It is not surprising that the just concluded regional council and local authority elections have been a disappointment; disappointing in terms of the low turnout of 36 per cent, an all-time low by previous Namibian regional council and local authority elections turnout standards.
It has been known that this year’s polls – like previous polls at this level – would be marked by an habitual lack of interest, if not indifference, among voters – for various reasons.
Foremost among these is voter dissatisfaction with the outcome of the primaries, where political skulduggery seems to have become a malignant problem in the nomination of candidates of the various political parties, with few exceptions.
Very few political parties can claim to have been free of any chicanery and political manoeuvring, consequently alienating local party members from these nomination processes.
Likewise this year the media was – prior to and during the primaries – abuzz with undemocratic anomalies in the nomination processes.
Accusations even flew about of a certain political party hauling people out of their watering holes to go vote for a certain candidate during the primaries.
The chicanery and manoeuvring in the primaries made a mockery of the elections at this level and cast a dark shadow on the quality, calibre and the integrity of the nominated candidates, not to mention the transparency of the primaries.
What is most disappointing, saddening and sickening was perhaps that some of those who have been behind such manoeuvres and underhanded dealings were senior cadres of the said political party, who should have striven to give such a process due respectability and credibility.
To add insult to injury, despite the chaos in the electoral processes, come the campaign period, few of the candidates were visible as the campaigns were dominated by those from the upper echelons and headquarters of the various political parties.
Worse still, during the campaigns, most of the time there was little mention or reference to local issues.
The political big guns, hell-bent on propagandist nuances, usurped such campaigns, and on the very rare occasions when they could be said to have been making any sense, spoke about national issues which seemed of little relevance and appeal to voters in the localities, constituencies and regions.
Rarely was there any mention of the real bread and butter issues that could be seen and said to be of genuine concern to the voters, let alone any reference to their developmental needs, and/or neglect of such.
In view of all the above the low turnout cannot but have been predictable. One striking outcome of the just-concluded elections is that the former district coordinator of the Swapo Party in the Otjombinde Constituency, went independent and eventually won the constituency. This is a first for Namibia.
The question begging an answer, however, is why would someone who has been a loyal Swapo members for years – at the eleventh hour in October – just before the polls in November, return his membership card? Is it a matter of sour grapes having been outvoted democratically during the primaries? Or was this a matter of the political chicanery, which played out in the primaries? Everything points to the latter.
It could not have been a matter of sour grapes, because as it transpired with the majority of the constituency voting from him, it is evident that he should have been the candidate.
But somehow, the party (or should one say the party leadership) for reasons known only to themselves, did not see it that way, nor were they able to read the signs of the times.
As the results have shown, they have learned their lesson the hard way. But this case is a poignant pointer to a rotten state of internal democracy, if only in terms of this party district.
This also sets a good democratic precedent and a necessary wake-up call that political parties alone cannot be the bedrock of democracy.
Nor can political parties per se be the agents of development. Only individuals who have the interests of their communities at heart can be agents of such development and progress in their communities.
Truth may as yet be told about what may have driven the eventual winner of the Otjombinde Constituency, Katjanaa Kaurivi, to go independent, but surely there cannot be any doubt that he must have been driven by his passion and desire for the upliftment of his people.
A mission that his own party seems to have become the very antithesis to. His party’s lack of foresight and wisdom notwithstanding, blinded by its own regional and/or district-level chicanery, the community saw the light at the end of the tunnel and cast its vote.
Ultimately community interest – as opposed to artificial parochial party political interest and considerations – prevailed, thanks to community-based democracy, as opposed to party political democracy. Surely one cannot see this as anything but telling signs of a budding democracy.