The launch of ‘Team SWAPO’, comprising of senior Party stalwarts, and their incredibly uncharacteristic scathing and blame-shifting attacks against a sitting President of SWAPO and of the Government, signals their jettisoning of long held sacrosanct Party foundational principles such as One Namibia, One Nation, Unity and Collective Responsibility; and steering of the Party into dangerous territory as it approaches the 6th Party Congress.
While it is true that both the Namibian and SWAPO Party constitutions afford every SWAPO Party member the freedom to exercise their fundamental rights of association as they see it fit, such exercises ought to be done with due consideration for Party decorum and principles, without profoundly rocking the boat.
While not begrudging the Party elders Cde Nahas Angula, Cde Jerry Ekandjo, Cde Helmut Angula, Cde Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, Cde Petrina Haingura and their supporters, the opportunity to compete for the top four positions in the Party as per their democratic rights, unmistakably their biting utterances at the campaign launch and the Oshakati
“star rally” were fundamentally flawed, as they broke every SWAPO Party key tradition and norm, thereby auto-piloting SWAPO Party and Namibia on a unity fragmentation course.
For these Party elders to simulate obliviousness that inter-Party ill-discipline is a breeding ground for unending conflict, disunity, and eventual destruction of innocent lives, is incomprehensible. Have they so easily forgotten the painful bloody lessons of our recent past, where brother, sister, mother, father and uncle were pitted against each other by the divisive forces of Apartheid, Colonialism and Imperialism? Have they forgotten so easily the blood of so many innocent Namibian and other martyrs as the supreme prize of our freedom?
What has rendered hollow the once powerful “One Namibia, One Nation, One Leader, that Leader Sam Nujoma” motto, that today they seek to introduce an alien neo-imperial concept of two centers of power? Which should be justly christened as the “Two Centers of Disunity”? Is it not evident that they have been influenced by the neo-imperial school of perpetual African disunity? Did we not covenant as Namibians to say “Never again, shall Namibia be colonialized, and terrorized by the ghost of tribal Bantustans, buried at independence?” But how come are the elders today promoting the neo-colonial doctrine of the “Two Centers of Disunity,” where African brothers are ever fighting, not because of profound irreconcilable ideological or governance policy differences, but just because one speaks Damara, the other Herero, Rukwangali, Oshiwambo, Afrikaans and so forth.
Indeed, “our Party is in trouble” as the elders said in their joint media statement, but the source of this trouble stems from their un-SWAPO doings which are undermining Party strength and values at all levels. SWAPO values such as the supremacy of the collective good of the people and Party over individual interests, collective responsibility, and unity above else, ensured Namibia’s freedom.
Therefore, it is deplorable to witness a few Party elders putting their irrelevant and inconsequential personal interests above the Party good, even audaciously acknowledging that they are pursuing this course because “… we are all selfish because if it were not out of selfishness, we will not be seeking political office.” What happened to genuine revolutionary altruism which the Cubans, Angolans, Frontline States and others have shown us? The few elders even christened themselves as ‘Team SWAPO’, deliberately excluding other SWAPO elders as unauthentic members. They have joined the song of the ahistorical youths, “Tse otwa komandwa KuSema”, insinuating that the Founding President has commanded their ill-advised disunity discourse. However, the Founding President and the former President as the principal essayists of SWAPO unity, accepted via consultation President Hage Geingob’s proposed slate. Sound ethics require ‘Team SWAPO’ to respect and keep the Founding Father’s name out of such divisive, un-SWAPO propaganda.
Pretexting democratic freedom, these few elders have discarded the Party’s long-established principles, which made it a formidable cohesive force. They not only broke ranks, but organized themselves along flammable lines. (Sadly, apart from the token candidature of Cde Haingura, by accident or design the rest of the top four ‘Team SWAPO’ candidates are linguistically homogenous) to try to wrest power from the incumbent President, for spurious unfertile reasons.
Hitherto, it was SWAPO tradition for the sitting President (whether acting or not) not to be challenged for that position (contrary to the fallacious claims, the position is not empty, it’s occupied), nor for people to put themselves forward American-style for positions. Leaders with good capabilities were always recognized as such and given assignments by the Party. The emphasis was on the execution of responsibilities and not on the position, tribe or individuals’ egos.
