A review of the developments in the major political parties for 2007.
Compiled by Catherine Sasman
SWAPO ‘more united than ever’ – Tjiriange
In many respects, 2007 was a watershed year for the SWAPO Party. Among the more pressing issues, the party has for the first time in its history elected a new president, when founding father of the nation, Dr Sam Nujoma, handed over the reigns of the country to President Hifikepunye Pohamba.
Much speculation over the future position of Nujoma preceded the transition of power, and frantic manoeuvrings from the party’s branches to get their representatives to the fourth SWAPO Congress that ended in November.
A number of high-ranking officials – Hidipo Hamutenya, Kandi Nehova, and others – finally broke ranks and left the party to form the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) because of the power tussle, simmering discontent and disunity in the party.
Former Secretary General of the SWAPO Party, Ngarikutuke Tjiriange, however said the party emerged “more united than ever before” from the congress.
“Most of the focus and efforts [for this year] was to organise the congress to successfully address issues before the party. This has to be seen against a background pregnant with rumours of breakaway groups.
“The office of the Secretary General was preoccupied by steering the party in a manner that would bring about harmony and unity, and we have done that very successfully,” said Tjiriange.
However, he said the breakaway of long-standing SWAPO cadres is still something the party needs to “think about”.
“But, all in all, the party is stronger than ever before,” he insisted.
As Secretary General, he said, he was entrusted to see that there is a proper democratic change of leadership in the party.
“By all standards, the transition of power went very smoothly,” he said, adding, “Democracy should not be done halfway. If one wants to put democratic governance in place, one has to pander to democratic principles.”
Transition of power, he said, should be seen as normal and must be above board and transparent for all to be satisfied.
This year, the party has also come up with a meticulous and “comprehensive review” of its activities over the last five years – since the last party congress.
“We are satisfied that a lot has been done,” said Tjiriange.
Issues that still need to be worked on, he said, was mostly because the necessary party constitutional amendments had not been completed as expected.
One of the resolutions of the former congress was 50/50 representation of women to the congress. Women’s representation at this year’s congress was pegged at 47 percent. This, Tjiriange described as a “big success”.
The challenges for the party henceforth, he said, are to expediently and at an accelerated pace address “bread and butter” issues.
“The years of liberation are now past. Now people want food on the table. We need a second revolution to make sure that the economy is geared to deliver to the needy. Our efforts should now focus on how to organise the government to deliver to the benefit of all, and how we will reach Vision 2030 comfortably.”
“We now have to look forward and move beyond whatever hiccups the 2004 presidential race brought about; that is now history. We have to forge ahead towards Vision 2030 in order to develop the country.”
President Hifikepunye Pohamba was unanimously elected as the SWAPO Party president at the fourth congress of the party, and the sole presidential candidate for the election of 2009.
Photo: Fifi Rhodes
CoD’s baptism of fire
The year 2007 has been a rollercoaster for the Congress of Democrats (CoD), after a simmering leadership crisis came to a head at the party’s Extraordinary Congress in Keetmanshoop at the beginning of the year.
The leadership crisis was wound-up – at least for some – when the party’s former Secretary General and CoD presidential candidate in 2004, Ignatius Shixwameni, left with 21 other members in tow, presumably to form another political organisation while keeping the door open for discussion with the recently formed Rally for Democracy and Prosperity (RDP).
The battle spilled over when delegates – from a group who called themselves the “CoD Majority” – walked out of the May congress, presumably in disagreement over the manner in which delegates were chosen to the congress, and the voting procedures.
This has culminated in open battle between the CoD president Ben Ulenga, and his supporters in one corner, and that of the ‘CoD majority’.
The party then settled for an independent audit to determine the validity of the voting process – and other related matters, with president Ulenga swearing to abdicate from the helm of the party should the audit reveal any irregularities.
The audit, in fact, identified two irregularities, but Ulenga then declined to step down as party leader, questioning the outcome of the audit.
In the yearly review of the developments in the party, Tsudao Gurirab, a CoD MP said that at the party’s 2004 congress “it became clear that a small group of malcontents did not accept the results of the leadership elections and set about to wreck the work of the organisation”.
“They decided to stall programmes, organise ‘own’ projects and run down the structures of the organisation as a pretext for campaigning for an extraordinary congress. The leadership called their bluff by agreeing in February this year that such an extraordinary congress be called.”
He goes on to say: “These elements set about to steal the elections by concocting a formula by which representation at congress was skewed in favour of areas where they mistakenly thought they would draw support from.
Even this did not fool the members and when the election results showed up, they absconded from the congress with a singular aim to denigrate CoD leaders and hope to destroy the party.”
Vitriolic public attacks continued in much the same trend amongst the dissenting camps that have formed in the party, and the battle was eventually brought to the High Court.
