Hengari Out of Tune with African Politics

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A response to an article by Alfredo T Hengari titled ‘Swapo Party Youth League and its Political Hiatus’ published in The Namibian newspaper, on Friday June 13, 2008

By Sydney !Ganeb

I RESPOND to an opinion piece under the column Post Scriptum and written by one academic and intellectual in the form of Alfredo Tjiurimo Hengari, who apparently is a PhD fellow in Political Science at the University of Paris-Pantheon Sorbonne. It was published in The Namibian newspaper.

I have over the past years strenuously tried to read the articles published in the Namibian newspaper by this author but to tell the truth, I never advance after reading the first two paragraphs of his writings, mainly because:

1. The writings of the author don’t appeal to me as an ordinary reader of this newspaper, a purpose of which I assume a socio-political analysis should be about, to inform and educate and to build a better Namibian society.

2. The writer does not consider his audiences, which are ordinary Namibian citizens on the street who buy a newspaper bearing the name “Namibia” in it everyday in the hope of getting informed, educated and entertained through news.

3. Rather the writings are for academic purpose and of an academic nature, as it is probably required as part of the PhD programme to publish articles, so the articles are misplaced in a well-respected paper which prides itself in “telling it like it is” for the ordinary Namibian citizens who loyally buy and support this newspaper daily.

4. The writings are often full of academic jargon, scientific methodologies of analysis and do not speak to the ordinary man on the street, in my opinion, it’s a show off style of writing that says look I’m French educated and can do it the French way, well it’s true that some Africans consider themselves and have more sympathy with everything that is European and white than African and black for in their mind they perceive what is African and black as below their level, thus they continue to seek out opportunities to sing praises for everything European than African.

Nevertheless, the reason I’m writing this article is because as a member of the central committee of the SPYL (Swapo Party Youth League), I personally take offence at the characterisation of SPYL as ignorant, morally and intellectually bankrupt bunch of youth who at the expense of their youth sing the songs we wish those at the top want to hear.

First of all, for an academic fellow as he claims, I found such labelling of SPYL and use of abstract notions in trying to advance a seemingly baseless argument against SPYL as out of place and devoid of concrete reasoning needed in meaningful political analysis. I submit that it is a mere attempt to discredit the image of SPYL for reasons of having enough published material for his studies. Such a purpose might be beneficial to the author but not for the youth of Namibia who are hungry and thirsty for knowledge, for such analysis can’t provide them with any meaningful food for thought.

For this and many more reasons, we cannot afford to have the collective conscience of the SPYL belittled in such a manner by an expatriate (apparently for educational reasons), who considers himself more intellectual than other Namibians merely because he happened to be educated in Europe.

Hengari, in his article, writes that the intellectual ambitions of the SPYL are faux pas and raise more questions without plausible answers about the moral and intellectual content of the SPYL and this, he said, because he finds it “pretty surprising that young men and women … are found to be defending an erstwhile revolutionary who has lost his marbles, in the form of Robert Mugabe”.

Secondly, he writes that his assertions are a result of his analysis of the generational challenge we face as the youth, in his view the SPYL refuses to move away from the old guard, or what he term a “balkanised vision of politics” and is not in tune with the realities of the day in terms of providing the youth with answers to the challenges they are faced with.

Well, the political mandate of SPYL from generation to generation is very clear within the party and we shall not take unsolicited counsel on politics from Hengari. In reality, it should be him taking a serious reality check to determine if he is in tune with the African political situation and I mean from an African perspective if he still has one.

The SPYL has and will continue to carry out its mandate within the Namibian political life and abroad to defend the gains of the continuing African struggle, for it is within this context, I presume, that Hengari tries to interrogate and call upon the SPYL to condemn President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. This stems from the Press conference titled “No to regime change in Southern Africa” addressed by Comrade TE Ngurare as Secretary of SPYL on April 24, 2008.

As an academic, Hengari should know that a scientific endeavour aimed at generating knowledge and passing on information should be verified from reliable sources before being passed on as facts, here I wonder whether he has read the press statement himself or merely taken the media reports and start interrogating the discourse that emerges from the structure as he himself says, for if he had done so he would have realised and appreciated the fact that Comrade Ngurare has offered an alternative view in his analysis about Zimbabwe and based his assertion about the regime change on historical facts, which Hengari seems not to be refuting, he rather says that SPYL is defending Mugabe instead of calling him to order.

In true academic circles, a paradigm shift that offers a new alternative is often welcomed and interrogated against the facts it presents and synthesis, hypothesis and thesis can be built from it, Hengari has failed to do so. Contrary to what Hengari says about SPYL defending Mugabe, this is what Comrade Ngurare said and it is in the press statement and I quote: “The SADC objectives aimed at promoting common political values and systems transmitted through institutions that are democratic, legitimate and effective to facilitate the consolidation of democracy, peace, security and stability is noted. The pursuit of common values is a noble undertaking but so too must the preservation and defence of our collective sovereignty and independence.”

The statement refers to promoting, preserving and defending the gains of the revolution in Africa and avoiding common pitfalls of neo-colonialism which often advocate regime change through various undemocratic means also referred to in the press statement.

I do not see in this avant-garde any fault and in fact, throughout the whole press release there is no mention of President Robert Mugabe at all.

In fact, the statement embraces what Hengari terms the notion of “powerful moral lessons” of Mandela to humanity by calling on mutual respect for sovereignty by non-interference of foreign powers through various means including sanctions in the internal matters of SADC countries. This notion in the arena of international relations and politics is still relevant as in 1648 Peace of Westphalia, a subject matter of politics relevant for a PhD fellow. Indeed it is true that every generation has its challenges and SPYL has time and again proven itself as relevant to the generational challenges referred to by Hengari in his article, through visionary leadership. SPYL will, contrary to your beliefs,
continue to advance perspectives that are progressive and relevant such as those found in the press statement, and I quote: “Therefore, in the interest of promoting the principles of the anti-imperialist solidarity, peace and stability on our continent and particularly the SADC sub-region, all progressive forces are duty bound to stand against regime change doctrine in Zimbabwe and the sub-region.”

Again we are doing what, according to you, Frantz Fanon would have wanted us to do about the cultural and political content of our times in the face of globalisation, although our actions are not driven by philosophies about the world but by the mandate from the youth of Namibia. Remember, that recalling of history and legacies is not an end in itself but rather should be guiding tools into the future. Namibian youth would want to see peace and return to stability by Zimbabwe in the future, contrary to what you term as collective ignorance of Namibian youth thus the call to defend sovereignty and reject regime change.

This in my earnest opinion is providing the youth with what you, yourself term as “progressive unifying vision for our politics.”

However, my advice to you is, if you want to understand what SPYL represents and its modalities and strategies (as it seems that was the purpose with your article), it is short-sighted to do a discourse analysis from the media reports and continue to distort the truth and call us unwelcome names and insult the collective intelligence of SPYL. Rather as an academic take advice from yourself and engage us as you rightly put it through debate and discussion, for you yourself write that you are an “external observer” trying to understand the SPYL interrogating the alleged discourse emanating from this structure. Our doors are open, yes for you also.

Before you and many other critics of SPYL misunderstand and misinterpret me let me make it unequivocally clear that the purpose of this piece is to remind you to check your sources, make sure of the facts before you draw inferences and (to borrow from your language) make void dissonances, for Namibian youth certainly deserve better.
Finally, without giving much undeserved credence to your insinuations, “it is wise not to throw stones if you live in a glass house”.

Sydney !Ganeb is a member of SPYL Central Committee.
ganebsb@gmail.com

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