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Opinion - Swapo at war with itself

2021-08-24  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Swapo at war with itself

Petrus Mbidi

It is an awful scene for some proud supporters of the ruling party to see the party they continue to be loyal to being reluctant to address the infightings and divisions within its structures. The party has enjoyed good years of unity, especially under the leadership of the Founding Father and Father of the Namibian nation Dr Sam Shafishuna Nujoma. 

However, it was after the Nujoma reign when we saw two prominent members (Hidipo Hamutenya and Jesaya Nyamu) of the Swapo party leave to form their own party called the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP).

Swapo suffered its first division as a result of the formation of the RDP, but credit must be given to the leadership of then-party president Hifikepunye Pohamba in ensuring that the party was able to reunite and remain a dominant force at all levels of government. 

Fast forward, the change of leadership from President Pohamba to President Hage Geingob also produced its own division, which one could say is still to be dealt with effectively and decisively. 

The current infighting and division within the party started as of July 2015 when Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) leader Dr Elijah Ngurare, youth league spokesperson Dr Job Amupanda, Dimbulukeni Nauyoma and George Kambala were expelled from the party because of incompatible conduct as per the decision of Nangolo Mbumba, then secretary general of the party. 

Unfortunately, the manner in which this expulsion was conducted was not procedural. These latter three individuals left the party and formed the Affirmative Repositioning (AR) movement. 

They then made it their collective responsibility to expose and go after every Swapo member who is either corrupt, or accused of being involved in corrupt activities. 

That voluntary exercise has been well-received by the public, but caused serious damage to the party, and the past national and local authorities elections pose as serious case studies. 

Furthermore, Team Swapo and Team Harambee is another division that was created prior to the 6th Swapo congress in 2017, and this division is somehow evident until today. Last year under the guidance of the party president, Swapo held an introspection conference to deal with the infightings and divisions. 

Although the call for an introspection congress was a brilliant idea, it somehow failed to provide conclusive actions to ease the tension within the party. On one hand, we had a congress aimed at restoring unity within the party, while on the other we have members of the Swapo Party Youth League who are unhappy with people being appointed as members of the National Assembly while there are party members who have been in the structures waiting to move up the ladder. 

My message to the party is that for as long as the party is divided, and the members are not adapting to modern ways of being and acting, then the party is facing a downfall. 

What is happening within the Swapo party is quite akin to what has been happening within the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa. The ANC is reshuffling its cadres from one position to the other, and it is further failing to expel corrupt members. This is because the party is driven by the same cycle and disruptive mindsets, which does not align with the rule of law. 

Swapo has to find a way to get rid of every corrupt member, irrespective of their contribution to the liberation struggle, or their prominence within the party. The only way to deal with the division and to regain constituencies lost in the previous election first is through expelling corrupt members, and lastly to keep appointing qualified young people in positions of power and authority. 

The mentality of “we fought for this country” has to come to an end. The fight now is for economic recovery and growth. The country is in debt as a result of corruption and poor decisions by those who claim to have fought for the independence of the Namibian nation.

Astonishingly, the party president is not supporting any party member to be his successor, while he was publicly supported for the position he has today by his predecessor. Are you surprised? I am not, because I think it is the right call, given the situation within the party and continuous hunger for power. 

If the President was to publicly back and support someone for the presidency, then chances of it further spreading the division within the party are high. The problem with the top party members is that they are more worried about positions and how much they take home. They are, however, not aware that carrying out your duties is the secret to excelling and moving up the ladder, something that minister Erastus Utoni used to create a positive image for himself. 

Swapo has so many businesses and multiple income-generating streams, and yet again because of poor decision-makers, not enough of the party’s resources are trickling down to enable party supporters. Very soon, giving people food at rallies will not secure the party the votes.Is the party centred around young people? Even though the SPYL exists, I strongly disagree because the SPYL is mostly made up of members who are not considered to be part of the youth. Furthermore, there is a need to relook the party constitution, which permits someone to be a leader of the SPYL for as long as he or she is not older than 45 years. 

It should rather be not more than 35 years. When last have you heard the SPYL addressing and challenging youth empowerment, youth unemployment and the availability of opportunities? It is unlikely because they are more focused on power struggles, winning government tenders, and not ideas that will lead to national development. 

The President has the right to appoint six (6) people to be members of the Swapo Party Central Committee. What is the take of the SPYL on the six appointments? The party is facing a harsh reality if it fails to deal with the struggles within the party.  In politics, a serious threat to any democracy is giving power to the unknown. Alternatively, global politics taught us that even party loyalists are able to change sides, especially if the party is unable to deal with internal conflicts.  

How will such a party be able to deliver on a national stage? Even though time is running out, the remaining few years before the next elections are enough for Swapo to get its house in order, and to reunite the party.  However, if the party continues to play politics with the division within its main structures, then it should not be shocked with its performance in the 2024 national elections.  Our biggest and most commendable political progress in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) today is Zambia. 

Taking a look at what happened in Zambia, we could say to ruling parties within the region to step up, as voters are tired of failed governance.

2021-08-24  Staff Reporter

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