Swapo at the crossroads

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WINDHOEK, 06 December 2016 - Swapo-Party Secretary General Nangolo Mbumba delivers a message of condolences during the memorial service of former Cuban president Fidel Castro at Parliament Gardens on Tuesday. (Photo by: Joseph Nekaya) NAMPA

Toivo Ndjebela

Windhoek-Sensing the risk of destruction from within, the ruling Swapo Party this week convened a special Politburo meeting to – some say chiefly – deliberate on what is perceived as growing anarchy within its ranks and the trampling of the party’s constitution by some members.

The Politburo, a body of 26 members, including former heads of state Sam Nujoma and Hifikepunye Pohamba – who are honorary members for life – spent Monday night hammering out a resolution in response to the alleged abuse of the party constitution.

The verdict was radical. Those perceived to be disrespectful towards the party and country’s leadership – while bona fide members of Swapo on paper – will be charged and can expect to reap the fruits of their actions, secretary general Nangolo Mbumba announced yesterday.

Mbumba’s announcement drew the full attention of journalists here, who swarmed like bees to honey and bombarded the veteran politician with tough questions following his bombshell announcement.

“Is this a witch-hunt against perceived dissidents ahead of the decisive elective congress in November this year?” one pen-pusher asked.

A finger-wagging Mbumba quickly retorted by saying that the Politburo has diverse representation and enough wisdom to avoid being used to serve the parochial political interests of a few.

“It’s outrageous to think a body of 24 members, which has Dr Sam Nujoma and Dr Hifikepunye Pohamba as permanent members, would be used by anyone to advance a witch-hunt against anyone,” Mbumba said.

In his brief written speech Mbumba said those who make themselves guilty of disrespecting the party and country’s leadership would be added to the list of those to be formally charged, alongside those who form dissident movements, which are seen to be at odds with the party’s own policy positions.

Mbumba remained tightlipped, however, when pressed by journalists to reveal the names of those facing possible charges and suspension from the party.

“The procedure is that they must first be formally notified before we could release their names to the media,” the former finance minister said. In this regard, the Political Bureau resolved to enforce the provisions of the party constitution, its rules and procedures, as well as the code of conduct, so that no stone is left unturned in ensuring that whoever makes him or herself guilty of such misconduct faces the full wrath of the party constitution,” he warned.

Several names of mostly young members of the party have been cited as possible candidates for suspension and disciplinary charges, but Mbumba was careful not to run ahead of the disciplinary procedure, appealing to curious journalists in attendance to hold their horses.

“Procedures would be followed properly and those charged reserve the right to defend themselves,” he noted. Yet despite his show of tact and patience, Mbumba’s hints were as clear as daylight.

Two movements have been formed by party members, namely the Affirmative Repositioning (AR) and, more recently, the Landless People’s Movement (LPM).
AR founders Job Amupanda, George Kambala and Dimbulukeni Nauyoma had already tasted Swapo’s wrath when – together with former youth league secretary Elijah Ngurare – they were summarily expelled from the party, until a High Court ruling got them reinstated.

The court pointed to schoolboy mistakes, especially in terms of the party’s disciplinary procedure, that characterised the expulsion of the four men – hence its verdict. It was evident yesterday that Swapo aims to avoid embarrassment this time around by following party procedures to the letter, so that there is no room for mistakes, or defeat in court on technicalities.

The LPM also boasts prominent Swapo members. Former deputy minister of land reform Bernadus Swartbooi, a Swapo MP in the National Assembly, is perhaps the most notable party member linked to the LPM.

He is on record saying the LPM is not a political entity, but a civil society organisation fighting for those without land. The former regional governor of //Karas is likely expected to soon explain his position to a disciplinary committee.

Keen observers of local politics have noted that in recent times many Swapo members have struggled to differ in a mature manner and on principles. Insults are traded daily and lewd accusations have become common currency in every debate.

Political commentators say the party is struggling to manage the generational transition – which now pits some youth leaders against the elders in an increasingly discordant tug-of-war.

The party appears to be at war with itself, analysts say, and until all members show commitment to save its body and soul, it is possible the party could turn to ashes alongside the burned pillars that once held it up.

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