Swapo Party turned 48 on April 19, 2008 and held its official celebrations at Otjiwarongo last weekend. The ruling party was founded in 1960 to fight for Namibia’s independence.
Swapo’s immediate forerunners were the OPO and the Ovamboland People’s Congress (OPC), but from 1960, the campaign for independence became a national one led by Swapo Party.
New Era reporter Kuvee Kangueehi had an exclusive interview with the Secretary for Information and Mobilization Jerry Ekandjo, two years before it reaches the milestone of half a century.
New Era: Swapo at 48, reflecting back, what is your impression of the party?
Jerry Ekandjo: The Swapo party has fulfilled its objectives. The first objective was to liberate Namibia from the various colonial forces and we succeeded in that on the 21st March 1990.
Secondly, it was to ensure that Namibians rule themselves and as you can see today in all government structures, Namibians are running their own government. Namibia now is a free country with its own flag, coat of arms and national anthem.
The one objective the party has not yet achieved is to control the economy but we have started the struggle.
NE: Has the party transformed itself successfully from being a liberation movement to a ruling party with the capacity to run a government?
JE: The Swapo Party at its first congress transformed itself from a liberation movement to a mass political party. We are also now a fully-fledged mass political party running the Namibian government for the last 18 years. As a government, we have achieved a lot and did more than what the colonizers have done in a hundred years.
The Germans ruled Namibia from 1884 to 1915 which is a period of 31 years but all they did was devastation and they killed more than 60% of Nama-speaking people and more than 80% of the Herero community. During that period, there was no peace and the colonial Germany just destroyed our people.
The Apartheid South Africa, which colonized Namibia from 1915 until the 20th March 1990 at midnight, caused more destruction to the Namibian people and there was no peace. Our people were subjected to the contract labour system and our people were arrested, tortured and killed.
NE: What are some of the highlights of the party during the 48 years?
JE: Most importantly, it is the independence. The party has also managed to ensure that peace and stability prevailed over the last 18 years compared to the 106 years of colonial rule. We have consolidated people’s power and have laid a strong foundation for future generations to develop the country.
NE: Is democracy working within the ruling party? Some of the party leaders have been accused of being autocratic and rigging elections at congresses?
JE: Swapo is a democratic party that obeys its constitution. We have held democratic elections since our formation.
How can we have democratic government if the party is not democratic?
Our delegates to all the congresses come from the various regions and the process of electing people that will come to the congress starts at the sections level and then the branch, constituency and up to the regional level.
Under the Swapo Party-led government, Namibia enjoys freedom of press, freedom of association and the government has never banned a political party or arrested anybody because of their political activities.
NE: Is there tribalism within the Swapo Party? Some critics claim that the Swapo Party is a tribal party dominated by one ethnic group, which dominates the Politburo, Central Committee and other top structures of the party. What is your view?
JE: The imbalance in the Swapo Party was caused by the colonial Germany’s war against the Herero and Nama people. The war caused an imbalance in the country’s population and that has resulted in an imbalance in the different language groups at the Swapo Party Congress.
All the delegates to the Swapo party have an equal chance to compete for any position in the party and the delegates come from all the regions in the country.
The delegates to the congress are not elected by the party leadership but by the people themselves and if the Germans had not killed the Hereros and Namas, the country could have had a big population.
NE: What have been some of the setbacks of the party?
JE: I will not call it a setback but some of the challenges that the party faces is that as a mass political party anybody can join the party. The problem is that some of the people misbehave because they have different agendas to that of the party.
All of them are not genuine and at one or the other stage cause problems within the party but the party always grows stronger.
In the 60’s we had the Linus Lekani and then the Andreas Shipanga rebellion in the 70s. In the 80s we had another rebellion of Mishake Muyongo but all of them have failed to destroy Swapo.
Ben Ulenga defected in 1999 and the Hidipo Hamutenya group did it last year.
NE: How do these breakaways affect the party?
JE: They have little impact on the party because the Swapo Party was born through the yearning of the Namibian people to gain their freedom. Most of these breakaways are ill conceived and formed for the wrong reasons. For example, Ulenga’s CoD was formed after he was infiltrated by MI in the United Kingdom and he started complaining about the third term of the founding president and the NDF presence in DRC.
Now that both the issues are now history, the party is now irrelevant and has lost its vision. They are fighting among themselves and there is a legal case pending.
NE: What about the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) – it appears to have shaken the Swapo Party?
JE: The Swapo Party cannot be shaken by small parties like the RDP.
The party will go the same way as CoD and it was a failed project even before it started.
The party was formed by disgruntled elements and it was formed because Hidipo Hamutenya lost at the extraordinary congress.
Jesaya Nyamu only formed the RDP because he was expelled.
If he claims that the Swapo Party is a bad party and has lost vision why did he beg to come back? He wrote an appeal letter two weeks after he was expelled and was pleading to come back.
The rest of the RDP party members are retired civil servants who failed to get voted through the party structures.
Hamutenya and Nyamu claimed that the government has lost its vision but they were part of the executive for 15 years but never complained.
They both were ministers of trade and industry, which is the engine for growth, and did nothing.
The only logical conclusion one can draw is that they sabotaged the economy.
RDP is a tribalistic project, which has already failed.
The people do not want the RDP and Hamutenya tried to address two meetings at Katima Mulilo and Keetmanshoop and the people did not turn up and he ended up hiding in hotel rooms.
NE: The issue of the Lubango detainees keeps popping up time and again. How does the party intend to close this chapter?
JE: As far as the Swapo Party is concerned, the detainee issue is a non-issue.
In any war there are spies and the attacks on Cassinga did not only happen but there were spies that informed the racist South African regime.
We do not excuse ourselves from the spy issue and will not apologize. The racist South Africa paid a lot of money for people to betray their own people and the party suffered because of spies at Ongulumbashe where Castro betrayed us.
Of course there were people that were caught in the crossfire just like the Namibian people who were not actively involved but suffered at the hands of the colonizers because of being caught in the crossfire.