Away with Political Intolerance

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Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro

This weekend sees the official launch of the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP), the political new kid on the block.

Whether the party would be of any consequence politically and in terms of changing the political landscape is immaterial at this stage and remains to be seen. But there is no denying the fact that the market of political ideas and ideals in the Land of the Brave, depending on your vantage point, could at best be bankrupt and in the least moribund, constipated and arrested. That is why it is difficult to make sense of some of the pronouncements that have greeted news of the registration of the RDP.

Leading the pack in this regard has been none other than the Right Honourable Prime Minister, Nahas Angula. “RDP Could Threaten Peace”, screamed a headline in an article in the New Era last Wednesday hinting at the party as an omen. Assured in his opinion that this party would not be a threat to the Swapo Party, the PM fears rather that it could be a concern to security “as the political culture in the four northern central regions will not allow for peaceful political activity”.

Whatever views one may hold about the party, I wish to address myself to one of the fundamentals of our Constitution.

“All citizens shall have the right to participate in peaceful political activity intended to influence the composition and policies of the Government,” Article 17 of the Namibian Constitution provides.

It is ironic that a party duly registered under Namibian laws to operate under these laws could be a threat to the very edifice giving foundation to its existence.

In fact, there is something interesting that the PM is telling us that may not be easily apparent and some of us may not be privy to. The party somehow could be a threat yet it has been registered. Does that not boggle the mind if not raise serious doubts about intelligence service in this country and other apparatuses of the State?

Allow me a glimpse into 2006 and reference to the statement of the Deputy Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Honourable Raphael Dinyando, regarding the revival of the United Democratic Party (UDP) in the Caprivi Region. The UDP is believed to be the political front of the Caprivi Liberation Army (CLA) whose objective is the secession of the Caprivi from Namibia by violent means as proven by the catastrophic events of 2 August 1999.

Thus if the RDP represents a threat to security and stability in this country those privy to such information should have done their citizen duty. In the absence of any conclusive evidence, like in the case of CLA and the UDP, one cannot read much in the pronounced fears. Conversely, the treat may lie in the intolerance towards the RDP as already increasingly manifesting itself vainly and at times blatantly in some reactive pronouncements. It is this very same intolerance that the PM is alluding to by his reference to “political immaturity”.

As much as he is aware of such intolerance one would have thought it behoves someone of his stature, responsibility and calibre to go all the way to preempt the irresponsible exercise of such intolerance.

I think it must be stated loud and clear that there is no exclusive political zone of one political party in Namibia. Anyone has the freedom to engage in any legal political activity anywhere in this country without fear of intimidation and harassment. Political immaturity should not be allowed to bar political activity by anyone, least not the RDP. Thus, any perceived threat to the security and stability of this country may only be posed by those intolerant towards new ideas and political activities and formations, regardless of their value, and not by those harbouring, advocating and engaging in such political activities.

The PM is, in fact, reminding us that 17 years after independence, political intolerance is with us. Instead of talking about any threat the watchword should be tolerance of one another mindful of the political space of each as opposed to instilling fear about imminent peace disruption and political instability.

One cannot but commend the statewomanship and wisdom of the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Libertina Amathila.

Speaking on Tuesday on the NBC Otjiherero Language Service morning current affairs programme, Keetute, she cautioned against unbecoming behaviour, pleading instead for calm in the advent of the new party.

The maintenance of peace and stability the country has been enjoying for the last 17 years should be the aim of everyone. As far as she is concerned, HH and others have not been lost to the country. They are still citizens of this country who have decided to contribute and further whatever new political thinking and philosophies they may harbour from a different platform.

Conversely, the Swapo Party is there and would continue with its mandate.

Need one really say more than these wise words from Dr Amathila?

Yes, the leaders of the new party may not be so new. They may not offer new alternatives and they may not be without any blemish in one respect or another. However, the essence of a multiparty democracy that Namibia is, is the free flow of ideas in a free market of ideas. These include political ideas and alternatives. The last arbiter of the worth of such ideas, the freshness of alternatives and the credibility of their proponents is none other than you the voter!

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