Today the politburo of the ruling party Swapo converges in Windhoek to, amongst others, nominate candidates for next month’s elective congress.
It is a day that the party can reinvent itself. The outcome – which is subject to the central committee’s final scrutiny – can make or break the party, and by extension the country.
It is against that very background that all eyes would be glued to today’s meeting – even by those who are not supporters, voters and card-carrying members of the ruling party. Interest in such proceedings is generic.
This is a critical moment in the history of our young democracy. It is, perhaps chiefly, a critical moment for Swapo’s inner democracy. When Swapo is democratic internally, it is easy to trust the party with the responsibility to lead a democratic government.
There is no question that Swapo has had a fantastic record of achievement since its inception in 1960. To wage a liberation revolution from virtual obscurity and win it in the manner it did, is a feat that will never be repeated in our lifetime.
The Swapo politburo has an obligation – not a choice – to ensure it nominates authentic and passionate rear-guards of that revolution and its ideals. Men and women of impregnable conscience.
Swapo faces political power struggle to determine the future leadership of the country. And this is exactly why interest in what happens today goes beyond the confines of the party itself.
The dimension of the leadership of the country is what makes this power struggle critically pertinent. The most dangerous moment for any newly liberated African country is not the actual moment of liberation, which is usually characterised by pomp and fanfare.
It is the moment the party of liberation and its ruling hierarchy faces an internal power struggle, and that is where Swapo is right now.
Allister Sparks, writing about a similar struggle within the ANC of South Africa, observed that real political opposition in South Africa has always been within the ANC itself and not the formal opposition parties that challenge it for control of the country. Namibia is the same.
We are in no position – morally or otherwise – to suggest who the nominations should go to. Broadly, though, our interest is to see the party nominate, and eventually elect, cadres of indestructible patriotism and love for Namibia.
The politburo must nominate people who are capable of returning Swapo to the party it once was. The new leadership, once elected at congress, must wipe from the Swapo vocabulary terms such as tenders, power, influence and positions.
It is the scramble for exactly these items that has comrades insulting, betraying and backstabbing each other to the detriment of not only the revolutionary party itself but the country too.
And it is during that scramble that leaders forget their broader mandate towards the country’s masses who seek solutions to thorny issues such as land, unemployment and HIV/Aids. If the new Swapo leaders fail to tackle these problems decisively during their tenure, the party risks alienating its constituents, predominantly previously disadvantaged Namibians, who suffer most from these deficiencies.
Above these wishes, Swapo must during the build-up to congress display tolerance towards divergent perspectives and preferences. Swapo is a democratic movement, not a boot camp where soldiers are ordered to toe the line without question.
Across the Orange River, the ANC is still reeling in shock after its meeting in Eastern Cape province descended into chaos, characterised by comrades throwing chairs at one another. Swapo must show class by keeping it clean at all times.