By Herold Stanley Binda and Romanus Shampapi Shiremo
AS we move closer to the 6th Swapo Party Congress, one cannot help but to draw parallels between the unceremonious ousting of former South African President Thabo Mbeki and the current president of Swapo and Namibia, Hage Geingob. How so, we may be tempted to ask.
And for an answer to that question one would not need to look further than the apology offered to President Mbeki by Economic Freedom Fighters leader, Julius Malema. He apologised to Mbeki for being part of those who removed him on the basis of lies and rumours, spread by his erstwhile opponents.
This admission by Malema gives one a lot to reflect on, in the wake of the concerted vilification of President Geingob by some critics in Namibia. The above-mentioned admission makes it imperative for all the congress delegates to stand ready in critically looking at the current narrative that all is falling apart in Swapo, and thus needs to be fixed. Politics can be highly deceitful, and more often than not, aspirants to office use statistics and isolated incidences to put across a specific ideological position.
Similarly, in the run up to the Polokwane conference of the African National Conference in 2007, President Mbeki wrote about what he termed the “falsification of the reality”.
That view by President Mbeki echoes the views of many Namibian pundits, who are banking on the fact that it is almost impossible for the ordinary Namibian to distinguish fact from fiction.
Firstly, there is an illusion that the ruling party has somehow become disconnected with the people, and thus it runs the risk of losing its true identity.
We submit that this view is unfounded, because the same individuals conveniently forget that less than three years ago, the ruling party and its president received an overwhelming mandate from the people of this great nation to lead the country.
Had there been a decline in the electoral votes of the party, one could advance such a position. However, in this case, the opposite is true.
This criticism is happening against the backdrop of the return of so many former Swapo members that went into self-imposed exile for various political reasons. Most notable was the return of liberation struggle icon, the late Hidipo Hamutenya.
Thus, one has no choice but to attribute the return of all our former comrades to the message of inclusivity by the current leadership and that of former President Hifikepunye Pohamba.
It does not mean that this call for inclusivity has not been met by challenges, as the party has had to deal with countless challenging situations, in an effort to navigate towards unity.
It has been said that former liberation movements have remained broad churches, sometimes hosting conflicting interest groups, and thus as we continue to grow, we need to focus our attention on servicing all the people and making the country great.
To this end, it must be safe to say that the party does not suffer from a want of leadership or a violation of the party constitution, but from, inter alia, power hunger, greed, entitlement and tribalism.
Thus, the Swapo Party membership, in particular, and the nation at large, must pause and interrogate the question if there is really a need for a change of command at this juncture of time. This sudden change of leadership will be tantamount to a vote of no-confidence in what we believe is a popular leadership.
Secondly, much has been made of the current financial situation in our country. President Geingob’s detractors use every opportunity they get to heap the blame for the current situation at the doorstep of his administration. True to his leadership, he has not abdicated his responsibility by scapegoating – even when all facts are bare to the nation – but he has introduced austerity measures, which the nation is now beginning to appreciate.
Whereas we may not agree with all of the president economic measures, it is clear that this is a defining moment in the history of our country, and in such moments we do not need finger-pointing, but we need to take hands to ensure that we move in the same direction for the common good of all.
We must desist from the old tendency of only scrambling for the cake, instead of contributing to the baking of the cake itself.
This is a time when we need to place our individual interests last and that of our nation first. President Geingob has shown clear accountability and direction, in an effort to improve our ailing economy, and thus he should be allowed unhindered, with his team, to direct us in these testing times.
We have seen the attacks on the president from some from within his own party, since his election as vice-president of Swapo, and president of Namibia, respectively. The toxicity of the attacks is clearly visible and unfortunately, some of them are destructive and carry tribal undertones.
Namibians are aware of these shenanigans, and thus we are hopeful that that all delegates will reject such divisive attempts and vote for the unity of the country.
The president and his team should be allowed to use their time in office to realign our economy, rather than to waste it on fending off petty, party factional battles.
From what we have seen since 2012, it is very clear that having two centres of power in the current economic climate will be disastrous for both the party and our country.
Needless to say, this is what happened in the case of South Africa, which ended in the recall of President Mbeki.
Thus, we must out rightly reject the notion that we can have one president at the Swapo head office and another at State House.
Precedent reminds us that the non-viability of two-centres of the powers was the consideration for Founding Father, President Sam Nujoma, to pass on the baton of the Swapo Party presidency to President Pohamba, at the time when he was not constitutionally obliged to do so.
The question then is: Why are we now moving away from this tradition?
We have faith in the delegates to the congress that they will rise to the occasion and distinguish between fact and fiction.
In the words of late South African President Nelson Mandela, “fools multiply when wise men are silent”, and without question I know our party has a lot of wise sons and daughters.
*Herold Stanley Binda and Shampapi Shiremo are former executive members of the Pan- African Students Society (PASS) and the Caucus Political Science Club of the University of Namibia (2001/02)
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015