The official opposition the DTA is taking measures to rebrand the party and rid it of its colonial tag, which it believes it unfairly carries through being disingenuously linked to the apartheid colonial regime.
Because of that linkage for “political reasons” – as engineered by the party’s opponents –perceptions have been that the official opposition had strongly advocated for the oppressive colonial regime to remain in power, while others were fighting for Namibia’s freedom.
The party also has to get rid of its image that it has been a colonial ethnic political group since its formation in November 1977 as the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA), which was an amalgamation of various ethnically based political formations.
The formations represented the interests of the Ovaherero, Basters, Coloureds, Namas, San and communities from the Kavango and Zambezi (then Caprivi).
When it was formed at the Turnhalle Constitutional Conference held in Windhoek from 1975 to 1977, the DTA was seen as strong opposition to the South West Africa People’s Organization (Swapo), which was fighting tooth and nail to free the country from the control of apartheid South Africa.
The DTA’s image as a pro-apartheid formation was further cemented by its decision to participate in the so-called Interim Government of National Unity together with the National Party, which was pushing for the retainment of some apartheid legislation.
Recently the party made it clear that it supports the cause of former SWATF and Koevoet soldiers who are demanding recognition as former soldiers by the Namibian government, after having fought against soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), Swapo’s military wing.
However, the party has since taken on a rebranding, but there have been calls that if the DTA is serious about rebranding it publicly has to denounce its historical links to the apartheid regime.
“I think first and foremost let us start with the politics of propaganda. There is propaganda that the DTA was anti-independence. It is a perception that is out there but there is no truth in that,” explained the president of the DTA, McHenry Venaani.
“The DTA leaders under the late Clemence Kapuuo petitioned the fourth committee of the United Nations about Namibia’s independence. It is the DTA that took part in embracing [Resolution] 435. I was there, in fact, in 1989 when Martti Ahtisaari arrived in this country at the international airport, then J.G. Strijdom Airport.”
He added: “You are dealing with a lot of complexities such as political propaganda of the history of the victors who have painted the DTA as an anti-independence party. There is no truth and relevance and there is no proof that any DTA leader stood out there in public and said the country should never be independent.”
“How can I denounce things that I know are not true? There is no relevance and credence to say that the DTA never wanted independence. All that the DTA said was that we were ready to embrace independence but we wanted an independence through peaceful means.”
Venaani added that it was a choice that parties at the time had to make, just as Kenneth Kaunda freed Zambia through peaceful means and so did Mahatma Gandhi.
“Many of the attacks and connotations that are attached to the DTA are lies. Even Boers that joined the DTA were liberals that wanted the black majority to free the country. Dirk Mudge came out of the National Party which propagated that apartheid remain,” he said.
“Even the interim government that we took part in, in 1981, we were the party that removed the pass laws in this country, we brought in the mixed marriages Act and we were the party that brought laws that allowed people to live in different neighbourhoods.”
He continued: “To those facts add that Hage Geingob in 1989 came back to this country but he didn’t live in Katutura. He came and lived in the former white suburbs. Who made sure that he could do that? It is the interim government that brought that.”
He stressed that history books are portraying the DTA in a negative way and “Swapo wrote those books of course. Nangolo Mbumba wrote those books.”
He however said the decision of the DTA to join the interim government was a bad one in that they lost out on the human rights fight.
“The interim government, in my view, had successes – the Unam that you have, in terms of infrastructure, it did well. It educated even Swapo ministers, many of them that are there – and even the NUST rector Tjama Tjivikua was educated by the DTA.”
“But the most dangerous thing for the government was that it was weak because it could not control defence, the police, and thus could not control the human rights aspect,” stated Venaani.
The party recently consolidated into one party by dissolving ethnic affiliations which formed the party initially, but Venaani says this was more to do with having a single centre of power.
“I think rebranding is a process that is people-centered. We are consulting the whole country. What I am trying to avoid as a leader is a situation where you divide the party with the measures that we want to bring with rebranding. So we are very conscious that this is a delicate issue. But so far so good.”