given an absolute right to participate in peaceful political activities.

He says it is high time that society, especially the youth, understand political tolerance in a democratic society.

“Therefore, it should not be a concern when a sport professional publicly supports his/her political alliance. In fact, we should encourage everyone, especially fellow young people, to actively participate in political activities to influence and advocate for our generational interests and aspirations,” Amutenya says.

Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) spokesperson Moses Shikerete says restricting sport professionals from joining political parties of their choice would mean discriminating against them.

“The recent news making headlines as comrade Peter Shalulile was seen receiving his membership card should be something Namibians should celebrate.

“Our sportsmen and women can influence our governance and impact lives positively,” he says.

Shikerete says sport professionals must follow Shalulile’s example and publicly announce their political affiliation.

Shikerete says Shalulile is following a path similar to George Weah, who entered politics during the peak of his career and later led Liberia after retirement, and Kevin Johnson, who transitioned from National Basketball Association player to being the mayor of Sacramento.

“His national duty remains intact as a national team player. His political affiliation does not reduce anything nor does it undermine his support from all Namibians,” he says.

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