WINDHOEK, 12 JUN – Former deputy land reform minister and leader of the Landless People’s Movement (LPM), Bernadus Swartbooi lashed out at the ruling Swapo Party, saying Namibia’s independence was gained through a compromise and not a revolution as purported.
Swartbooi made these remarks at a press conference on Monday, just a few days after comments made by Minister of Land Reform, Utoni Nujoma, in an interview with a South African broadcaster. The minister had detailed how Swapo reached a compromise on land ownership in the run up to Namibia’s independence.
Nujoma was quoted as saying: “That [protection of property rights] was the compromise in order to give Namibia its independence. That was the compromise resolution. And the pressure came through the Western Contact Group. They had significant interests here of course they wanted to protect.”
The Western Contact Group comprised of five countries; France, United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada and West Germany, which launched a joint diplomatic effort in 1977 to bring an internationally acceptable transition to independence for Namibia. This followed decades of illegal occupation by apartheid South Africa.
Nujoma continued: “As freedom fighters, we were also tired of staying in the bush. It’s better from inside rather than from outside.”
Asked whether or not Swapo had “over-compromised” and “sold out” in the negotiations leading to independence, Nujoma responded: “No. Definitely not. There was no other alternative. You are fighting the Western countries with sophisticated arms… sophisticated technology. And you are just a freedom fighter carrying a gun on your back.”
These remarks, according to Swartbooi, are testament that Namibia’s freedom struggle “was not a revolutionary process, (but) that Swapo was exhausted, could no longer continue to mount any force and were essentially told what to do by the Western Contact Group, and they abided”.
Swartbooi said: “It was never a military defeat of apartheid by Swapo, but a negotiation on the 1982 Principles which entrenched the robbery of Africans of their land and livelihood. Armed with the property guarantees, the white minority groups were secured, and they were prepared to settle.”
The 1982 Principles for a Constitution for an Independent Namibia outlines that Namibia, amongst others, will be a unitary, sovereign and democratic state; and uphold certain rights, including “protection from arbitrary deprivation of private property without just compensation”.
Swartbooi added: “[Swapo] sold out! And they continue to be gatekeepers of what they settled for”, adding that all accolades given to those who formed part of Namibia’s said revolution was a joke.
Efforts to get comment from Swapo Party Secretary General, Sophia Shaningwa proved futile as her mobile phone went unanswered on Monday. Detailed questions sent to Shaningwa were also not responded to and Swapo Party Deputy Secretary General, Marco Hausiku could also not be reached on his mobile phone.