Threat Posed By Ethnic Political Entrepreneurship in Namibia: Part 2


By Citizen Nahas Angula

Negative Campaigns

IN my previous opinion piece on the threat to political stability posed by ethnic political entrepreneurship, I dwelt on the strange phenomenon of mysterious leadership lists that appeared at the Swapo Party election times.

Such mysterious leadership lists were accompanied by clandestine and secretive negative campaigning. The negative campaign exhorted regional delegates not to vote for this or that candidate, usually from different regions. Such negative campaigns took the character of political ethnic cleansing in the Swapo Party. Whether the mysterious leadership lists or clandestine negative campaigns did have effect on the actual election outcomes, it is difficult to quantify.

However, the atmosphere created by such negative political behaviour was not conducive to the electoral or democratic political processes. Bad losers seized upon such polluted political environment to question the outcome of elections. This is bad for democracy. In such a political environment people felt justified to find political refuge in tribal solidarity. The evolution towards the establishment of the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) was nurtured by some of the above-mentioned political behaviour.

‘We are Not Wanted in Swapo’

One day in 2004, one of my long-standing comrades burst into my office at the Ministry of Higher Education and Employment Creation. The comrade looked unhappy. I asked him what the matter was and he retorted: “We are not wanted in Swapo!” I was confused. Who were the “we”? Who in Swapo does not want the “we”?

I invited the comrade to take a sit so that we could discuss the matter. He then started telling me that as an Oshikwanyama-speaking person, he felt unwelcome and unwanted in the Swapo Party. He cited incidents. At the end he declared: “Swapo is no longer the type of Swapo you and I grew up in.”

I was shocked by the candid manner in which the comrade confided in me.

The question on my mind was: “How many Ovakwanyama in the Swapo Party shared same sentiments with this comrade?” This was clearly an unhealthy political situation in our party. The issue was not whether what the comrade was saying was factually correct, but rather that this belief or perception was firmly fixated in his mind. The preamble to Unesco Constitution is instructive in this regard. It reads: “That since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.”

If this comrade believed that there was a programme in Swapo against his ethnic group, how best could one convince him that it was not so. In my small way, I tried at every Swapo leadership meeting to remind every one present that “politics is not a zero sum game” or “we should not politically marginalise each other”. My pleas, of course, were not taken seriously. One of my comrades called such appeals “childish”.

The evolution of the establishment of the RDP was fed by this type of perception among some Oshikwanyama-speaking people that they were not welcome in Swapo. As said earlier, such a perception might be real or imaginary. As a belief, however, such a perception is capable of triggering political actions with far-reaching consequences. The formation of the Rally for Democracy and Progress could be said to have been conceived in tribal or ethnic solidarity. The association of people like Mr Jesaya Nyamu with RDP is fortuitous. Sooner than later he will become irrelevant.

The Nyamu Factor

Mr Nyamu’s political motives are driven by a personal vendetta he developed against the former president of the Swapo Party, Comrade Sam Nujoma.

When, how or why this vendetta developed, is immaterial. Mr Nyamu, however, coached his differences with the party president in Frantz Fanon’s notion of post-independence African leaders of practicing the politics of patronage and patrimonial rule. At every leadership meeting one would not help but to hear Mr Nyamu privately complaining of Swapo being a party of praise-singers and sycophants. He came to view the Swapo leadership as a “board of a society of impatient profiteers” ??????’??


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