ONGWEDIVA - Despite numerous attempts by the ruling party to conceal its visibly widening cracks, several former leaders have admitted that the governing party is facing an existential threat and urged top leadership to acknowledge the mistakes to revive and restore hope in the party. The concerned members believe the party still has a chance to retain its dominance if it admits to alleged internal leadership failures as well as at the government level.
Some of the members who spoke to New Era include long-serving member Ben Mulongeni and diplomat Hadino Hishongwa, who are both of the opinion that the downward spiral of the party is brought by the division, corruption scandals, sidelining of outspoken members and generally people who have lost trust in Swapo and its leadership. Swapo has had a parliamentary majority since 1990. Subsequent to President Hage Geingob’s election in 2014 with a record of 87% of votes, his election was considered a success story, and he was expected to “continue the legacy” of electoral dominance.
Swapo’s election manifesto declared “consolidating peace, stability, prosperity” as its track record. A few years later, Swapo’s dominance showed signs of erosion. The party’s electoral fortunes have steadily declined in the last three elections.
In November 2019, Geingob was re-elected with an all-time low of 56% of votes for the presidency. Swapo’s support dropped to 65%. This was followed by another loss of major municipalities, such as Windhoek, Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, to the opposition during the local and regional elections this year.
“It is shameful that our party keeps losing its votes to the weakest and useless opposition,” fumed Mulongeni.
Various leaders such as Geingob and the party’s secretary general Sophia Shaningwa have in the past years refuted claims that the part is dying. But Mulongeni disagrees.
“People are always defensive instead of just admitting and rectifying the mistakes. We lost a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly but they keep maintaining that Swapo is still the majority. If you had N$15 million and you lose N$5 million to someone that had no penny, who won? It looks like the whole leadership does not care about the consequences and what will happen to Swapo. Nobody is interested in listening to what people are saying,” he stressed.
He also urged the leadership to move away from politics of confrontation to politics of reconciliation and engagement.
“Stop bashing and victimising members who do not agree with you. Some people are insensitive to the feelings of the members. They think they can do it on their own but it is these infights that lead to people losing trust in the party. Instead of telling people to leave the party if they want to, how about you instil hope in them and give them a sense of belonging for them to also be able to fight for the party?” he questioned.
Approached for comment, Shaningwa told this reporter, “go back to the party leaders being alleged to have expressed those notions and clear the air instead.”
Reminding her that it is her opportunity to react and the paper is offering the party the right to reply to the allegations, she simply said, “you got it now isn’t it?” (Sic).
Mulongeni maintained that the party faces the mammoth task of regaining the trust and confidence of the public.
“At this point, only the top leadership of Swapo can save the party by admitting the wrongs and apologise to the nation. Mistakes are natural… acknowledge them and call back those we have lost to come back home,” added the outspoken leader.
In 2019, the country was rocked by its biggest government corruption scandal, dubbed Fishrot, which disclosed bribery for fishing quotas allegedly awarded to an Icelandic company. Various members of the party and high-ranking State officials, including two Cabinet ministers, are implicated. Mulongeni suggests that for the party to regain public trust, it must weed out those implicated and hold them accountable.
Also expressing the same sentiments is the founding member of Swapo and former diplomat Hadino Hishongwa.
The long serving deputy minister of sport stressed that apart from the economic downturn, many people have left the party because, over the years, they didn’t get what they want. “Maybe we (party) are not doing enough to satisfy the needs of our people. We need to go back to the drawing board and see where we have gone wrong,” he said.
The veteran politician said those who have left the party must also be returned.
“It is high time we acknowledge that somehow somewhere we have failed our members and we need to bring them back to save the party from drowning,” said Hishongwa. He added that instead of pointing fingers, the party must find amicable solutions to retain its dominancy.
“We cannot afford to be pointing fingers right now, it is time to unite and work together like we used to,” Hishongwa calls for unity.
In a document submitted to the recent Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) elective congress by its previous Central Committee (CC) members, the SPYL membership recruitment rate is low and worrisome.
The matter has been highlighted and declared urged and needs immediate attention. According to the report, every region was directed to recruit a minimum of 100 members monthly, however, only Erongo, Ohangwena, and Omusati regions managed to comply with the directive.
“The office of the secretary is aware of this persisting challenge and it is of great concern with regards to the overall success of our party,” the report reads.
According to the report, most of the regional activities are not carried out due to absent regional secretaries, which have subsequently caused SPYL to be invisible and inactive at the regional level.
Approached for a comment, member of the young wing CC, Willem Amutenya said Covid-19 has affected most of their activities, including political mobilisation.
“We couldn’t do much during Covid lockdowns,” he said. Amutenya also added that the manual way of membership recruitment in the party is not youth friendly.
“Thus, the party needs to accelerate the digitalised system for the online membership application. We have moved to the digital world, thus our party must too,” he said.
To speed up the recruitment rate in the youth wing and ultimately in the mother body, Amutenya said young people should understand the importance of political engagements. “When young people are politically disengaged, a significant portion of the population (youth) has little or no voice or influence in decisions that affect them on critical issues like employment; economic distribution towards genuine youth empowerment; education; housing, and land availability. When young people aren’t actively involved in politics, it undermines the political systems’ representativeness of our country,” he explained.
Amutenya called on young people to find themselves a political home that is tested and with experience and capacity to respond to their challenges.
“Swapo party remains a political home found on strong principles of freedom, solidarity, and justice,” he said.