JERRY EKANDJO …barbaric, backward and cruel

Minister of Youth, Sport and National Service Jerry Ekandjo is being haunted by his ‘let them burn’ joke made in poor taste while speaking in parliament on Wednesday.

Ekandjo made remarks on Wednesday suggesting it would send a louder message if teenagers who fell pregnant were taken out in the field and set on fire as punishment.

This is an old practice of the Oshiwambo people called ‘Okukumbwa’ means to be bound. In the olden day, when a young girl fell pregnant out of wedlock she would be punished (with or without) the father of the child in which they would be bound together, and they would be set on fire for bringing shame to their family.

Last year, The Namibian wrote that 46 000 teenage girls fell pregnant in 2013.

Although he tells The Villager that he merely made the remarks as part of humour, his fellow parliamentarians differed with him on that.

“I was just joking when I made that comment. Why is that I have spoken about so many things including the concern of street kids who also fall pregnant but do not get the necessary assistance. I even suggested that the government should also start prioritising the street kids, but nobody is following up on that. You only care about the joke,” Ekandjo said to The Villager after.

He continued to say: “Don’t you also make jokes? Honestly, if it was you, would you think of suggesting something like that? If I had to make a joke saying that I will hit someone in parliament, do you think it is what I am gonna do?”

Fellow parliamentarians did not take Ekandjo’s remarks lightly and thought the joke was not fit for a lawmaker or to be made in the August house.

Ekandjo is not new to vicious comments. When he was the home affairs minister in 2000, Ekandjo suggested that homosexuals should be eliminated from the face of Namibia.

He said this when he was addressing 700 newly graduated police officers.

This sparked outrage from human rights activists, as Namibia does not have the death penalty.

Ekandjo did not com back to say he was joking too.

Women parliamentarians although wanting to reserve their comments, still indicated that they did not support the remarks made by Ekandjo.

Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana who was first to differ with him on the topic in parliament, also told The Villager that, “It was a hard comment to make but the context of the comment he made is not so clear for me. I do not want to comment. I did not hear it clearly, and I do not know in what context he commented, so I will not comment on this.”

Her remarks were supported by Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah when she said, “There was a clear reaction in Parliament, and I agree that those are some of the regressive cultural practices which we cannot introduce in 2017 in Namibia.”

Nandi-Ndaitwah added that burning pregnant teens will not happen in Namibia and that “The minister's remark is a bracket that we do not need to entertain in Parliament and not on any other platform as lawmakers. Those are traditions which are not positive so it will not happen in any way.”

Bernadette Jagger said: “The comment was not good at all. Let me call you back once I get clear information on the issue.”

DTA Member of Parliament Elma Dienda, who tabled the motion on teenage pregnancies, said Ekandjo’s comments were out of order.

“The constitution of Namibia is very clear, even if you murder somebody you will not be killed you have to be sentenced and locked up in prison,” she said.

Adding that “sometimes people are just saying these things so that they will not be seen as quiet parliamentarians. There was nothing to say so he came up with these ridiculous remarks just to say something so that his voice can be heard.”

Dienda said Ekandjo fell victim to the ‘need to say something syndrome’.

“A lot of people are just sitting there in Parliament with nothing to say. I call them professional noisemakers. So that was a non-issue for me. I was the one tabling the motion, and I was very clear on what I was looking for on teenage pregnancies in the country,” Dienda explained.

 

Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana

"It was a harsh comment to make, but the context of the comment he made is not clear for me. I do not want to comment. I did not hear it clearly, and I do not know in what context he commented. I will not comment on this."

Bernadette Jagger – SWAPO Member of Parliament

"The comment was not good at all, but I will not comment on this. This is a very sensitive issue. Let me call you back once I get clear information on the subject."

Elma Dienda- DTA Member of Parliament

"I think that we as a woman in Parliament will not even comment on a statement like that because we will just be wasting our time. The constitution of Namibia is very clear, also if you murder somebody, you will not be killed you have to be sentenced and locked up in prison.

"He was out of order, for him to make a statement like that. I think sometimes people are just saying these things so that they will not be seen as quite Parliamentarians. There was nothing to say, so he comes up with this ridicules remarks just to say something so that his voice can be heard. 

"A lot of people are just sitting there in the Parliament with nothing to say I call them professional noisemakers. So that was a non- issue for me I was the one tabling the motion in Parliament, and I was very clear on what I was looking for on teenage pregnancies in the country."

Netumbo Nandi – Ndaitwah

"There was a clear reaction in Parliament, and I agree that those are some of the regressive cultural practices which we cannot introduce in 2017 in Namibia. It will not and cannot happen. The minister's remark is a bracket that we do not need to entertain in Parliament and not on any other platform as lawmakers. Those are traditions which are not favourable so it will not happen in any way."