The court case will continue on January 28 and 29 next year.
The ‘CoD majority’ faction remaining in the party also plans to hold a consultative meeting before the court case to review its strategies inside the party, and to look at other political developments that have transpired over the year.
Still upbeat about the prospects of the party, the leadership of the party still standing after the bruising battle celebrated the eighth year of the party’s existence.
“The CoD is the first major political party formed after independence. It has attracted enough following to become the country’s official opposition party ahead of parties with long histories,” boasted CoD MP, Tsudao Gurirab.
He said the party was formed against the backdrop of a serious crisis of democracy within the ruling party “characterised by an undemocratic anti-culture coupled with a heavy dose of a personality cult”.
On the prospects of the party, Gurirab said: “The clear lesson from this [the infighting] is that any party’s unity is only as strong as the commitment and understanding by the members of the party’s objectives.
“CoD will come out stronger after this baptism of fire. We shall continue to strengthen the democratic character of our organisation and continue to respect our constituents and propagate for a caring, prosperous and democratic Namibia.”
President of the CoD, Ben Ulenga.
MAG’s battle against ‘unfair’ AA
Monitor Action Group (MAG) Member of Parliament, Jurie Viljoen, said the party does not want to play a confrontational role in the Namibian political landscape, but instead aims to protect the Namibian Constitution and to convince people and parties that what it does and say is meant in the national interest.
“We are not a party for white people only,” emphasised Viljoen. “All my contributions in Parliament were done in the spirit of the above mentioned principles.”
He said MAG does not speak on behalf of the Afrikaners, but speaks for them in matters where “it is obvious that they are deliberately being accused of issues for which they are not guilty”.
The party stated that during 2007, it had participated in ordinary motions on education, respect for the elderly and other matters.
“Our main focal point was to make Namibians aware of the injustices of Affirmative Action,” said Viljoen. “We have emphasised it many times that we are not against Affirmative Action, but we are complaining about certain issues in the Affirmative Action law. According to our point of view, the Affirmative Action law of 1998 does not reflect the spirit and text of all aspects of the Namibian Constitution.”
In this regard, Viljoen’s motion in Parliament, he said, was aimed at the group of people “who are not guilty of the sins of the pre-independence era”.
“The children who went to school during 1990 are not guilty of what happened before independence. This issue was discussed by a few members, but I withdrew the motion for reasons which I explained to the newspapers.”
Said Viljoen: “The reaction on the motion was very emotional and I came to the conclusion that we as a nation do not practice what we preach. It said that a perception is a reality,” he said.
His perceptions on this are that reconciliation is being preached without a clear understanding of what it entails.
He said all SWAPO Party members on Thursday November 22 voted against the motion of reconciliation, which was under discussion. A week later, on Wednesday, November 28, President Hifikepunye Pohamba appealed to the nation to reconcile.
“How do you understand such contradictions?” Viljoen asked.
“I also became aware that people are intolerant on such sensitive issues as reconciliation, and I got the impression that although Namibians are freed from colonialism, the minds of many are still colonised. We mistrust each other on many levels,” Viljoen maintained.
The motion on reconciliation, he said, was an eye-opener.
“I am convinced that even in Parliament racism and tribalism is alive and is practiced on a daily basis,” he concluded.
Viljoen said he observed a change in Parliament during October and November where some MPs, “especially from the side of the ruling party”, started to express their loyalty to the SWAPO Party “at every occasion”.
“Somebody said they tried to be ‘more Roman Catholic than the Pope’. This feeling became stronger, and it was clear that the business in Parliament was influenced and dominated by the expectations of the approaching SWAPO Congress [held at the end of November],” he said.
He said suspicion in Parliament deepened at the formation of the Rally for Democracy and Progress, stating: “It was like a blow to the head of the SWAPO Party.”
“I don’t expect that the forming of the new party will bring about drastic changes, except if it embarks on new issues and concentrates on the weaknesses of the ruling party,” Viljoen felt.
Prioritising issues to be dealt with, Viljoen said corruption should first and foremost be taken on in a transparent manner and reports on enquiries into such matters should be made public as a matter of cause.
Furthermore, he said, the function of Permanent Secretaries in the respective ministries should be reconsidered, “because it was said by a Deputy Minister that these officials rule the country”.
“They [permanent secretaries] have a free hand and can manipulate the whole ministry. They are the people who are responsible for overspending the budget,” said Viljoen.
Also of concern to the party, he went on, is the “crippled” judiciary, which is in need of reform.
MAG MP, Jurie Viljoen.
Nudo championing reparations
A definite highlight for the National Unity Democratic Organisation of Namibia (Nudo) for the year was the tabling of a motion in Parliament dealing with the representation of the Herero Genocide and the affected communities.
