Namibia at Political Crossroads

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By Citizen Nahas Angula

Halcyon Years

FOR the African countries that gained independence in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the decade following independence was generally characterised by progress, growth and development. The leaders of the newly independent states worked with vigour and determination to improve the countries’ infrastructure, health services, education and foreign relations. During the first decade of African independence, a sense of optimism about Africa’s future prevailed. The 1960s came to be described as halcyon years in Africa.

However, from the 1970s things started to fall apart. Military coups, political instability, economic stagnation and decline led to Afro-pessimism. African economies were hit by the cost of oil imports, droughts, low productivity and population growth. The third decade of African independence came to be characterised as a lost decade by observers of the African political development.

Namibia seems to be following the same political development trajectory, though it achieved its independence four decades later. From 1990-99, Namibia made significant progress in dismantling the vestiges of apartheid and colonial rule. A national unified education system was established; networks of road infrastructure, including the trans-Kalahari and trans-Caprivi, were constructed; rural water supply and rural electrification programmes were launched; a common national social pension scheme was devised; primary health care programmes were launched; and Namibia diplomacy came to be celebrated.

Namibia served as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Namibia co-chaired the Millennium General Assembly Session. On the sports front, Namibia surprised many when it booked its place in the African Cup of Nations in Burkina Faso. The first decade of Namibia’s independence was a halcyon decade. It was a decade of progress, hope and promise.

The Mishake Muyongo Contagion

In 1998 Mr Mishake Muyongo lost the presidency of the DTA to Mr Katuutire Kaura. When Mr Muyongo lost the DTA presidency, he discovered that he was not a Namibian. He was in fact a Caprivian, he reasoned. He started, therefore, to organise for the secession of the Caprivi Region from the rest of Namibia.

An insurrection took place in Katima Mulilo. Blood was shed. Lives were lost. Surviving victims were maimed.

Mr Muyongo reached this point because he could not deliver to the Mafwe community what he promised them. The loss of the DTA presidency meant the loss of power of patronage over the political process in the Caprivi Region.

In the true tradition of ethnic political entrepreneurship, he invited the Mafwe people to rebel against the Constitution of the Republic of Namibia. The aftermath of the Mafwe rebellion was that independent Namibia lost its innocence: peace, security, mutual understanding and brotherhood were shattered.

In 1999, another ethnic political entrepreneur came onto the scene in the form of Mr Benjamin Ulenga.

It should be recalled that Mr Ulenga was part of Swapo Youth League activists who arrived in Zambia in 1974/75 under the leadership of Mr Keshii Pelao Nathanael. Before coming to Zambia, the youth league held a congress at Oniipa in 1994 and constituted itself as a party within the Swapo Party. Upon arrival in Zambia, Mr Nathanael refused to submit the youth league to the leadership of Swapo in general and to the Swapo department of youth affairs in particular.

When Mr Ulenga broke away from Swapo, he probably was just implementing the long-held aspiration of the youth league of creating a parallel party to Swapo. Mr Ulenga’s departure from Swapo, however, created a precedent to other ethnic political entrepreneurs to desert Swapo and create their own splinter political grouping. I shall return to this point later.

The epicentre of ethnic political entrepreneurship shifted back to the DTA. In 2003, the Republican Party of Henk Mudge left the DTA to articulate the interests of the verligte Afrikaners. Chief Kuaima Riruako followed suit and took Nudo out of the DTA in order to protect the interests of the Ovaherero traditionalists.

The ethinisation of the democratic space in the Namibian body politic is a matter of concern. This political tendency does not bode well for stability, security and harmony in our country in the long run. I shall illustrate this problem by focussing on the political developments in the ruling Swapo Party since 2002.

The Phenomenon of Mysterious Leadership Lists

During the third Swapo Party Congress in 2002, a strange phenomenon developed in the Swapo Party electoral contests – the mysterious leadership lists. A mysterious leadership list was discovered at the Unam [University of Namibia] Campus where the third Congress of Swapo Party was held.

The list contained names of delegates mainly from the Ohangwena Region to be voted into the Central Committee.

At that point, the list was ignored and did not have a significant impact either on the outcome of the Central Committee or Political Bureau elections.

During 2004, the Swapo Party Electoral College Conference was held to elect Swapo Party candidates for a party list for 2004 national elections. Another mysterious leadership list was discovered. Again, the list contained names of leaders mostly from Ohangwena and Oshikoto regions.

This time, the president of the Swapo Party and the chairman of the Electoral College Conference decided to denounce the mysterious list just before the voting. The outcome of the Electoral College elections might have been influenced by this mysterious leadership list.

The mysterious leadership lists poisoned the democratic electoral processes in the Swapo Party. During the fourth Swapo Party Congress last year, another mysterious leadership list was produced. This list excluded most notable leaders from Ohangwena and Oshikoto regions.

It also excluded the names of most of the “cadre historiques” of the Swapo Party. The list gave the impression of an attempt by some people in Swapo to obliterate the glorious history of Swapo in the minds of its own members.

The list further gave an impression of someone who is trying to concentrate political influence in the Party in one or two regions of the country.

Tokenism and co-option were clearly employed as devises to hoodwink the ultimate purpose of the list.

The mysterious leadership lists have succeeded in cultivating suspicion, mistrust and anger in the ranks of the Swapo Party. An apprehension of plots and counter plots within the Swapo Party were noticeable. Such an atmosphere breeds ethnic solidarity and re-enforces regionalism.

There lies the danger of political polarity and tribal confrontation. The situation currently prevailing in Kenya can be repeated in Namibia if the current trends of political ethnic entrepreneurship are not nipped in the bud.
In the next part, I shall illustrate this danger by focussing on the evolution of the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP).

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