Windhoek-The Swapo Party has refuted claims leveled against it by the official opposition – the DTA of Namibia – that the ruling party has demonstrated a growing and worrying tendency of turning national and cultural events into political events.
DTA secretary general Manuel Ngaringombe, who made the claims, referred to two recent examples, namely the Masubia Cultural Festival in Zambezi Region and the Olufuku Festival in Omusati Region, saying those events were in essence turned into political rallies to advance the interests of the Swapo Party.
Ngaringombe said on both occasions events that are undoubtedly cultural and national events and not political rallies of any designated political party, were indirectly turned into political events.
“When President Hage Geingob entered the place for the Masubia Cultural Festival, people started chanting political songs and slogans.
“The same happened at Olufuko [Festival] when Dr Sam Nujoma entered the gala dinner at Outapi last Saturday. The same thing happened,” Ngaringombe complained.
Contacted for comment, Swapo secretary for information and mobilisation Helmut Angula yesterday refuted the DTA’s claims, saying the organisation of the Masubia Festival at Bukalo was certainly not a Swapo endeavour.
He said it is an established and customary practice of the Masubias, just as all other language groups have their own cultural festivals that are not initiated by Swapo.
“I don’t know how on Earth can they assume that since people were singing Swapo songs that it was Swapo who organised the cultural festival.
“Swapo is not in the air, it’s not in the atmosphere, it’s on the ground with the people,” Angula retorted.
He further said many people have integrated Swapo songs into their daily lives and cultural performances.
President Geingob, he said, attended the festival in his capacity as the head of state and there was no way he could instruct his hosts to stop singing liberation songs.
“The president went on invitation as head of state and not the president of Swapo. If people start singing songs, the president cannot say ‘Hey stop, stop!’ because he is a guest and he must respect his host.
He cannot intervene in what they are saying and practicing,” Angula noted.
He said most Namibian artists try to make some connection between their own work and the liberation struggle, which was led by Swapo. “But one can understand the politics of jealousy,” he remarked.
He said it was understandable that the opposition would want to make mileage out of the issue by crying foul, but in the same breath insisted it is their democratic right to express their views and feelings.
Regarding national events, Angula said claims that Swapo is politicising cultural events, are not new, but are far from the truth. He said the opposition parties simply do not have members to be present everywhere.
The DTA said they don’t understand why elected officials are invited to national or cultural events, only to politicise such events.
The opposition party said national and cultural events offer an opportunity to nurture national unity, patriotism and to teach all Namibians about the rich and significant cultural traditions of the many ethnic groups in the country.
“When one politicises these events, one sadly misses out on the opportunity to lay the building blocks for ‘One Namibia, One Nation’. Enough platforms exist for political purposes. If not, then political parties must endeavour to create them,” the DTA secretary general remarked.
The DTA says people should desist from politicising national and cultural events, adding that there is a pressing need to separate the activities of political parties from those of the government of the day – whichever party may be in power at the time.