Posturing for party positions, is it internal democracy or anarchy?

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AS the various political parties gear themselves for the 2014 Presidential and National Assembly elections, a consternating and worrying factor seems to be developing regarding internal party democracy and discipline within some parties.

While in the past Swapo Party has been labelled as an undemocratic party whose leaders have been trying to, if not actually clinging to positions, increasingly and lately it seems that Swapo Party has been providing a lead in this regard, if only in terms of some of its most senior leaders stepping down and providing the opportunity for younger fellows. The latest example in this regard is President Hifikepunye Pohamba, whose second term as President of the Republic of Namibia shall come to an end next year, thus paving the way for someone else to take over the reins. The anointed candidate in this regard is Dr Hage Geingob. There were three candidates who vied for the position of vice-president of Swapo, and subsequently the party’s presidential candidate in next year’s presidential election, as well as the other top positions within the party like that of secretary general and deputy secretary general. One cannot but laud Swapo Party for the mature, comradely and orderly manner in which this process took place. Of course granted the hidden acrimony which is a given in any political situation. But one cannot discount it as not having been civilized.

However the same tranquil transition cannot be said to have been the hallmark in opposition parties, starting with the DTA of Namibia, which was characterised by blatant and open venomous animosity between the two candidates, Katuutire Kaura and McHenry Venaani, and lately what has been transpiring in the main opposition in parliament, the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP).  Neither of the two political parties seemed to espouse and emulate the requisite internal party democracy and discipline that should be characteristics of candidates aspiring for the highest public office in the country, that of president of the Republic of Namibia.

On the contrary all requisite daggers seemed to have been openly drawn with regard to the election of candidates for the top positions within these parties. And this while some of these parties had, more often than not, not only been portraying self as the champions of democracy but as the very epitome thereof, as well as of internal party democracy and discipline. But this time around such principles seem to be awfully missing. Instead what one has been observing is total animosity between long-standing comrades and colleagues.

I for one cannot claim to be privy to the internal dynamics of some of these political parties, but on the face of it what has been in the public domain through what has been reported in the media, is too worrying to instil any sense of confidence in me as a voter, that in some of these candidates we have would-be dignified statesmen and women in whom I personally, if not the rest of the public, should put trust as trustees of the public good.

There is no denying that as a country we still have a long journey to travel towards our aspired democracy. This is a journey that needs each and every one of us, and each and every political party, ruling or not ruling, in parliament or outside parliament, and indeed the broader civil society. But what has been transpiring and is transpiring, and still to transpire internally within some of our political parties before the next elections does not augur well for the future of democracy. In fact what has been unfolding in these political parties is nothing else but the leaders themselves posturing for positions, with the people who should choose them and prefer them ominously conspicuously silent and ominously absent from the internal political theatrics that have been unfolding.

One would have thought the political norm in terms of internal party democracy and discipline, is for any incumbent in any position in whatever political party or formation, including civic associations, to give account of their tenure in office to the highest decision-making bodies, which is the plenary or congress as may pertain, where every possible member of the organization is represented, and for such to deliver the verdict. But not for self-interested individuals and their cliques to deliver such verdict, and for that matter usually outside the structures of the organisation. Is this what has been happening lately, where incumbents are seeming to be ostracised, victimised, labelled, rubbished and emasculated, you name them. This is before they are offered a just opportunity to justify themselves before the plenary and before their time has expired, all in the name of so-called democracy?  Your guess is as good as mine.

Internal party discipline and organisation and democracy for that matter assume that there must be consensus within any political party as to who are the best leaders that can guide the party towards its chosen destiny and mission. It is not for individual leaders driven by own ambitions to decide whether the people want them or not, let alone to tout themselves as either the best, fitting and capable candidates.  Neither is it a matter of a singular individual within any political party to want or wish for any leader but for the entire rank and file of such a party democratically and through a robust and forthright internal debate within the party to decide what is best, first for the party, and as a corollary for the whole country. Because the aspirations of any individual leader cannot and should not be personal to self but common. This is without precluding individuals from initiating ideas and ideals within the political parties and/or civic association and formations. In the parlance of the political parties such aspirations must first be of the whole party and by extension of the whole country. That is why one cannot but be perplexed to hear political parties only talking about the wishes and aspirations of a few, if not theirs themselves, which are touted and imagined as common to the political parties they may belong to. It becomes a dangerous precedent when power hungry leaders pretend their parochial interest for power, driven by avarice, to be the aspirations of the people.

Within any communes, including political communes for that matter, such as those represented by the various political parties in this country, yes, individual ideologies may exist. But until such ideologies translate into a communal ideology, common to all, and which all within a specific political configuration or commune subscribe to, and most importantly also help define and refine, it cannot and should not be taken seriously.

By Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro

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