The irony of the ideological shift of the liberation struggle of Namibia

Home Focus The irony of the ideological shift of the liberation struggle of Namibia

Namibia adopted the ‘mixed economy’ on the eve of independence 30 years ago.  Mixed economy is largely regarded as the mixture of capitalism and socialism, and to a certain extend it includes communism.  This article is educational in nature, helping fellow Namibians to understand the root-cause of our socio-economic problems.  It outlines where we went wrong as a country in order to take necessary steps to correct both the ideological and practical blunders we made.

It is therefore challenging Namibians to find answers to the pro-longed devastating situations such as poverty. Henceforward, while we have just celebrated our 30th independence anniversary, there are still many questions unanswered such as: Why has Swapo a socialist party changed wagons of the liberation struggle ideology to a more capitalist system, which the boers were fighting for? Why did they dump the land re-distribution even though land was key to the liberation struggle? It has been believed that the Constituent Assembly adopted the mixed economy approach to probably accommodate both former warring parties.   As Swapo was more a socialist-based organisation, the then South African apartheid regime was more capitalist in nature, hence mixed economy was ideal.  In the mixed economy, both public and private sectors operate side by side, however government directs the economic activity towards socially vital areas of the economy in order to attain social objectives.   Additionally, the private sector would be more considered as an instrument for economic growth. For better understanding and flow of ideas let us define capitalism, socialism and communism.  In capitalism, the means of production would be in the hands of an individual.  Factories and businesses are owned by private individuals and not by the state. Private owners make decisions about what and when to produce and how much products would cost. Other features of capitalism also include free market enterprise competition. People would compete freely without interference from government or any other outside force. Capitalism assumes that the most deserving person will usually win.  Supply and demand is another important feature in capitalism. In a capitalist system prices are determined by the quantity of how many products there are and how many people want them. When supplies increase, prices tend to drop. If prices drop, demand usually increases until supplies run out. Then prices will rise once more, but only as long as the demand is high. The law of supply and demand works in a cycle to control prices and keep them from getting too high or too low. All that has been defined as capitalism here, is vividly practically seen in Namibia.  Communism on the other hand, is a principle that no private ownership of property would be allowed because it has been believed that private ownership encourages greed, no matter what the consequences. The means of production in communism would be mostly in the hands of government.

Property would be shared. The government should exercise control in the name of the people. The goals are to eliminate the gap between the rich and poor and bring about economic equality.  Namibia, in theory plans to narrow those gaps, however in practical terms less has been achieved within those 30 years of independence. Socialism is an economic system where everyone in society equally owns the factors of production, either directly or through their government. Wealth and income would be shared more equally among people. Socialists unlike communists do not believe that the workers should overthrow capitalists suddenly and violently. Nor do they believe that all private property should be eliminated. The socialist government has a responsibility to redistribute wealth to make society more fair and just.  These socialist ideals were what Swapo was fighting for during the liberation war as evidenced in their Constitution’s preamble section that states that ‘the exploitation of one person by another, individual or as a class, including gender inequality, is unacceptable in an independent and democratic Namibia.  The aims and objectives also emphasise the socialist ideas that the Party will ‘foster a sense of common purpose and collective destiny among the Namibian people’.  The opposite of these promising and vibrant socialist principles has been a visible disaster throughout the years.

However, analysing these systems embedded into the ‘mixed economy’, one could clearly argue that capitalism proves to be on top of the others as most of the means of production has been owned by private individuals till now.  Also there has been competition everywhere both in the formal and informal economy. It is also self-evident that wealth is not equally distributed and there has been no clear plans of putting the major means of production in the hands of the people. And be that as it may, what was then the purpose of a prolonged liberation struggle if the aim was eventually just to implement capitalist ideas after independence after all?  And, how all of the sudden that Swapo has been so excited about capitalism of which the apartheid system was fighting for? Who betrayed who here?  Besides, if Swapo has now dumped the socialist views and embrace capitalism wholly, why has the Swapo government been refusing to pay veteran benefits to the former Koevoets and SWATF who were fighting in favour of capitalism?  As a result, the mixed economy has been skewed towards capitalism only, Namibians have endured serious problems and too many negative consequences in various ways. One of the negative impact of capitalism is that poverty has increased uncontrollably everywhere, particularly in the informal settlements.  Another negative impact is unequal distribution of wealth, whereby the richer become richest and the poorer become poorest.  All the recent past demonstrations calling for President Hage Geingob to step down are a result of poor people being tired of both the political status quo and poverty.  Ironically, most of the demonstrators are Swapo members. Nonetheless, while it is people’s right to demonstrate against anybody, it must be noted that this ugly situation has been there growing slowly since independence.  Blaming one person who has been there as a representative of collective system would be unfair.

 You can therefore not remove a tree from the ground without removing its roots that are carrying the top branch. People’s power can defeat any condition provided it has been genuinely used and not as a tool to brainwash the masses.  Swapo demonstrators cannot all of the sudden turn against the President while they remain innocent. It is hypocrisy! An apple does not fall far from the tree, and like father like son. Henceforth, the socialist ideals should be brought into picture to solve the problems of inequalities and high unemployment caused by neo liberal policies of capitalism introduced at independence in the country. The greediness that has been a toll of day in Namibia should be seriously controlled.  One biggest problem has been the failure of the Swapo government to re-distribute land. No economic activity takes place without land. I will belabour more on the land issue on other articles. Last, but not least, it has been very clear that the enormous problems that have been facing the country could be relatively linked to the betrayal of socialist ideals of the liberation struggle. Namibians should seriously push for the socialist principles that guided our long and bitter liberation struggle to be given high priority in the mixed economy system. Otherwise, their blood waters our freedom is in vain!  Finally, capitalism alone cannot solve African problems as it is selfish in nature and it focuses on individualism.  African problems are collective than individually. The African ‘Ubuntu’ philosophy of ‘you are who you are because of who I am’ should therefore be integrated into the mixed economy in the land of the brave. Long live Namibia!