The Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) that suffered a major setback in August, when its founder Hidipo Hamutenya rejoined Swapo, was dealt another debilitating blow yesterday when four of its heavyweights followed Hamutenya back to Swapo.
At the highly anticipated press conference at Swapo Party headquarters former director of elections Phillemon Kanime, Magnus Nangombe, Ambassador Shapwa Kaukungua and Reverend Festus Naholo rejoined Swapo.
Those who rejoined Swapo – where they first cut their political teeth – said they previously left the ruling party because of political misundertandings and despotic tendencies.
Although, there was widespread speculation that the founder of the Congress of Democrats (CoD), Ben Ulenga, would also rejoin Swapo, he didn’t turn up.
Swapo Party secretary general, Nangolo Mbumba denied any knowledge that Ulenga would return to Swapo.
“I’ve not received any phone call, any letter or spoken to anybody at this head office about Ulenga. We don’t have that information, so I can’t comment,” he said in response to ongoing speculation in this regard.
Mbumba welcomed the newly returned members, saying Swapo is their political home. The returnees were then adorned with Swapo scarfs and given copies of the party’s constitution.
Among the delegates in attendance were former RDP members, including Hamutenya’s son, Kela, and Norah Appolus.
Rev. Naholo declined to talk about RDP’s internal affairs – which are apparently in shambles – saying he stands for Swapo policies and values.
“As things develop with the new leadership, the current president (Hage Geingob) and the previous president (Hifikepunye Pohamba), we are happy that problems of the past no longer exist,” Naholo said.
Kanime was quick to say:
“Let us put aside the past about the formation of RDP. Contradictions happened, but they no longer exist. Our political history is Swapo. From our time as youth, there was no other political party, except Swapo. We feel the circumstances have changed and we felt there is a need for us to return to contribute to Swapo.”
Naholo said they do not know what is happening within the RDP, as they have been out of the leadership for a long time and have been preparing for their return to Swapo.
Naholo went on to say: “We commend you for what you have been doing during our absence. We have come back home to continue working together for Swapo. We left Swapo, because in a family there can be contradictions. So because of those contradictions, we left. But misunderstandings should not forever distort the future. We sacrificed our youth to fight for the freedom of our country under the banner of Swapo.”
Naholo expressed their gratitude to former president Pohamba for appealing for peace and unity, as well as his continued call for dissenters to rejoin Swapo.
“We also heard the clarion call of our president (Geingob) for poverty eradication and that no one should be excluded from the Namibian house.
“We hope all Namibians outside the house will respond favourably to our patriotic leader. Our task is to mobilise members to Swapo,” he said amidst loud ululations.
Long-time member of the central committee and politburo of the ruling party, Helmut Angula, also welcomed the returning members, saying: “They are back in the trench where they belong.”
“This time the trench is in the war against poverty, crime and above all against ignorance. The struggle is going to be long, but final victory is assured,” Angula said.
Some of the notable names that have re-joined SWAPO Party thus far include former RDP president Hidipo Hamutenya with his family, as well as Dr Leake Hangala, as the once official opposition party started to lose its relevance and the national appeal it enjoyed at its formation in 2007.
Local political analyst Fanuel Kaapama says it is any citizen’s democratic right to leave and rejoin political parties of their choice.
“Around 2005 Hidipo announced he was leaving Swapo. He said it was his democratic decision. In a constitutional democracy like ours, where rights are protected, one can say it is natural and common for that to happen.
“Ten years down the line, it shows that in politics there are no permanent friends and there are also no permanent enemies.
“So it means up until March this year, the RPD was still the official opposition when the DTA took over,” Kaapama noted.
In Namibian political history, he said, the DTA was the official opposition for almost 10 years, while CoD served as official opposition for close to 10 years. The question he asked is whether RDP would be able to make a comeback.
“The bad luck for RDP is that the Namibian people will be going to the polls to elect local and regional councilors. So, what impact will this have on their performance, as there is a lot of confusion and disgruntlement among its members? Even in terms of controlling local authorities, I think one local authority they controlled was Windhoek East. Will they retain it or lose it?”
Another political analyst, Andrew Niikondo, said given that senior members are leaving, it could spell the end of the RDP.
“If one is talking about democracy, that is when people vote for or join whatever political party they want.
“If they feel they are not happy with one political party, they just leave and join another one.
“The RDP is going to be weak, because the pillars themselves are leaving, so you would expect the whole building to collapse. Those are the prominent figures when it comes to RDP, so I don’t think it will ever again be an [official] opposition party in its life.
“It is the end of the party,” he predicted.