Image Courtesy: Fesmedia Africa
The MICT executive director claimed that the latest AMB report contains inaccuracies that are ‘hard to ignore’
On the evening of Wednesday, 19 October 2022, the 2022 Namibia African Media Barometer (AMB) report was launched at an event hosted by Fesmedia Africa at its offices in Windhoek.
At the event, the executive director of the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology (MICT), Audrin Mathe, delivered a keynote speech that, according to the organisers, contained problematic statements about the accuracy of the report.
In the days following the launch event Fesmedia Africa approached Namibia Fact Check to check some of the claims made by the MICT executive director, following repetition of his claims in a report published in the state-owned New Era newspaper on 20 October 2022. The New Era article reported Mathe’s statements about the accuracy of the report as follows:
“He further said the level of reporting must improve. Furthermore, Mathe said the 2022 African Media Barometer Namibia Report contains factual errors that are hard to ignore. He said the report refers to the ministry of marginalised communities, which does not exist, and also refers to the remarks by Founding President Sam Nujoma, made in 2000, about the LGBTQI community. Further still, he said the report incorrectly refers to the National Assembly as the lower house.”
Mathe’s statements about the accuracy of the report can also be viewed in the following video, starting at the 9:47 mark:
In the wake of this, in an email to Namibia Fact Check on 24 October 2022, Fesmedia Africa programme manager Dickson Kasote requested that the following claims by MICT’s Mathe be fact checked:
- “He said the report refers to the Ministry of Marginalized Communities, which does not exist (p.20), and
- also refers to the remarks by Founding President Sam Nujoma, made in 2000, about the LGBTQI community (p.21).
- Further still, he said the report incorrectly refers to the National Assembly as the lower house (p.25)”
The request by Fesmedia Africa’s Kasote stated:
“We hereby request Namibia Fact Check to conduct an independent fact-check on the pronouncements / observations made by the Executive Director of MICT, Dr Audrin Mathe, about the 2022 Namibia African Media Barometer during the launch of the report on Wednesday, 19 October. In his statement, Dr Mathe said that the AMB report contains factual errors and as expected some media houses made that the highlight of his intervention and the launch event. We would be grateful if Namibia Fact Check can examine these and determine whether they are facts or factual errors as claimed.”
Assessing Mathe’s claims
Claim 1: – “Ministry of Marginalised Communities”
Audrin Mathe claimed that the report refers to a “Ministry of Marginalised Communities”. The report does have such a reference, starting on the bottom of page 20, where it states:
“Resource allocation across Namibia’s regions was questioned for being based on statistics, meaning that some sparsely-populated regions do not receive sufficient resources. The San community has appealed publicly not to be labeled “marginalised”, as this further disempowers them, but rather to be termed an indigenous minority. They say the name of the Ministry of Marginalised Communities perpetuates this discrimination.”
There has never been and there is no “Ministry of Marginalised Communities” in Namibia. This fact should have been pointed out in the report. The full list of government ministries can be viewed here.
Claim 2: – Homophobic statements made by Namibia’s Founding President Sam Nujoma about the LGBTQI community
Audrin Mathe questioned the relevance of referencing homophobic statements made by the former president 21 years later in a discussion in the AMB report about homophobic statements by politicians in recent times.
The context in which the Nujoma reference appears in the report is on page 21:
“Bernardus Swartbooi from the opposition party, the Landless People’s Movement (LPM), has also made homophobic comments, which the Ministry of Justice condemned. Comments made by the founding father and former president Sam Nujoma against the LGBTQI+ community, where he compared them to animals, are sometimes used by traditional community elders to justify their hate speech, homophobia and misogyny.”
To be clear, Audrin Mathe did not dispute that Nujoma had made homophobic statements. Former president Nujoma’s homophobia is a well-recorded fact, as captured in this Washington Post article from 2001.
The report seems to establish the relevance of referring to Nujoma’s statements of two decades ago by stating that the former president’s homophobic statements “are sometimes used by traditional community elders to justify their hate speech, homophobia and misogyny” in the present. However, no evidence is linked to or provided to substantiate this.
In the final analysis, Namibia Fact Check cannot and will not make a finding on whether the reference to statements made by a former president two decades ago is relevant in current discussions around media freedom in Namibia. A categorical finding either way would leave too much room for contestation.
Claim 3: – The report incorrectly refers to the National Assembly as the lower house
The New Era report states that Audrin Mathe said that referring to the National Assembly as the “lower house” of the Namibian parliament was not correct or factual.
From about the 10:50 mark in the above Youtube video, Mathe says that the report refers to the National Assembly “as the lower house of parliament. I don’t know where this impression comes from”.
Mathe’s words are a reference to a sentence on page 25 of the report that reads:
“An Access to Information (ATI) Bill exists in Namibia and has been passed by the lower house of Parliament, the National Assembly, but has not yet been enacted into law.”
Namibia has a bicameral legislature, with the Parliament of the Republic of Namibia consisting of the National Assembly and the National Council.
While the National Assembly does not officially refer to itself as the “lower house” of parliament, on the National Council webpage the council is clearly referred to as the “Upper House of the Parliament of Namibia”. However, other sources, such as this Wikipedia entry, refer to the National Assembly as the “lower house” of parliament.