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UDF’s big moment draws near

2023-11-07  Edward Mumbuu

UDF’s big moment draws near

The United Democratic Front (UDF) is at a crossroads, with its 2023 interparty elective congress being the ultimate defining moment ahead of next year’s general polls. 

Later this month, over 500 UDF loyalists will converge at a soon-to-be-announced venue to elect their leaders for the next five years.

So far, the towns of Okahandja
and Otjiwarongo, both in the Otjozondjupa region, have been touted as potential hosts for what is expected to be a watershed congress. 

Everything is going according to plan to hold a successful election between 24 and 26 November, the party’s deputy leader Dudu Murorua said last week.  The congress will see incumbent party leader Apius Auchab defend his turf against Murorua, Kunene Regional Council chairperson and Sesfontein constituency councillor Hendrik Gaobaeb, and deputy Omaruru mayor Christian !Nanuseb. 

Earlier this year, !Nanuseb rhetorically said the party was in a “political coma”. 

“The reason why I decided to challenge the status quo is because you must have noticed that the UDF is politically in a coma because of the current leadership we have,” he was quoted as saying in May. 

“There will never be a Parliament without the UDF. That you must be assured of,” Auchab told the naysayers. 


Third term 

Auchab has led the party for a decade now. If he retains the position, it will technically mean he would have run the party for three terms, or 15 years. 


But there is a catch. The amended UDF constitution only came into force in 2019, meaning Auchab’s first term, which commenced in 2014, predates their current supreme law, and does not count.  

The first term lapsed in February 2023.

“This is the second congress to us. Anybody who will be elected to office will phase out after the next five years,” said Auchab as he explained the political paradox.  “That’s why legally, I am given a chance by the constitution to compete for a second term. It should not be counted as a third term because there was no constitution when we entered parliament for the first five years.” 



Onlookers and party insiders say a tight contest is expected between Auchab and Murorua – two senior figures who both command respect within the party and the national political landscape.

“The party is doing well, but due to a lack of political knowledge, people don’t understand. The political playing field is not level, especially when it comes to party funding. We must compete with giants. Look at what UDF gets vs Swapo, yet we compete against them. We just get over a N$1 million annually,” Auchab said. 

However, he pointed to multiple properties the party has amassed under his watch as evidence of his visionary

“We have erven in Swakopmund and Omaruru that we are paying off. We have properties in Khorixas, Outjo and Otjiwarongo. We have three vehicles now… when I took over, UDF didn’t even have a spade,” Auchab boasted. 

The politician believes they are a party on an upward trajectory. 

“Since I took over, we have never fallen back. I found UDF with two seats in the National Assembly, and we still have those seats. In the history of UDF, we only had one seat in the National Council; today, we have two seats. That is history.” 

“I have taken UDF to another level. My record speaks for itself. Only jealous people will not see. The party is not stagnant. We are growing,” he stressed.  Meanwhile, Murorua said he has been around long enough for UDF’s faithful to know what he brings to the table. 

“I have been in this for quite a while. The history speaks for itself. I have been doing what I have always been preaching to the people. I have been treating everyone equally, in such a way that I have assisted in their development,” he noted. 

The former Kunene governor continued: “When it comes to the use of resources for the party itself, I have relied on my own resources to assist the party wherever it needs to be assisted.”


‘Damara’ tag

According to political observers, the UDF can either start commanding national appeal, or continue limping further into obscurity before disappearing into the thin political air.

Placing UDF under the magnifying lens, commentator Natjirikasorua Tjirera said the organisation is in a “sorry state of affairs”. 

“With all respect that is due to them,
they have failed dismally to make inroads
in other tribes’ fiefdoms and have, as a
result, failed to grow as a party. As a political party, I think they played it safe by
ensuring that they keep their support base and not risk losing their support base by going for a national appeal,” he opined. 

For Tjirera, the UDF doesn’t even pretend to be a national party, saying “they don’t participate in elections beyond their tribal base. That position of theirs means their only form of survival will be holding on to their tribal base for dear life”.

It is a view UDF leaders disputed fiercely. 

“UDF is a national party. It is not a tribal party. That is the view we are not bothered about. All political parties in Namibia are labelled. Even Swapo is called an Owambo party. So, we are not bothered,” Murorua stated.  Another political commentator, Rui Tyitende, agreed with Tjirera. 

“UDF, like all other small parties with a strong ethnic geographical base, have failed to transcend beyond their traditional
regions of support. If one were to exclude the Kunene region from the equation, UDF would be condemned to the doldrums of political obscurity. They have no serious support beyond the Kunene region. It remains to a large extent a party of the Damara people,” he said.

Tyitende added: “Their ability to alter Namibia’s political landscape will be an elusive task, considering the current political climate. Too many players and a fragmented opposition make their case for a national appeal quite bleak.”

Like Murorua, Auchab dismissed this analysis.  “You talk about Murorua; is it a Damara surname? Murorua is not a Damara, but how long is Murorua in the UDF? You look at the Sesfontein area; most of the Herero people in that area belong to the

We have branches in Rundu and the former Caprivi (Zambezi), so how can the UDF be a Damara party? Have all these people come to be Damaras now that they are associated with us [UDF]? If you look at the national elections, does thevUDF only get votes from the Damara area? No. So, that is telling that the UDF is a national party.” 



The analysts further presented advice for
the UDF in contemporary Namibian politics.  “To be honest, I’ve not heard about any singular UDF position on anything under its current leadership… they need to start being a political movement with a political agenda which includes the interests of all Namibians, and give all Namibians food for thought,” Tjirera asserted. 

Tyitende, a political scientist, also had a lecture for the UDF. “Egos, greed, malfeasance and exercises in self-glorification are straws that will break the camel’s back. Moral leadership should be the first step towards building a strong and capable organisation with ambitions to run the state apparatus. Without that, political death becomes inevitable.”


2023-11-07  Edward Mumbuu

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