Much has been said about the Landless People’s Movement (LPM) good showing in last year’s regional council and local authority elections. This week, New Era journalist Kuzeeko Tjitemisa (KT) caught up with operative secretary and parliamentarian Edson Isaacks (EI) to share his party’s long-term vision as well as his stance on other pertinent issues and challenges in the country.
KT: When one speaks of LPM, names that come to mind are that of Bernadus Swartbooi, Henny Seibeb, or Utaara Mootu. But as the party operative secretary, you are the engine of the party and yet people know little about you. Who is Edson Isaacks and what role did you play in the establishment of LPM?
EI: Well, I am a teacher by profession with over 20 years’ experience. I'm humbled to have made my contribution to the birth, growth and formation of the LPM.
Initially, we started as a social movement that advocated for the return of ancestral land to the dispossessed people of Namibia. During the initial phase, we worked extremely hard to build a strong support base.
I was instrumental in organising community engagements. We furthermore had consultative meetings, which were called smart talks where we invited land experts, lawyers and various academics to discuss the burning land question, with a view to influence public policy.
I was fortunate enough to have played an instrumental role with the LPM even since it was a social movement. I am a leader in my own right, and my contributions speak for itself, therefore I command the respect and cooperation of the LPM rank and file leaders.
I was never wheelbarrowed into any position. We have campaigned and fought for the poor, landless and destitute Namibians, even when we as a movement didn't have any finances. We have worked extremely hard to build this organisation on a solid foundation of integrity and tenacity.
KT: During last year’s regional council and local authority elections, your party relatively did well, especially in the //Kharas and the Hardap regions. To what is this performance attributed?
EI: We are first and foremost extremely grateful to all voters who went out in numbers to cast their votes. Particularly those that demonstrated confidence in LPM and voted for us during the regional and local authority elections. I want to emphasise that fact that we are one of the fasted growing parties in Namibia.
We have local authority councillors throughout Namibia. In towns, villages and cities. From Okakarara, Khorixas, Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and City of Windhoek. We have demonstrated that we are a party for all Namibians regardless of race, sex, and origin. We have also made history by being the first to control two regions.
This success we attribute to the relentless pursuit of justice, equity and truth by the movement. We have also worked hard to groom youthful leaders in the movement who were able to galvanise the electorate.
For example, the chairperson of the management committee of the Keetmanshoop municipality Easter Isaak is a youthful leader who has been groomed and now serves the community in a key position in the council. Therefore, our performance is the cumulative effort of four years of diligent work, in which we fought for social justice matters.
It does not make sense to have a democratic process where the people elect their local and regional leaders and then have an autocratic system of governance where the President solely appoints a governor. It is contradictory to the values of democracy.
KT: The perception or narrative has been derived that LPM is predominantly a party of the people of the South, or that it only serves the interest of the people of the South. What is your take on these perceptions and what is the party doing to change this?
EI: I can't respond to frivolous perceptions, which are not rooted in reality. We are a party for all Namibians. Anyone that has been following us for the past four years knows what issues we have advanced. Anyone that has listened to parliamentary debates knows the issues we have advanced. This question is unfounded, frivolous and without any factual basis.
KT: Seeing that the ruling party Swapo has lost control of almost all constituencies in the //Kharas and Hardap regions during last year's regional council and local authority elections, will your party be lobbying for governors to be directly elected by the people to enable better representation of the people's aspirations?
EI: As LPM, we believe that the position of regional governors should be done away with. Appointment of regional governors should be done away with. Governors should be elected by the people and not imposed by the head of state on the people.
It is contradictory to the values of democracy. In essence, the governor should form part of the portfolios of regional councils that can be snapped up by any party that gets the most votes in a particular region. A party cannot claim to have been given the mandate to govern a region, but then have a governor appointed from another political party who may not share the mandate of the victor and the aspirations of the majority of the people.
The appointment of regional governors is Swapo’s attempt to control regional structures where it has lost popularity. It is dictatorial.
KT: How will LPM ensure good service delivery amidst claims that your elected representatives lack experience?
EI: We have brought in performance agreements with all our councillors, which will ensure that our elected councillors execute the mandate and vision of the party. We have set up a technical team of experts, which will work closely with our councillors in order to offer advice and guidance.
KT: What is your party’s stance on issues such as youth unemployment and the Fishrot matter before the court?
EI: Youth unemployment has reached an alarming rate in Namibia. For LPM, youth are our backbone. You will know that we have one of the youngest MPs in the National Assembly, Hon. Utaara Mootu. Therefore, we believe that youth should be on the decision-making table in order to influence public policy. We will work hard to ensure youth empowerment in Namibia.
Regarding the Fishrot matter, we believe that the entire Swapo leadership, starting from [President] Geingob must answer to the charges. It seems that high-level corruption, as alleged, always involves the highest office in the land. Swapo has created a cesspool of corruption in Namibia. Our desire is the speedy prosecution of all implicated in this matter.
KT: What is your party’s short and long-term vision?
EI: Our short-term vision is to deliver on our party manifesto in all localities where we won.
We intend to work with tenacity to ensure that the dignity of Namibians is restored. It is becoming abundantly clear that Swapo is a dead and decomposing party. We are working towards taking over national government in order to serve Namibians in their interest.
KT: How is the party preparing for the general election in 2024?
EI: This question is a little too premature at this time. While we have our systems in place for the 2024 national elections, we are just coming out of a rigorous elections campaign where we emerged victorious and need to ensure that our councillors are well equipped for the enormous task in front of them.
Our strategy is not just about winning votes; it is about the people whose trust in us cannot be betrayed. We must ensure that we act on our mandate to truly restore the dignity of our people. It starts at the local level. So, for now, we will not respond to this question until the time is ripe and right.
KT: Many opposition parties have struggled to make a meaningful impact over the years. How different is your party from those that have been rendered irrelevant?
EI: Taking over two regions and controlling a good number of local authorities through coalitions where we were not expected to win was not by coincidence. It means that we have already made a meaningful impact on the electorate.
What you should be asking is how we will maintain the momentum and continue to win over the hearts and minds of our people. We are guided by our political values, which are to alleviate poverty, create decent jobs, and have a well-crafted agrarian reform programme, to achieve restitution of ancestral land rights, fair and just urban and rural land reform, access to land and housing.
All these rest on the absolute commitment to protect citizens from corruption and greed by destroying and defaming corruption, patronage and lack of service delivery.