Pohamba’s missed opportunity

13 February 2015
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Two rather disturbing incidents involving senior Swapo party officials made news headlines in recent days.

The first incident involves the outgoing Minister of Environment and Tourism Uahekua Herunga who is alleged to have sexually assaulted a 51-year-old woman at her Pioneers Park home.

Naturally, the minister denied the charges and has threatened to sue the publication that broke out the story.

The second incident involves the incoming Member of Parliament and Swapo Party Youth League Deputy Secretary Veikko Nekundi who stands accused of pointing a gun at his wife and assaulting her.  He again denies any wrong doing.

Both Herunga and Nekundi face very serious charges. It is rather unfortunate that these two public figures stand accused of committing violent crimes against women.

While we understand that both cases are either still under investigation by the police or before the courts of law, and therefore  sub judice, we strongly believe that the nature of the charges against these two high ranking party officials demanded intervention by the president.

President Pohamba has been at the forefront denouncing violence against women. Just recently, he called for stiffer penalties on perpetrators of domestic violence and rape. Last year, the president also led the whole country in a national day of prayer against gender based violence.

While his statements and prayers might have been sincere, it is his silence or non-action on these two incidences involving two party senior officials which is rather baffling.

By keeping quiet and taking no immediate action against Nekundi and Herunga, the president is sending rather mixed signals about his stance on domestic violence.

The president had been presented with not one, but two perfect opportunities, at the twilight of his reign as president, to show the country that he was serious about fighting domestic violence. The least he could have done is suspend the two officials either from the party or from government pending the finalisation of their cases.

We saw the party moving swiftly when it suspended Job Amupanda for his land grab misdemeanours, and the same response should have been expected from the president against Nekundi and Herunga.

Suspending the two party officials does not mean that they are guilty, but it is a way of protecting Swapo’s image and ensuring that both party officials and the general populace takes the president’s message against gender based violence seriously.

But true to Pohamba’s fashion, he missed a golden moment.

Maybe instead of taking every opportunity to remind the nation that he is counting down the days to retirement, President Pohamba can use his last days in office to take a clear stand on violence against women.

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