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It’s Rule of Law vs Whims of Man

Namibian lawmakers should think deeply. There are far-reaching consequences of their decision to turn a blind eye to or supporting the assault on homosexuals by Swapo leader Jerry Ekandjo.

Ekandjo has neither respect nor appreciation for the rule of law and the system of checks and balances, which are key to a functional democracy.

Ekandjo has shown signs of being unhinged with parliament leaders often telling him to withdraw his remarks as again happened in the National Assembly this week. 

His cacophonic crusade reached a crescendo; he introduced a “private members bill”  aimed to undercut a Supreme Court decision that forced the government to accept gay couple marriages conducted in a foreign country as legal.

While it may be politically expedient to be on the sidelines or openly support Ekandjo, every lawmaker should be alert to the misuse of parliament for personal interests or narrow short-term party benefits.

Every time Ekandjo and Swapo have rushed to change the Constitution or laws, the end result has been a weakening of institutions that are crucial to democracy that is meaningful for voters. The least fortunate and vulnerable masses were often left worse off.

At the turn of this century, Ekandjo, using his position as home affairs minister, led parliament to pass a stock theft law that forced courts to send livestock thieves to jail for a minimum of 20 to 30 years– more than with rapists or murderers. 

The urgency to change the law followed reports that goats, sheep and cattle were stolen from Ekandjo’s farm.

The draconian and disproportionate punishment was eventually ruled unconstitutional, but not before causing a lot of damage.

As minister of regional government, Ekandjo pushed for a change in the law to give the president powers to appoint regional governors, thus weakening regional councils and decentralisation.

Again, the National Assembly and National Council fell for it.

It is now clear for all to see that Swapo used its numbers in parliament to usurp the powers of elected representatives at regional level, especially in areas where they lost votes.

On 9 February 2001, Ekandjo was found guilty of contempt of court for defying a High Court order to release from jail Jose Domingo Sikunda, a representative to Namibia of the Angolan rebel group Unita. Yet another instance of the disdain Ekandjo has for democratic institutions and processes.

The former Robben Island prisoner’s crassly expressed hatred of homosexuals is well documented. In October 2000, speaking as the home affairs minister, he urged police recruits to “eliminate them (homosexuals) from the face of Namibia”.

Lawmakers need to remember that the Fishrot scandal was enabled by changes to a law rushed through parliament allegedly to help Namibians benefit from public resources.

Not only has Fishrot become a watchword for corruption, it uprooted the lives of countless Namibians and left them disempowered.

Swapo has changed the local authorities law to do away with the direct election of councillors by claiming that electing them through parties will, among others, ensure gender equality.

Instead, it proved to be yet another Swapo gimmick to centralise power and weaken voters’ access to their elected municipal leaders.

Even changes to the Constitution, such as enabling a third term for president Sam Nujoma and enlarging parliament, have yielded no benefits to the masses.

Lawmakers should thus question the benefits to society of the latest drive by the likes of Ekandjo and Swapo secretary general Sophia Shaningwa targeting gay couples.

What will the majority of the population gain if the private love affairs of same-sex couples are suppressed?

Parliament should be used to improve society. Changing laws to subvert court decisions will only destroy the checks and balances needed in a democracy and for the rule of law to supersede the whims of man.

Wake up sober-minded lawmakers in Swapo and other parties. Defend the principle of the rule of law for the benefit of the masses, especially the vulnerable, even if they are a minority. A nation is only as strong as its weakest citizen.