“Viva SWAPO” were my words when I was defeated by the late Comrade Hendrik Witbooi at the 2nd SWAPO Congress of 1997.
When I failed to make it into Politburo in 2002, I again raised my fist and said “Viva SWAPO.” Today, as I accept the role of SWAPO Party President, all I have to say is, “Viva SWAPO!”
Whether in victory or defeat, SWAPO remains bigger than all of us.
I am deeply and sincerely humbled. The decision to elect me as the third President of our mighty SWAPO Party has stirred overwhelming emotions in me. I have been motivated, encouraged and inspired by those who tirelessly prayed, worked and sacrificed to make this a reality. I understand that the outcome of this election is not about me. The outcome of this election is about SWAPO understanding the need to evolve with the times, without forgetting its roots.
We should never be led by fear of the future. I wish to assure everyone that all of us have reason to celebrate. We are celebrating a SWAPO that is resilient, a SWAPO that is forward-looking and a SWAPO that is determined to improve the lives of all Namibians.
SWAPO is the vanguard movement of the Namibian people and being elected as its leader, is a privilege and also a serious responsibility. I assure the SWAPO Party cadres and all the SWAPO Party supporters and sympathiasers, that I am ready to be a President for all SWAPO members. I am ready to be a President of unity, a President of inclusivity and a President of shared prosperity. I am ready to ensure that the SWAPO legacy will continue.
Let me thank my predecessors, the Founding President of the SWAPO Party and Father of the Namibian Nation, Comrade Sam Shafiishuna Nujoma and the Second President of the SWAPO Party and the Republic of Namibia, Comrade Hifikepunye Lucas Pohamba. Your presence is testament that the legacy does indeed continue. As many former liberation movements are faced with the challenge of succession, your influence has ensured that succession within SWAPO is an opportunity.
It is an opportunity for us to reflect on who we are as a party and what we need to do, to remain relevant in these ever-changing times. You have led from the front and you have led by example. Thank you.
I would like to thank all who have participated in the 6th SWAPO Party congress, where you have exercised your right to vote for the candidates of your preference. Regardless of how you voted, your voices have been heard and I want to let you know that your voices matter. Your vote matters. This is the democracy we fought for and the democracy we must cherish and preserve at all costs.
I would like to thank the various top-four and Central Committee candidates. While we were contesting for the same positions, you never stopped being my comrades. We are bound together in blue, red and green. We are inextricably linked as one SWAPO family and, like any family, we have a shared destiny.
Our post-congress duty is to unite behind SWAPO ideals and principles. Today is not about recrimination or retribution. It is not about saying that this team has won or that team has lost. SWAPO has won. No matter what the situation, no matter the moment, no matter the challenge, SWAPO will always emerge victorious.
At this juncture, let me offer a word of congratulations to the comrades who worked so hard to be elected as Vice-President, Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General respectively. I also offer my congratulations to the comrades elected to the Central Committee. We have a collective responsibility in steering this ship. We are not obliged to always agree, but we are always obliged to work in the best interests of the mighty SWAPO Party.
This is our moment to light a new candle of camaraderie. It’s our moment to turn our backs on petty politics. It’s our moment to turn towards each other in the spirit of unity and resist the temptation to fall back into personalised squabbles. Let us give one another a chance. Let us look at each other with different eyes and changed hearts. SWAPO has indeed changed because the only constant is change.
It will be a serious omission not to thank the rank and file of the SWAPO Party. All the meetings called had supporters and sympathisers of the various candidates. We thank all the foot soldiers who dedicated their time and energy to campaign and work for their preferred candidates. There are no more teams. The SWAPO Party is the ultimate team.
The hard work and passion we saw during the congress campaigns make me eager for the national elections in 2019, as we have yet again proven that nobody can campaign the way that SWAPO comrades can campaign!
When I joined the SWAPO Party in 1962, I did not join with the idea of attaining any personal benefit. There was no glory attached to joining SWAPO, there was no promise of a top job or lucrative tender opportunities. We joined SWAPO out of conviction, out of patriotism, out of a burning desire for self-determination. We decided that our lives were worth sacrificing for bringing about dignity in the lives of Namibians.
There is no dignity in poverty, inequality and corruption. The eradication of these structural flaws are core focus areas, since my inauguration as President of the Republic of Namibia on March 21, 2015. Now, as the elected SWAPO Party President, I am rededicating myself towards the fight against poverty, inequality and corruption.
I am ready to work with all of you, to redouble efforts in fighting these scourges and steering SWAPO and Namibia towards prosperity.
The SWAPO party has an important role to play in this fight. The values of transparency and accountability we wish to instill in government must begin in our SWAPO home. Let us disagree on issues of policy, but let us never disagree on the need to ensure that our party, its structures and leaders are held to the principles of transparency and accountability, as we must practise what we preach.
To ensure that our SWAPO Party is effectively geared to fight poverty and corruption, and to pursue economic prosperity, we need to deploy new measures to strengthen our operational efficiency and effectiveness. I stand ready, through consultation at Central Committee and Politburo level, to discuss numerous ideas on how to strengthen the party and its administration.
I have shared my campaign promises with delegates. I am open to listen to the ideas of those who contested and all those who have ideas on how we can work in favour of the collective good. I have realised that one of our biggest challenges, is that we don’t listen to each other. We don’t engage enough in constructive dialogue. Most misunderstandings and suspicions are developed in an environment where there is personal animosity, communication breakdowns or administrative weaknesses.
My pledge today is to ensure effective and fair application of rules and effective communication with the rank and file, structures and external stakeholders. My plea is that we let go of personal animosity as we can no longer afford to drag the heavy luggage of resentment from one Congress to the next. Let this be the last Congress where the insults exceed ideas. Let this be the last Congress where friendships and families are torn apart. Let this be the last Congress where we find it difficult to look in each other’s eyes and say a simple “good afternoon, comrade.”
Ephesians 4: 31 – 32 reminds us to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.” The first step to a better Congress tomorrow, is forgiveness today.
SWAPO has come a long way. For 57 years, we have been the source of hope for the attainment of the aspirations of the Namibian people. We must ensure that SWAPO maintains ascendency in the Namibian political sphere by never wavering on our principles, most importantly, the principles of unity and inclusivity.
It is opportune that our Sixth Congress is held during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. I am proud to be elected as the President of the first political party in Namibia that has 50/50 representation in all its structures. The empowerment of our women is an important first step in breaking down the patriarchal norms that drive gender-based violence and other regressive social barriers which hold women back.
I salute all those who have served in the Central Committee and welcome the new members. I salute the outgoing Secretary-General and outgoing Deputy Secretary-General for their hard work. Succession is like childbirth. The pain of the process is minimised by the joy of a new beginning. The process of succession may have been painful but the joy of welcoming new comrades exceeds the pain.
In thanking you once more for bestowing this remarkable honour on me, I would like to paraphrase Kwame Nkrumah by saying, “Comrades, the task ahead is great indeed, and heavy is the responsibility; and yet it is a noble and glorious challenge – a challenge which calls for the courage to dream, the courage to believe … the courage to work, the courage to achieve.” Let us have the courage to achieve a united, inclusive, peaceful and prosperous Namibia.
God bless the SWAPO Party and the Republic of Namibia!
• Dr Hage Geingob is President of Namibia and the Swapo Party. This is an abridged version of his victory acceptance speech at the 6th Swapo congress held last weekend in Windhoek.