By Alexactus T Kaure
To retire or not to retire, that is the question.
In recent years, attention has focussed on when “the old man” will retire. The Founding President, Dr Sam Nujoma, has finally retired and he holds no political office although he is still very active in politics – campaigning and speaking at Swapo rallies.
However, people are now asking if it is not time for the leaders of the opposition parties to do likewise. Have they not overstayed in their political offices as well? Perhaps one way of revitalising the opposition, they argue, is to have new faces.
In all fairness, there have been leaders who have now retired. They include leaders like Dirk Mudge of the Republican Party and Rihupisa Kandando of Swanu. But there are others who are clinging on to power. The question is why?
New Era spoke to three stalwarts of Namibian politics – Justus Garoeb of United Democratic Front, Kosie Pretorius of Monitor Action Group and Katuutire Kaura of DTA – to garner their views on this question.
Both Garoeb and Kaura downplay the issue of age. They say Nujoma retired recently at the age of 78. Kaura also argues that though President Pohamba is older than him by five years he is also a leader of a political party. He says the most important issue is health, mental agility and whether one is still able to make a contribution or not.
He argues that the issue of retirement only came up as a result of Nujoma’s refusal to adhere to constitutional requirements stipulating the presidential term of office, which is 10 years. Otherwise there is no legal requirement as to when one should retire as a leader of a party. He also maintains that people become more balanced and mature around the age of 40 and he therefore cannot just put young oxen on a wagon.
Quizzed on whether he has plans to retire, Kaura says as long as the ruling party continues to resettle someone with two chickens on a Government farm, employ only certain groups in the army, give scholarships on the basis of ethnicity or continues to mess up with the land issue, then he will continue to be active in politics.
Just like Kaura, Garoeb says there are no specific requirements for him to retire – there is no term limit. However, he is quick to point out that it should depend on the party itself. If the party decided that the leader is now too old to run it, then the congress will decide to replace him. Alternatively, if the leader himself/herself decides not to run for political office, then the people can appoint a new leader, says Garoeb. According to Garoeb, it is usually just a small clique of people who want to spoil things but the grassroots do not ask the question about retirement.
Pretorius, however, has a slightly different view on the issue of retirement, saying each case must be judged on its own merit. For one, he still wants to be active in politics for some time. His main concern is the issue of who would assume his role unless it is a pensioner like Jurie Viljoen. He says young people are not interested in politics unless the party has a good financial base and other resources to sustain it. He says he has been a full-time politician and it is therefore difficult for him to leave.
The three, however, agree that where the country’s constitution stipulates a term limit, that should be adhered to religiously.
Pretorius further noted that once a president retires, he or she must do so completely and not be active in politics, like Nujoma. He is an ex-President of the country not a party. He says Nujoma gets a good pension and other privileges paid for by taxpayers and he should not use that to campaign for a political party.
Kandando, a former Swanu president, argues that there is always a danger of equating institutions with personalities because people appear and disappear.
He also says that age is not really the issue here. On his part, he says he retired as party leader to give others a chance to inject new ideas and vision. Thus, from the look of things, none of the old guard is entertaining the idea of retirement – at least for now.