30 November 2012

Namibia: Political Perspective


IN CASE some accuse me of avoidance, it is difficult to write a column that will stand the test of the overnight hours at the Swapo congress, where it seems by morning we may well know who’s won the race. But it also seems crazy not to write about an event that is going to have significant impact on the kind of Namibia we will experience over the next couple of years. So I’ll give it a shot at the risk of being overtaken by events.

I’M of the independent school of journalistic thought which doesn’t believe in endorsing political candidates, and I’ve outlined, in a previous column, both the reservations and/or positives about the three candidates in question.

Only delegates at the Swapo congress have a vote as to the party’s ultimate choice, but most Namibians outside the ruling party nevertheless have an interest. They don’t have to be a Swapo member to have preferences: after all the congress is largely about the presidency of the country as there is little likelihood of an opposition ‘surprise’ when it comes to election time.

In the contest that will be determined over the next few hours and/or days, I’ve been concerned with the low level of maturity exhibited in the course of it. Politics in Swapo, and even outside it for that matter, are still emotional, personality-driven affairs, with issues (many of which are burning matters of national priority) coming off second best.

So whatever the ultimate choice of the Swapo congress, I regret the fact that it’s not going to be the choice of who will be the best man (or woman) for the challenging task of taking over the helm of leadership in our country based on their priorities and policy platform rather than based on personal preference, factionalism or even tribalist tendencies. There’s been little to no scrutiny of the records of political life and governance of the various candidates and/or attempts to hold them accountable for the things they’ve done, or haven’t while in service of the country, most of them for the past more than 20 years!

So whoever is finally s/elected, is he or she going to be the best person for the job? I quite honestly have no idea because it really hasn’t been the basis of the discussion in the run-up to congress. At the end of the day it will be the person who has the most leverage in terms of backing and support.

In the last hours before the congress started, the talk was that Jerry Ekandjo was clearly ‘the chosen one’. It also circulated around whether Hage Geingob’s initial protagonists had left him in the lurch, and whether Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana had already accepted the race was on between her two male competitors and she’d thrown her lot in with Ekandjo. Soon time will tell.

Meanwhile the call has gone out for the party as a whole to accept the outcome, no matter which candidate wins. Question is, will the outcome be an ‘honest’ one or the result of skilful manoeuvring by the power brokers in the party? This may well determine the level of acceptance President Hifikepunye Pohamba’s successor will receive.

We all know the outcome of the last contest which saw Hidipo Hamutenya being cast into the political wilderness. Has Swapo attained a higher level of maturity some years later to be able to accept the outcome without bitterness and attempts at alienation? And how will this affect the way forward?

Can the winner show true leadership skills and practice inclusivity to the greatest possible degree, both within the divided ranks of Swapo and without, in the country as a whole to mend the broken parts?

These are now the questions coming to the fore for the ‘chosen’, whoever that may be. Are any capable of rising to the challenges which face Namibia at almost every turn, and leading the way to progress, or take us further into the doldrums? Here’s hoping for the best!

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