‘This is why they call us baboons’: Iijambo

25 Sep 2019 15:30pm
WINDHOEK, 25 SEP (NAMPA) – The appointment of Namibians into advisory capacity or on boards of parastatals should not be an opportunity to give jobs to comrades but to field competent Namibians, ideally the youth.
These were the sentiments of Swanu president Tangeni Iijambo in the National Assembly (NA) on Tuesday when he took a swipe at the re-appointment of the four members of the Land Reform Advisory Commission by Land Reform Minister Utoni Nujoma.
The four commissioners are Rachel Nathaniel-Koch, John Akwenye, Martina Mokgatle and Jeff Mbako.
They will be commissioners for the next three years.
However, it is how Iijambo vented his disappointment that caused a stir in the chamber.
“Al dra ‘n bobbejaan ‘n goue ring, hy bly net ‘n bobbejaan,” Iijambo said, an expression that did not sit well with his compatriots. It loosely translates to: “Even if a baboon is wearing a golden ring, it remains a baboon.”
Bobbejaan or baboon is regarded a derogatory term that was/is used by proponents of the apartheid regime.
According to Iijambo, the appointment of incompetent people into critical positions is what has earned Namibians, especially blacks to be referred to as ‘bobbejaan’ by the former colonialists.
“It is not my expression. It is an Afrikaans proverb,” he said, adding that the apartheid regime used the expression to say: “Give a black person something [in this case a farm] that is good, it will end up being destroyed.”
He said it is a long-held perception by those who sell land to the government.
Iijambo was asked to retract the expression, as other parliamentarians were of the view that it was not in line with the decorum of the August house.
“It’s very inappropriate in this house. Withdraw that,” a clearly agitated National Assembly Speaker, Peter Katjavivi said.
Deputy Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration Maureen Hinda-Mbuende was also unimpressed by Iijambo’s choice of words.
Iijambo responded that his expression was deliberately being blown out of context, however conceded to withdrawing the Afrikaans version of his statement after Katjavivi threatened to chuck him out of the chamber, but stood firm on his view’s intended meaning.
Further, he claimed before farm owners sell their farms to the government, they deliberately damage the farms by pouring concrete into boreholes, destroying water points and poisoning trees and land to make it impossible for the new farmers, who are predominantly black Namibians, to progress.
For this, he was unapologetic, attributing it to the lack of oversight from the commission.
“On our part, we are so weak or the people who we recycle as advisors to ministers and so on don’t have the expertise to go deeper to scrutinise what happened to the farms,” he said, noting that forensic audits ought to be conducted at farms bought for resettlement purposes before deserving Namibians are resettled.
All People’s Party (APP) leader Ignatius Shixwameni on the debate said: “Why do we have to repeat recycling the whole old wine by just putting it into a new bottle?”
Jan van Wyk of the United People’s Movement also said: “Are you saying that we don’t have younger people to take up these positions?”
Opposing the assertions was Justice Minister Sacky Shanghala, who supported Nujoma’s appointments.
“You people in the opposition just oppose everything. Even if Swapo supports the rain, you might as well oppose it,” Shanghala said.
Premier Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila joined the fray, saying the National Assembly was not the place for MPs to raise the issue of commissioners’ suitability.
“I agree with [Shanghala] that indeed these persons are suitable to serve in the capacity in which they are being proposed to serve and indeed it is not in line with our procedures that we raise issues that are not related to the suitability and considering whether or not they should be approved… we should rather focus on what we are supposed to consider in terms of the appropriate rules and systems that we have adopted,” she said.
The motion was shelved until Thursday.