Uncompromising Namibian political mindsets

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The militancy and political energy being pumped into the political arena of Namibia is immense, intense, uncompromising, and vigorous and is reaching a crescendo that would have been very beneficial to the fight for freedom.
Alas, most, if not all the participants in the current political shadow boxing were either children or sell-outs during the bitter struggle for freedom. What is interesting, however, is that they are all out to outperform each other, grandstanding to a perplexed senior political leadership that has seen these political teething antics before. Division seems to be the primary aim.
We may argue until the cows come home, the fact will remain that the last Swapo congress set in motion a new tradition within the structures and mindset of some Swapo members – a tradition with an imbedded uncompromising political mindset.
No matter whichever way we look at it, this mindset is dangerous and very divisive. It has set into motion an increasingly political polarisation that makes compromise very difficult, simply because those at the opposite ends of the alien “camps” culture see less benefit in meeting the other side halfway.
Compromise in the eyes of the benevolent or benefactor is tainted with a mindset of the “self” and “we and them”. Though difficult to achieve, political compromise is necessary now more than ever.
The uncompromising mindset has two characteristics, namely, principled tenacity, which resists the sacrifice that compromise entails, and mutual mistrust, which inflates the wilful opposition that compromise involves.
Since compromises often require both sides to sacrifice some of their strongly held principles to enter into the agreement, they may be resisted because they are thought to violate a deeply held core value. Principled politicians are not defined by what they compromise but by what they don’t. Standing on principles is admirable in politics. However, if all politicians rejected compromises that violate their principles, then no particular compromise can ever be acceptable. One needs to distinguish the compromises of principle from the compromises of interest. This is what is at the heart of the current uncompromising mindset in our politics.
The mutual mistrust characteristic of an uncompromising mindset focuses on the attitude of those involved. Politicians with this mindset speak and act on the assumption that their opponents are motivated mainly by a desire to defeat them and their principles. They see shadows where there are none. The most common form of this mistrust is a cynicism about the motives of both the proponents and opponents of any compromise. When motives are in doubt, suspicions take root, making any attempt at compromise a fertile breeding ground for such suspicions because any process aimed at compromising or uniting factions involves the interaction with conflicting wills and personalities.
The unceasing political vitriol being unleashed on and by Swapo members in the social media and other platforms call for a more constructive compromising mindset in order to foster unity in the party. The compromising mindset will enable us to see mutual sacrifice not as an occasion to tenaciously stand on principle, or to imprudently abandon principles in order to reach an agreement, but as an opportunity to adjust one’s principles to improve on the status quo. This is political prudence which could serve our society better. The compromising mindset will also help us find in wilful opposition, not excuses for mistrust, but resources for understanding among those who disagree. This will foster mutual respect.
Mutual respect is a desirable ingredient in democratic politics, a virtue that makes debate more civil and relations more collegial, or in the case of party politics, comradeship. Mutual respect requires a favourable attitude toward, and constructive interaction with, the persons with whom one disagrees.
Of primary importance is for us to determine what, whose and which principles or interests we seek to protect within the party and nation-wide. We need to seriously interrogate whose, what and which principles were violated by whom before, during and after the last Swapo congress, and how the violation was done? Once this is done, we need to find remedial measures to address these violations. While doing this, a clear distinction should be made between the party and individuals. The current mudslinging is not helpful and does more damage to the party than the perceived violations. The failure to close the chapter of the last congress is regrettable.
In the midst of the evolving political temperature, there is need for the bona fide Swapo cadres to step in and stop the rot, or forever watch how some elements are slowly inflicting small, but painful, blows to the party by making unguided pronouncements which could be construed to be made on behalf of the party by virtue of their positions in the leadership or as rank and file members. Now, more than before, the party needs men and women of strong principles and courage whose interest is to serve the party and the nation rather than cause division. Men and women of integrity, commitment, principles and common sense are needed to be entrusted in the positions of trust to serve the nation, and not for personal gain. Men and women with a deep sense of responsibility and passion for national interest; who pursue policies that serve the national interest, is what we need right now.
Swapo needs cadres who rise above divisive tendencies and the low politics of factions. Factionalism has no place in the party and should not be entertained, especially when propagated by those in leadership. We need to remember that pigs do not get dirty in their own environment, but the one who dares to tackle a pig in its environment will surely get dirty. Are reactionary tendencies rubbing us the wrong way, or is it just the signs of the coming to fruition of embedded agents?
• Dr Charles Mubita holds a PhD in International Relations from the University of Southern California.

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