The politics of succession is upon us as a nation in a manner we never experienced before. What is going on now is much bigger and more awkward than what the nation went through in 1998 with the formation of the Congress of Democrats (CoD) or in 2004 with the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP).
The governing party that has been the single glue to keep the peace and stability that Namibia is known for, is becoming unstuck not because the opposition has finally become more muscular and able to unseat the former liberation movement, but because the governing party is in the process of self-destruction, just like it has been typical of former liberation movements that are incapable of re-inventing themselves to adapt to the changing circumstances of the nations they once liberated.
Swapo is its own worst enemy as the current leadership has become more fragile than the previous ones. At no time since independence has Swapo’s top leadership been so despised for undoing the legacy of the erstwhile liberation movement. The top leadership is unable to ask itself questions that would place it in good stead not only for the rank and file of the party, but for the general populace for whom the Swapo brand is more powerful than Coca Cola.
For instance, several decisions of the top four have been proven to have been wrong and unprocedural and therefore unconstitutional. When leaders are caught flatfooted so often, it eats away at the integrity and respectability of the organization’s leadership from within its ranks and beyond. In the culture of electoral politics that does not augur well for the next elections. More seriously, it shows that the top leaders of the ruling party have been accomplices to the violations of their own rules. In countries where political parties are truly democratized, the top leaders resign in admission that they can no longer be relied upon as the custodians of their party, and can therefore not lead the party in the next elections.
What we are witnessing boils down to a disturbing reality that the top leaders of the party that is synonymous with Namibia is not asking itself deep questions about the future and how they wish to be remembered by generations to come. Firstly, do the top four realise they are setting a precedent of subjecting all party activities and by extension government policies to the preferences and the whims of a few, which is very dangerous in days to come?
Secondly, if the Central Committee which, as per the claims by the Secretary General, has quietly arrogated to itself the right to appoint the President outside of the party’s congress, what would happen if the same Central Committee decided to remove the President in the same manner before Congress? Would the same people not cry foul and say the Central Committee does not have the power to remove the President?
Today the enemy of Swapo is from within, and largely due to the politics of succession in the party. Swapo’s sacred constitution is being violated and trampled upon by the very top leadership that is meant to protect it, all because of fear that the elective congress-goers this year might produce a result that the top leaders do not wish to see. In the scramble for political power and more material wealth, the very people who are expected not only by the party members, but by the greater numbers of people in the nation who vote Swapo in elections, to put the interests of the party and the nation above their own, are now proving to be villains ready to cannibalise the political space and by any means necessary frustrate the process of intra-party democracy that Swapo ably introduced in 2004 when from within the party it elevated three candidates to fight it out at congress so that the victor would be the party’s presidential candidate in the next election.
And it worked to the good name of the country so much so that one of the results of this intra-party democracy produced former President Lucas Pohamba as the winner of the 2014 Mo Ibrahim Award for excellent leadership in Afrika. This glorious record of Swapo is now in the ICU as the elders are eating their own babies and cannibalising the political space for purposes of remaining in power.
The hallmark of democratic elections is not in the winning. It is not in the losing. It is in the participation of citizens and the acceptance of the outcome as binding upon all. And the freedom of the participants to choose freely without fear, intimidation or manipulation.
Namibia’s lesson to Afrika and the world is not in holding free and fair elections. It is in the quality of our elections. The genius of our democratic system is that we all accept the result, and this spirit of accepting results has its genesis in Swapo in 1989 when the election results were not very pleasing to the then liberation movement. Winning big and bigger came later.
It is in Swapo’s interest not to go for a sole candidacy practice at this point. The practice of having more than one candidate at congress is better where the candidates fight it out and the winner becomes the party’s presidential candidate in the next election. One party-candidate elections by their very nature are the start of the disappearance of anything democratic. In the first place, the no-win-winner becomes too complacent and begins to imbibe his/her own public relations and self-serving propaganda.
Second, as leadership passes hands from generation to generation, people forget the original intent of the founding fathers and mothers of Swapo and our Republic. Human as we are, we can become oblivious of the bigger picture of why the struggle was fought, and fall prey to greed. The signs of this are already here as more and more leaders are forgetting the spirit of the liberation struggle, which was about service and the common good of all Namibians.
This is where most of Afrika’s fall is – greed, selfishness, self-centeredness and self-glorification, in short, megalomania, of leaders who take over after the generation that liberated the country.
Third, Namibians are as human as others are and vulnerable to the words of Lord Acton who cautioned Bishop Mandel Creighton of the Anglican Church in 1887 that ‘power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. This is the danger. Anybody, any party that operates with unfettered power and with no checks and balances is likely to be corruptible.
This scenario would be fine if those in power were properly groomed to rule, as philosopher-kings ala the Greek philosopher Plato in his recommendation of good rulers. This is where the biggest challenge lies for Swapo generally and the Geingob Administration in particular.