International reports mislead about Swapo’s lockdown violation fine

Screenshot_2020-06-04 Namibia’s president holds illegal party, then fines all guests

False

The statements, information and/or data referenced in this article have been assessed and found to be false.

3rd June 2020

Frederico Links

Frederico Links is the editor and lead researcher of Namibia Fact Check and a research associate at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR)

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Image courtesy: The Telegraph

International media reports falsely state that president Geingob fined all those who attended Swapo’s 60th birthday party.

UPDATED: Sections stating that each of the Swapo Party members who had attended the birthday party had paid a fine and a paragraph about information provided by a The Namibian reporter to Namibia Fact Check.

The fact is that the Namibian government, represented by law enforcement agencies, is responsible for enforcing and administering state of emergency fines, so it was not the president or his office who fined the Swapo Party.

The fine followed an investigation by the Namibian Police (Nampol).

The party was fined over its 60th birthday party held on 19 April 2020, at the Parliament Building in Windhoek, which violated the COVID-19 state of emergency lockdown regulations. The party reportedly paid an admission of guilt fine of N$ 2000 at the Windhoek Central Police Station.

According to a letter sent to Sade Gawanas of the Landless People’s Movement (LPM), which had laid a criminal charge in April 2020 against the ruling party over its violation of the lockdown regulations, the fine was paid by Swapo Party executive director Austin Samupwa on 21 May 2020. The letter was sent by Nampol inspector-general Sebastian Ndeitunga.

The international reporting of this case erroneously stated that all the members of the party who were at the birthday gathering were individually fined for breaking lockdown rules.

The misleading reporting appears to emanate from an AFP report from late May 2020 which was widely picked up across Africa and even as far as the United Kingdom (UK), where it was published by The Telegraph.

This is what The Telegraph article’s headline stated:

The article that appeared in The Telegraph on 29 May 2020.

The second line in the article states:

“He has now fined all those who attended the illegal birthday bash.”

– The Telegraph

Here’s how the full article (which is behind a paywall) reads:

“The vice president, prime minister and ruling party’s secretary-general were all attending
By Will Brown
29 May 2020 • 2:05pm
Namibia’s president has admitted that he breached his country’s coronavirus regulations when he hosted a party to mark his political party’s 60th anniversary. 
He has now fined all those who attended the illegal birthday bash. 
Namibia’s ruling party, the South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO), held a celebration on April 19th, when the sparsely populated southern African nation was under lockdown and gatherings were banned.
Hage Geingob, the president, said that less than ten people attended but those included the vice-president, the prime minister and party’s secretary-general. 
All of the guests have been fined 2,000 Namibian dollars, the equivalent of about £110. 
“We had a very important occasion of the 60th anniversary of SWAPO,” Mr Geingob said in a press conference yesterday. “We were found not on the right side of the regulations and law. We had to admit guilt and we were punished, we paid.”
From official data, Namibia seems to have been extraordinarily successful in its efforts to keep the coronavirus pandemic under control. 
The Namibian government was quick to react when it recorded its first cases of coronavirus on the 13th of March. Soon after, it closed its borders to international travel. 
The vast nation is roughly the same size as France and England combined has just 2.5m people. So far it has recorded 23 cases of coronavirus and no deaths. However, this is not the first time the president has attracted controversy. He invited several Africa presidents to his swearing-in ceremony in March, prompting them to breach their own travel bans. Botswana’s president was forced to self-isolate for 14 days upon his return.”

– The Telegraph

A short video of the president admitting the party had transgressed can be viewed here.

For context, read the following Namibia Fact Check article in which we give a detailed assessment of what happened on 19 April 2020.

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