By Kuvee Kangueehi
Namibians have lately witnessed deep hostility between the ruling Swapo Party and breakaway Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP).
The former comrades do not see eye to eye. There is simply not only bad blood between the top leaders of both parties, but ordinary members are turning against each other.
Unconfirmed reports have it that political differences have resulted in domestic squabbles between husbands and wives while children have been chased away from homes because of affiliation to a ‘wrong’ party.
The hostility is, however, not confined to the Swapo Party and RDP. The Nudo Party versus DTA of Namibia is a case in point.
Following the withdrawal of Nudo Party by its president Chief Kuaima Riruako out of the DTA, the Herero community, which is split between supporting the Chief and the DTA under Katuutire Kaura became polarised.
One person who has felt animosity the most is the Congress of Democrats (CoD) president, Ben Ulenga, first at the hands of liberation comrades of the Swapo Party and later a CoD faction.
After his exit from the Swapo Party in 1999, Ulenga was subjected to verbal attacks by former comrades. Recently, he was chased away from a memorial service of his former secretary general, late Kalla Gertze, who belonged to a rival faction of CoD.
Oddly, the Swapo Party is said to be more tolerant of parties such as the DTA, Nudo or even the Republican Party (RP) while they cannot stand the sight of RDP.
Similarly, mention the name Nudo to Kaura, he might want to explode while the same cannot be said about parties such as RP or the Swapo Party.
Prime Minister Nahas Angula says the hostility is created by the fact that when a faction breaks away, it is because of differences. Angula believes when the differences are not resolved and a group moves out of the party, the ‘mother party’ feels betrayed.
“You feel betrayed because the group of people desert a cause or an idea you have shared for many years.”
Angula, who is a member of the politburo and central committee of the Swapo Party, says the breakaway party mostly starts attacking its former political home and that creates animosity.
“A combination of factors creates this animosity which can later transform into violent behaviour.”
Angula adds that when the new party starts to encroach on the support base of the mother party that is viewed as provocation. The Premier says sometimes when the new parties have no support, they try to create a scene.
Angula says although he speaks to RDP members when they meet in public, in private, all ties are cut. People from rival parties do not talk in private because they have nothing in common anymore, he says.
RDP interim president Hidipo Hamutenya says the RDP is not hostile to anyone, adding that the hostility comes from those who feel betrayed.
He says the issue of breakaway is still new in Namibia and the entire African continent, because traditionally a ‘chieftainship’ never experienced a break-up.
“It is dramatic to those who think that their kingdom is being destroyed but people must understand that it is a way of achieving political competition which is a pillar of democracy.”
He noted that as time goes on, people will adjust and the hostility will subside. It is only a matter of time before people reconcile.
“Political parties should learn that people join voluntarily and those who feel that there is no scope for influence will not hang on and it is their liberty to be or not to be.”
“The people will overcome the emotional trauma if I can call it that, and learn a lesson that people join voluntarily and thus their views must be accommodated.”
He admits that he has received some hostilities from former comrades but says he still has many friends in the Swapo Party who look around their shoulder before they greet him.
“They hide, they are scared and tell me that they are with me but I ask them where, if I cannot see you?
“The hostility starts because it’s like a family breaking up in an unceremonious manner but political parties must realise that organisations must have a sustained programme of activity.”
He adds that people will leave a party when the leader can no longer inspire them. Others will stick around for the cheque and toe the line.
Ulenga, who moved out of the Swapo Party, says during his last month in the ruling party, he started to feel resentment from colleagues because he had openly criticised the party. But when he formed the CoD, the backlash turned into pure hatred.
“It was orchestrated not only politically but also socially and my former comrades made me feel that I had no right to exist.”
Even his closest former comrades like the late John Pandeni and Jerry Ekandjo who were with him on Robben Island deserted him.
Ulenga recalls that once he met the late Pandeni in a supermarket, the man ignored him and turned his back on him and literally refused to speak to him.
“Although I was never socially close to Alfons, politically we were close especially on the island but he completely closed off.”
Ulenga says he only started speaking to Pandeni towards the end of his life.
“With Jerry (Ekandjo), we always spoke but the things he said about me when I was not around were terrible.”
Ulenga says he was accused of being a CIA agent. Former acting secretary general of the NUNW, Peter Naholo, accused him of stealing money from the workers union.
The CoD president believes that some of the accusations from his former comrades were made for people to try and impress the leadership of the party.
Ulenga says even people that he did not know personally made him feel socially unwelcome and people physically moved away when he was around.
DTA MP McHenry Venaani says the hostility towards parties that breakaway is caused by the rivalry between the people that starts even before a new party is formed.
He notes that tensions build up until such time that a group feels that their goals can no longer be achieved in the structure and move out.
“The parties are also uncomfortable with one another because they are dealing with enemies that they know.”
Venaani says another factor that stokes the fire is when the new party starts or creates the impression that they are making inroads in the stronghold of their former party.
“The Swapo Party is hostile towards RDP because the perception has been created that the new party has a foothold in the four O regions which are traditionally Swapo strongholds.”
He says the ruling party cooled down towards the CoD when they realised that it is not a threat to its power base.