It is only a matter of days before the Swapo Party elective congress. And it may be late for a proper debate on the likely next Swapo leadership core, its calibre, finesse, fabric and quality. Especially in view of the fact that the rank and file seem to be so hoodwinked by the razzmatazz of the race for the top four positions to actually appreciate the actual essence of the race.
And that the elective congress of Swapo Party is not just about the top leadership, or the euphemistic top four of the party, but essentially also about the entire leadership of the party, and indeed the state and/or government’s leadership within two years or so after the 2019 national and presidential elections. But strangely the undercurrents, as well as the over-currents, have just been the small picture, the party, and only about its top four leaders, and not the bigger picture, the future governance of the country. That within two years the country goes to the elections and the leadership that this Swapo Party elective congress bequeaths the party, is the same leadership likely to be bequeathed to the country, and in charge of national affairs after the 2019 national and presidential elections. This axiomatic reality and causal eventuality seems currently to be underplaying itself, if not underplayed by the main and front players.
The buzzword in the run-up to the elective congress has been about internal party democracy? What about it has never been clear. It is as if all along there has been no democracy within Swapo, whatever its nature? A Marxist-Leninist movement that Swapo was once during the liberation struggle realistically-speaking could not be subjected to any other yardstick of internal party democracy, other than democracy dictated by the rigours and dictates of fighting the Apartheid colonial enemy. Hence the usual concept of democratic centralism.
Granted, the question is not whether Swapo has been or is democratic or not – it is also pertinent and necessary whether it has since made the necessary transition from a liberation movement to a modern political party, and as far as democratic principles, values and aspirations are concerned. That is as far as such a transition may have been and is necessary. Because the experience elsewhere is that similar movements experimented with such a transition only to deteriorate into centre and/or centre right parties wholesaling the aspirations of the masses coming from the pre-colonial era.
Not only this, but examples abound of supposedly traditional democratic parties but who are only so by the day and real tyrants and autocratic by night. Or only put on a façade of democracy but internally are the most dictatorial and repressive. One only needs to look around to realise this.
Equally, one has lately been hearing a lot about the much-vented two centres of power. Meaning Swapo as in the party, and Swapo Party in government. But again, surely these two cannot be the only matrix of power, let alone in Swapo, whether in government or outside government. Businesses, civil society, trade unions, media, judiciary, public service, parliament can all explain the anatomy of power in Namibia? Yet, one hears little about them.
Ironically, while the notion of the two centres of power has been dangled freely and willy-nilly, the concept has never been illuminated to make sense in terms of the power relationships that have been pertaining within Swapo itself for a starter, and between Swapo outside government and Swapo inside government, and generally on the Namibian political landscape. Nor do the pertinent questions in the current seeming dichotomy between the two centres of power seem to emerge to explain the need for two centres of power. Because when contemplating opting for one or the other, one cannot exclude or ignore the other. Swapo Party cannot be expected to be intrinsically effective purely for mobilising votes during elections. Once in power the party apparatuses must as much propel the government towards efficiency and effectiveness. There’s no way that the government can become or could have become a monster unto itself without the party. Yes, the party in government may be different from the party, but there’s no way the government can be disassociated and be delinked from the party. Ultimately, all these hinge on the confluence of the party, outside and inside government.
That is why either centre of power cannot be spoken of without the symbiotic and synergetic relations between the two parties, that is if they are two different parties, the one outside government and the other inside. What is and has been the axis of power between the party, and the party in government, is the question that needs answering rather than the hollow jargon of the two centres of power, as has been the case lately.
There are many avenues through which the party can ensure that the party in government, and indeed the government, does not become a dinosaur unto itself. Because, as a matter of fact, it is a Swapo government.
And there must constantly be liaisons to ensure that the Swapo Party in government is indeed implementing the policies of the Swapo Party proper or main. Hence the party caucus, and indeed the party parliamentary caucus.
Not to mention other structures of the party fulfilling this function, like the Politburo and Central Committee, ensuring that the party in government is toeing the party line proper.
Should there have been a failure in these structures the cadres cannot today blame this on the one centre of power. Backbenchers are supposed to be the consciousness of the party in this regard. Not only this, but that is why it is necessary that the structures of the party are not cluttered with ministers, but there’s a good balance between other party cadres and ministers. A good balance between activist party cadres and ministers.