By: Justicia Shipena and Tjizouye Kazombungo
Opposition parties leaders are among those who have questioned President Hage Geingob’s state visit to Qatar when Namibians are struggling to get out of Ukraine.
Geingob departed for the middle east country on 27 February 2022.
On Tuesday, international relations minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah told the National Assembly that 64 Namibians had safely arrived in Poland, Romania, and Hungary from troubled Ukraine.
Fifty-six Namibians are in Poland, two in Hungary, one in Slovakia and five in Romania.
The minister further said based on the records from the embassy in Moscow, 114 Namibians are living in Ukraine, of which 93 are students; NSFAF funds 36, and 56 are privately funded.
Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP)l Mike Kavekotora says that the President travelling to Qatar amidst a crisis shows no leadership from him.
“We have more than 90 students in Ukraine. The President cannot just travel and leave this matter unattended,” he stressed.
According to him, Namibia had to act fast before the situation became too dangerous.
“I have seen pictures of black people being thrown out of the buses, which shows how critical the situation is.”
Thus, he adds that the reason President Hage Geingob is travelling for investment.
“He knows very well our Namibian economy has been downgraded, and whatever he is doing there will not bear any fruits,” Kavekotora.
Nangolo Shuumbwa of All People’s Party (APP) argues that one cannot laud that it is not suitable for the President to travel at this time.
“It all depends on the mission he is travelling for.”
Shuumbwa indicated that the President should seek a method to engage with the students to bring them back home safely.
Landless People’s Movement (LPM) spokesperson Eneas Emvula told The Villager that the President’s travel to Qatar could contribute to the economy.
“The question should be more on coordination on how to get the African students out of the war zone.”
In this vein, Emvula questioned the coalition within the African Union (AU).
“Does it work, or is it just a showcase, and people go out for some time to sit in meetings. Then they say Africans are united, but nothing is done when a crisis arises.”
He adds that Namibia acted late with the Namibian Ambassador to Russia Clemens Kashuupulwa, telling Namibians in Ukraine not to be concerned a week before the troops invaded.
“And now it is beyond any imagination whatsoever.”
President of Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) McHenry Venaani says the State’s craft would not be an option as he believes it cannot accommodate more than ten people.
“I do not support this view for now that the President must go and pick up the Namibian stranded in a war zone. It is also not safe for him,” he said.
Venaani also stated that Namibia’s intelligence was weak at not advising that we needed to get Namibian nationals out of Ukraine.
“It is not an easy situation, and we cannot blame it on government and opposition.”
Moreover, he said that if Namibia had the resources, it could send an airplane to Poland to pick up the students.
“Now that Air Namibia is gone, it’s challenging.”
Speaking to The Villager on Tuesday, Swapo youth league member Hofni Iipinge says that the government was never entirely quiet about the situation in Ukraine.
“We have a lot of students from different African countries, not only Namibians, and they are still to be repatriated.”
Iipinge added that the invasion by Russia in Ukraine has nothing to do with any political party.
“This is a life and death situation, and the government is not of political affliction. It is there to assist our people,” he said.
“The government is a Swapo government, and it has to be on the forefront of this. We have got the ambassadors and diplomats; they are on the ticket of Swapo. These children are ours. They went to study there because the government of Swapo gave them money through NSFAF,” he stressed.
Hence he said people should not politicise the whole exercise to bring the students back.
“Let’s allow the international relations ministry to take care of the whole situation.”
Political analysts Ndumba Kamwanyah told The Villager that he does not think it is liable for Namibia to use the President’s jet to rescue the students in Ukraine.
“I don’t see a situation where we would have to send a jet or any other plane from Namibia to go to Ukraine or Poland to get them to safety,” he said.
Kamwanyah said that he notices that the President’s travelling has increased slightly compared to the President’s promise.
“This was before Covid when he said people should only travel when it’s necessary and all that. I thought it was a good commitment.”
Thus, he adds that it is not the right time to travel unless truly necessary.
“Whatever engagement that will make out there can also be done by our ambassador; that is why we have them there,” said Kamwanyah.
Meanwhile, Student Union Namibia (SUN) secretary for higher education Diaspora Natangwe Shikesho said the non-alignment policy, which states that a friend to all but an enemy to none’ should not stop the government from taking radical steps in the matter.
“The union urgently calls on President Hage Geingob to intervene immediately by expatriating students who are rumoured to be in Poland now, back to Namibia safely,” said Shikesho.
Shikesho added that students’ lives could not be politicised or taken for granted.
“As a student body, we are finding difficulty knowing that our leaders are sleeping peacefully, some travelling abroad while we have this matter at hand.”