These elders are aware that President Dr Hage Geingob never put himself forward, starting as the SWAPO representative to the USA in the 60s, Head of UNIN (where he trained some of the candidates challenging him now), SWAPO flag-bearer and Elections Director of the 1989 independence elections, 1st and 4th Prime Minister, and as presidential candidate in 2012. He was duly deployed by the Party leadership. So, the charge of a personality cult is invalid. As per tradition, he has always been deployed to carry out Central Committee, Politburo and Congress-adopted and mandated Party policies and programs including the 2014 SWAPO Election Manifesto.
Therefore, it is very disingenuous for a few Party elders to claim, as in their joint media statement, that over the last 18 months President Geingob and the top three systematically degraded, eroded and trampled upon the core values of the Party. Equally, it is reprehensible for them to take personal swings at rallies, against the President, criticizing him for administrative, financial and political failures.
Essentially, they been part of the upper-governance echelons of the Party and government for the past 26 years, and well-resourced to create a better Namibia for all, and are now publicly exposing not only their own performance failures, but indeed indicting and damaging SWAPO publicly – e.g. by saying there is a lack of leadership in SWAPO, they mean to say we failed to provide decisive leadership direction, are not leadership material, and should not aspire to any leadership position.
Similarly, saying that the foundation of SWAPO is weak and we want to strengthen it, means we created a weak SWAPO foundation of straw and should not be entrusted with the responsibility to reinforce it because we are conclusively incompetent. Pointing out that SWAPO is in an ICU means we leaders like fighting each other and commanding our members to fight, because of our magnified egos; we have brought SWAPO in the ICU, and if you join us SWAPO, be warned we will TKO you to the ICU. Saying the economy is in ruins, means we the leaders, despite having all sorts of natural, financial and human resources, have ruined the economy with our unwise, uneconomic and bad decisions, and since we are conclusively incompetent should never ever be entrusted with it.
The present economic conditions in Namibia are as much a result of these elders’ actions or inactions, additional to the exogenous heavy headwinds. And it is not a Geingob-made problem, as some elders are wrongly informing the public. It is a collective leadership responsibility, as SWAPO is, and was always premised on collective decision-making. Rather than blame shifting, it is of importance to note that Government responded appropriately by applying austerity measures and systematically addressing problem areas, to move the economy out of junk status.
The Party elders via the Politburo, and the Central Committee, have been co-governing the SWAPO Party and should have internally addressed any deviation from Party tenets, and provided corrective interventions. When 30-somethings, with no iota of the understanding of the brutalities of war, stand up and break Party discipline by clamouring for land war and tribal sentiments, and disrespecting the leadership, why did these elders not call them to order? Instead, after the responsible Party leadership successfully quelled such creeping divisive tendencies, these elders accused the Secretary General and the President of despotism. Not being satisfied, they also entered into an alliance, with their protégés and financiers, known as tenderpreneurs, to unseat President Geingob’s administration. Sadly, there is no honour in such perfidious behaviour – history stands to judge their skewed sense of right and wrong, which are sacrificing our long-held sacred SWAPO ethos and traditions, and Namibia’s wellbeing, for destructive short-term personal interests.
Where precisely are the major irreconcilable policy differences which these few Party elders have with President Geingob, since the Harambee Prosperity Plan is a direct result of the foundational core values of the SWAPO Party, which seeks to establish an equitable society; Namibian ownership of productive capital; and improvement of the living conditions of ALL Namibians. Maybe it is a personality difference, or what Afro pessimists refer to as the “capriciousness of the African mind”. We pray the elders (including the retired Ministers) to stop this distractive wasteful squabble and rather attend to mending Namibia and its people. Elect to be a positive part of the solution, in the interest of all Namibians. As wise nation builders, let’s respect the SWAPO Party values, and continue to support President Geingob’s administration, to complete the work agenda as entrusted by the masses of the SWAPO Party, and leave the tomfooleries of the Savimbi Syndrome revenge politics, lest we cause ourselves, our lifetime work, and legacy to all go up into the Somali flames of conflict in perpetuity.
• This commentary is written entirely in my personal capacity as a private citizen.