This motion was unanimously adopted by all political parties and was currently being debated in the German Parliament.
A recent development is the clamour for reparations for German colonial atrocities and extermination policy, and a feather in NUDO’s cap, is the joint call by Herero and Nama speaking Namibians to the German government to seriously consider – and address – the reparation issue.
At a two-day meeting held earlier this month, a common position was formulated at a meeting in Mariental, which was co-signed by traditional leaders of these two groups.
Jotting down positive developments in the party, it said that it had penetrated the Kavango Region where it recruited more than 200 members.
“To us this is an achievement because those areas were previously dominated by SWAPO,” Nudo said.
The party has opened an office – “and Nudo was the only political party to open an office” – in Divundu in the Mukwe Constituency in the Kavango Region.
The party has however, experienced a setback in the Nkurenkuru elections where it participated in the local authority elections earlier in the year, and was defeated by six votes.
“Despite that we were courageous enough to still continue with political activities in Kavango,” the party said.
The party lamented the fact that some traditional leaders are not recognised by the government.
“Nudo’s political activities go hand in hand with traditional activities. Therefore, this issue [how it is being handled] is very hard on one of our priorities and it demoralises our people. We had a lot of discussions with the ministry concerned [Ministry of Regional and Local Government and Housing and Rural Development], as well as State House. We hope the next year will come with new approaches and messages,” the party said.
Other developments during the year included the appointment of a full-time administrative secretary, Theophelus Uahongora. The party also established a mobilisation division.
Branches visited this year include Omaruru, Kalkfeld, Otjiwarongo, Epukiro, Eiseb, Talismanus, Helena, and Otjinene. New branch executives were elected in Omaruru.
It has also formed a directorate of elections, headed by Meundju Jahanika, which will organise the party’s elections. An objective of the directorate is to look into the party’s election manifesto for possible changes in preparation of the 2009 general elections.
Despite limited resources, the party said, it had been able to open five regional offices equipped with telefaxes in Otjinene, Aminius, Okatjoruu, Okakarara, and Opuwo.
Leader of Nudo, Paramount Chief Kauima Riruako.
Citizens ‘deserve more’ – Swanu
In a year-end message, recently elected president of Swanu of Namibia, Usutuaije Maamberua, said the party would initiate public debate around the “meagre” pension monthly payout of N$370 to the elderly, for “optimal and decent packages” to those that have “endured the tough experience of bygone years”.
“You deserve better than what you are currently getting,” he addressed the elderly. He further lamented the over-crowded conditions in Namibian prisons, saying that such conditions are not conducive for rehabilitation.
“For all intents and purposes, the prison system serves as a tool for outright criminalisation of individuals,” he stressed.
He said Swanu would lobby for the correction of the situation “in due course”.
He also addressed the situation of “deteriorating towns and villages”. After several visits to Rehoboth, he said, what he has observed was “abominable as evidenced by retrogressive trends and degenerating currents in nearly all social aspects of life”.
“Judging Rehoboth from the past and its capacity and the potential of its inhabitants, it should not be at the level of development where it is now. Rehoboth deserves better. ”
He said if things had been done “correctly, sensitively and sensibly, Namibia would have been in a position to export skills and expertise from Rehoboth” to help in the reconstruction of Angola, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Liberia, “let alone the collapsed Twin Towers in New York”.
“Yet, our people are apparently not good enough to put a single brick or half a spade-load of mortar on our own State House under construction,” he criticised, adding: “Rest assured that Swanu is together with you in all your endeavours.”
He further said the “unhygienic and filthy environs” of the country’s health institutions and lack of proper care and basic medication provision could “no longer be tolerated”.
“The sub-standard conditions of employment that our health professionals are subjected to and endure will soon become part of our daily political agenda. We must stop the outflow of our few, but highly-skilled medical staff by improving our health sector, including the remuneration of our health workers,” Maamberua said.
He said the educational system should be “called to order” for throwing Grade 10 graduates onto “crime-ridden and disease-infected streets of present day misgoverned and under-managed Namibia”.
“We cannot realistically hope to become developed and self-sufficient if our school system is not capable of producing adequate throughput for our educational tertiary sector,” he criticised.
He urged for individual and collective action against the HIV/AIDS scourge.
He also said the State should ensure physical, emotional and psychological safety and security of its citizens, urging law enforcement agencies to be responsive, efficient and effective.
“Swanu shall walk the extra mile to ensure that we prioritise the professionalism and optimal development of our law enforcement sector agencies,” he said.
“[To] those starving because they have no land to toil, to those thrown out of farms and those driven off the land of their ancestors, Swanu wants to remind them that the resolution of the land question in Namibia remains the single most important issue on Swanu’s menu – period!” he added.
He said the party would ensure the holding of a second land conference before the next general election in 2009.