• September 28th, 2020

Opinion: The Namibian generational election curse

Namibia is going to the polls on 27 November 2019 to elect both the president and members of parliament. The nation will be dragging along its generational election curse of bloated party lists, ten presidential hopefuls in a population of less than 3 million and chains of political and financial scandals. The cardinal questions, which linger in the minds of many Namibians are: What are they voting for? Which party can deliver on their promises? What did the various political parties contesting in the elections do in the past five years to qualify for people’s votes?

According to official records, SWAPO has been winning the Namibian elections since 1989 and even scoring more than two-thirds of the votes. This is not surprising as the following could better elucidate the Namibian political panorama.

The personality cult of Sam Nujoma: In many quarters, Nujoma is regarded as a liberator and savior for having led the liberation party and movement for almost three decades, which ultimately ushered in Namibian independence.  He is revered for having stopped Casspirs (mine-resistant South African military vehicles) from razing down the fields and homesteads of people in the northern parts of Namibia. Despite the Lubango dungeons issue in Angola, Nujoma is still regarded by many as innocent. This historical and painful past is a taboo and cannot be discussed as it is said, “it is opening old words.” Because of his popularity, many people in both rural and urban areas are still voting for him not for the party. Add the title of the “ Father of the Nation” (Baba wa Taifa in Kiswahili) bestowed on him by Parliament.

The SWAPO party itself: The party is in the blood of many Namibians and has extended its tentacles in the country hence has maintained a national flavour. It is always regarded as the vanguard party. To some it has been part of their culture and always regarded as their philosophy. I remember one former colleague at the University of Namibia, telling me that he was prepared to change church affiliation but not the SWAPO membership. If this is the mentality of an intellectual, what about the common ordinary SWAPO member in the rural areas? Because of its large membership, it has been winning. However, one wonders whether it will be maintaining its majority in parliament for years to come. Nonetheless the warning political bells is that SWAPO may not maintain the two-third majority this time around because of the maladministration currently exhibited in SWAPO such as failure to vote for candidates to the electoral pot, embezzling of public funds, rampant corruption at all levels.  This is confirmed by the President’s child who had this to say in a recent clip: “The problem is not with my father but with dogs he appointed as ministers and advisors. …Those idiots of Sacky Shangala, Frans Kapofi, Uutoni Nujoma, Pohamba Shifeta, Simataa are the ones that spoiled his administration because they’ve been too much on media with their corruption but he never fires them.”

The issue of an independent presidential candidate within SWAPO is another unique case. What is surprising is that the big guns in the echelons of the party are silent on the issue and some of them have been seen in his campaign company. All eyes and ears are set to see what happens in case he wins without a party list of his own.

The divided and unfocused 
opposition political parties: Although the Constitution allows the formation of political parties in Article 21 (4), the mushrooming thereof is alarming. One wonders whether all these political parties have the interest of the electorates at heart. Are the leaders of these parties there for their bellies or to serve the interests of the Namibian people? The majority of these parties lack ideology or direction. Namibian opposition political parties should learn from Kenya’s previous experience where Moi kept on winning the elections despite getting fewer votes at the expense of divided opposition with many combined votes. It was the realization of such reality by the Kenyan parties to form a united front that they managed to unseat Moi in the late nineties. 

Nationalism vacuum: Namibians should have moved forward nationally, but it seems the country is reversing the national tide. We seem to be having many nations within one country.  Why can’t the vibrant young leaders like Amupanda and Swartbooi come together and form the Namibian EFF similar to what Malema is heading in South Africa? Both of them seem to be sharing ideas of having soft spots for the under-trodden in terms of land and economic empowerment. Each of them seems to be having political bases in their areas of origin. Amupanda might argue that his stronghold is in the city of Windhoek, but it will be beneficial if he merges with Swartbooi and vice versa.

The terror campaign trail: It is a fact that as much as we may not believe this, in many parts of Namibia politicians intimidate and threaten voters by telling them that if they are not voted for, they will not bring development to those areas. The poor electorates will still be told that they will not receive drought relief food if they do not vote for the campaigning politician. The politicians can even go an extra mile by intimidating the electorates that he or she will be able to know who did not vote for him or her and the culprit would bear the consequences.

Buying of votes: This is very common in many parts of the country, in fact, it has become a trend of buying votes. Many political parties are involved in this corrupt system.

The national leaders sent to regions for campaigns know very well that contenders for positions have to ferry in already bought voters to voting stations. The problem is that people who are credible and genuine are left out. In fact, this system decampaigns the party itself because at the end, the winning candidate fails to deliver and people grumble and the person who shoulders the blame is the party machinery.

Lastly, the outburst and threats of the secretary-general of SWAPO, Sophia Shaningwa, on a recent video clip by One TV Africa, raises concerns. Is Shaningwa going to use party or taxpayers’ money to deal with Dr Panduleni Ithula the SWAPO independent candidate? We should accept that Namibia is a democracy and hence everybody has the right to any political views which the country can use to develop and for nation building.

* Prof. Makala Lilemba
University of Barotseland 
Western Province, Zambia

Staff Reporter
2019-10-31 07:28:26 | 10 months ago

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