Namibian Rights Woes Continue
October 12, 2000
The ruling party kills a no confidence vote on the homophobic Home Affairs
Minister, while a binational lesbian couple seeks a residency hearing.
Namibian Home Affairs Minister Jerry Ekandjos remarks to police academy graduates
September 29 that gays should be "eliminated from the face of Namibia" seem to
reflect the views of some others in his ruling SWAPO party. A leader of the partys
youth wing spoke similarly at a rally held in his support and in the Parliament SWAPO
Members crushed an opposition call for a vote to expel him from the Cabinet. Meanwhile the
Namibian Supreme Court is hearing the governments appeal of court rulings ordering
permanent residency for a long-time SWAPO supporter from Germany who is the lesbian
partner of a Namibian. The Board that issues residency permits is part of Ekandjos
ministry, and it just so happens that judges have been another of his targets. There has
still been no official response to the gay and lesbian Rainbow Projects call for the
government to publicly reject Ekandjos homophobic remarks.
In the Parliament on October 11, as hed promised a week before, Democratic
Turnhalle Alliance (DTA) leader Katuutire Kaura moved for a vote of no confidence in
Ekandjo that could have removed him from office. Although Kaura was joined by his own
party and three others, the opposition group had only 13 MPs compared to more than 30 from
SWAPO, all of whom—including Ekandjo himself—rose to deny even discussion to a vote
of no confidence.
The remarks Kaura would have made on the floor were nonetheless made public. He accused
Ekandjo of three times in less than three months having been "scandalously
contemptuous of the Constitution he promised to uphold, protect and defend," and
alleged that Ekandjo had "absolutely no knowledge" of that Constitution. One of
Ekandjos statements to the police academy graduates had been that gays and lesbians
had no rights under the Constitution. In addition to his speech against gays, Ekandjo had
instructed police to violate a court order and arrest the music group Osire Stars, and had
threatened to withdraw the work permits of foreign judges (who, like himself, are
appointed by President Sam Nujoma) who made rulings against government policy. He was
forced to make a public apology for threatening the judges, or he would have been found in
contempt of court. Kaura further declared Ekandjo incompetent in the running of his
department, which has almost completely failed to issue identification papers intended to
be given to all Namibians while allowing the crime rate to rise as a result of poor
SWAPO supporters gathered in Oshakati on October 8 to demonstrate support for Ekandjo.
Party leader for the Oshana region and Mayor of Ongwediva Erastus Uutoni denounced judges
for their "colonial attitudes" and declared that, "Those people must know
that they are under the SWAPO Government and not under the judiciary government."
SWAPO Youth League regional secretary Fidelis Ndoroma echoed that theme and then moved on
to denounce "cultural imperialism" for promoting "prostitution, gayism and
lesbianism, alcohol and drugs, different religious cults, information services, cultural
centers and white supremacy tendencies" under the guise of rights and liberal values.
He said, "We must reject and resist them with all the powers, vigor and energies we
have and confine them to their place of origin and moral decay -- that is Europe." He
said that Namibians, confronted with "poverty, HIV/AIDS, woman and child abuse,"
could not be bothered by Europeans telling them that "being modern, internationalist
and homosexual is the way to go. Please, Europeans, keep these perversions to yourselves
because you have already destroyed our culture and undermined our moral values and
The Supreme Court on October 9 and 10 heard arguments in the case of Liz Frank, whose
support of SWAPO dates back to 1982, when it was still the party of revolutionaries
seeking independence. The German national, a distinguished educator, has lived in Namibia
since 1990 with her partner Elizabeth Khaxas and Khaxas child. When Frank applied
for her residence permit, she had letters of support from three top government officials.
Nonetheless, her applications were twice refused without explanation, and she went to
court. On June 24, 1999 in the High Court, Acting Judge Harold Levy ordered that a
permanent residence permit be issued to Frank within thirty days. One Home Affairs
official did attempt to have a temporary permit issued while the government pursued its
current appeal, but was blocked.
Unlike Ekandjo, Herman Oosthuizen, the attorney representing the Chair of the
Immigration Selection Board, maintained that as individuals gays and lesbians do enjoy the
same Constitutional rights and protections as other Namibians. He conceded that Frank
should have been given reasons for her applications being rejected and a chance to rebut
them, and asked the court to resolve her case by sending her application back to the Board
for reconsideration in "a legal and procedurally fair manner." He repeated the
Boards assertion that the rejection of Franks application was not related to
her sexual orientation, and said she was rejected because Namibia expects to have enough
of its own citizens similarly qualified in her profession. He held, however, that gays and
lesbians could not have a right to have a government body recognize their relationship.
Franks and Khaxas attorney Lynita Conradie countered that no claim was made
that Frank had a right to permanent residence, but that she had a right to a fair hearing
she hadnt received, one which took into account the longstanding family
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