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Namibia's president says held party under lockdown, fined all guests

The South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO) birthday party took place in parliament on 19 April, when Namibia was under lockdown and group gatherings were banned to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Namibian president Hage Geingob at Loftus stadium for the inauguration of Cyril Ramaphosa as the sixth democratically elected president. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN.

WINDHOEK - Namibia's President Hage Geingob on Thursday admitted to breaching coronavirus regulations last month by hosting a celebration to mark his party's 60th anniversary and subsequently fining all guests.

The South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO) birthday party took place in parliament on 19 April, when Namibia was under lockdown and group gatherings were banned to limit the spread of coronavirus.

"We had a very important occasion of the 60th anniversary of SWAPO," Geingob confessed on Thursday during a press conference on the country's COVID-19 response.

"Although we were as little as ten leaders... we were found not on the right side of the regulations and law. We had to admit guilt and we were punished, we paid."

The guests included vice-president Nangolo Mbumba, prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila and SWAPO secretary-general Sophia Shaningwa.

All have since been fined N$2,000 ($115).

Geingob raised controversy in March for inviting several African presidents to his swearing-in ceremony, prompting them to breach their own travel bans.

A small handful of leaders still attended the event, including Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his Angolan counterpart Joao Lourenco.

Botswana's President Mokgweetsi Masisi was forced to self-isolate for 14 days upon his return.

Geingob has also come under fire for making public appearances without a face mask.

The 78-year old president defended his behaviour on Thursday, claiming masks were only required in the workplace or for travel, shopping and outdoor exercise.

Namibia started gradually easing its nationwide lockdown on 4 May.

The sparsely populated southern African county has recorded just 22 coronavirus cases to date, none of which have been fatal.