THE fate and destiny of the entire membership of one of the vanguard mass political movements in Southern Africa, the Swapo Party of Namibia, is in the hands of about 600 delegates to the 5th Swapo Party Congress taking place in Windhoek, who will have the mammoth task of pointing out which direction the party is going to take.
Indeed, the 5th Swapo Party Congress will be required, like all congresses, to review progress with regard to strategic objectives, review policies, assess the state of the organisation, and elect the national leadership.
During its years of existence the Swapo Party has held such congresses. Each addressed the above issues, but few among them stand out as watershed congresses, because of the nature of the decisions taken, their signaling of major strategic and organisational shifts and in the process taking the struggle to a higher level.
The Tanga Consultative Congress of 1969-70, which established the three-pronged strategy of the struggle, the Nampundwe Consultative Congress of 1976 that adopted the party structures and a new commitment to 'a classless society', the first congress after independence that adopted the present party's constitution and the 2004 Extraordinary Congress that saw a group of disgruntled members splitting from the party, come to mind.
What makes for a watershed congress is usually determined, in hindsight, by future generations looking back at particular events and how they impacted on subsequent developments in the party and the country at large. Indeed, the future generations must be able to say that after the party gathered in December 2012, they saw the start of a process that led to the democratic consolidation and the transformation of gender relations, with men and women making a contribution to society as equals. The transformation of the country, with social justice and a developmental state, having eliminated poverty and inequality and having brought about a thriving and inclusive economy as well as a party that survived intact and continually revitalized itself as a revolutionary people's vanguard movement and an agent for progressive change.
Over the years of its existence, the Swapo Party has prided itself in being a modern national revolutionary and progressive vanguard mass political movement that has the internal resilience not only to reproduce itself, but also to adapt to, and innovate for, changing conditions and to be sustainable in its approach to matters and how it carries forward its organisational tasks.
There are two features of a liberation movement that are pivotal, interrelated and inseparable. The first is a core organization with a progressive political agenda that it continuously refines as the terrain of struggle changes. The second feature is the activism of this core organization that mobilizes, organizes and educates the motive forces and conscientises them as to how their sectoral issues and concerns are linked to the broader tasks of transformation and nation building.
These two issues - the vision for the future and the capability to implement this vision - will determine whether the party will have what future generations will regard as a watershed congress. Indeed, the bedrock of our political system is highlighted as a legitimate state that derives its authority from the people through regular elections and popular participation, the mobilization of the nation around a common vision of the kind of society we are building. For citizens this means to exercise their rights, and for checks and balances in a law-governed society, building one inclusive nation out of the multiple identities based on class, gender, age, language, geographic location, and religion, as a united African nation, adding to the diversity and identity of the continent and humanity at large.
The concept of social cohesion also includes, harnessing the creativity, daring and energy of the youth, including providing access to social and economic opportunities, protecting the dignity of, and empowering, vulnerable sectors such as women and children, people with disability and the elderly. We must also add to these tasks of political and democratic consolidation the deepening of popular participation in the development of especially the rural poor and marginalised.
Building social capital in communities and different sectors to facilitate participation in development and nation-building, through supporting the institution of the family and the role of public media, and a value system based on human solidarity, that includes discouragement of conspicuous consumption, corruption and ostentatiousness.
Against this background, Ms Gwen Lister in last Friday's Political Perspective focusing on the caliber of the candidates in the race for the vice-presidency of the Swapo Party, stated that 'Geingob is articulate and a good administrator, but he is also perceived to be ego-driven, ultra-sensitive to criticism and with a penchant for a luxury lifestyle."
Indeed, all that we heard from some campaigns were the scarecrows and that exclusion and tribalism were a recipe for disaster. Durable peace in Africa requires much more than what can be described as limited 'fire brigade operations' which do not address the root causes of conflict, which is primarily economic. For this reason, the focus should be poverty, hunger and disease as our common enemy.
My point is, if something does not help us defeat the common enemy of hunger, poverty and disease, then it is an irrelevant decoy and a non-issue to our cause for genuine emancipation. So first things first and accordingly, we must prioritize the building of our unity rather than be dragged into secondary issues. This race has nothing to do with tribes. Let us rather talk about the quality of leadership in the race and on issues.
Some candidates leave just too many unanswered questions. For instance, what is their stance on the 'dungeons' issue? And with the allegations that some people were promised positions and paid large sums of money in what others termed a 'moneycracy', are we saying that we must turn a mass political vanguard revolutionary movement into an exclusive club of the elites as if it was a party of sellouts?
That will be tantamount to the betrayal of all those gallant PLAN combatants who sacrificed their lives for their motherland. In addition, the issue of the membership card, which serves as a passport and ID for any mass political movement, needs to be investigated. For many years now, people have been demanding that we play by the rules of the game but now we hear some people are not even paid-up members in good standing with the party and yet want to be elected at the congress.
The current Deputy Secretary General of the party Nangolo Mbumba also confirmed that a membership card is like an electoral card and if you don't have it, "you cannot enter, participate or even vote." Indeed, Article IX (B) (8) that provides for the duties and functions of the National Officers stipulates that, "No Party member shall be eligible for election as Vice-President of Swapo Party unless he or she meets the requirements of Article VI (4) of the Constitution." The said Article VI talking about the Central Committee stipulates in sub-article four (4) that "a minimum of ten (10) years of continuous membership in the Swapo Party shall be required for a member to be eligible for membership of the Central Committee".
It is clear according to the Swapo Party constitution that those who don't have membership cards cannot stand for elections at the congress as they do not meet the requirements of ten minimum years of uninterrupted and unwavering membership, as stipulated in the party's constitution and therefore stand to be disqualified. One wonders what did these people do with their membership cards; did they throw them away or burn them as Nyamu did in full view of the public? Was Ambassador Monica Nashandi not removed from the list because she didn't register as a voter?
Why would they now expect sympathy in order for the party to bend the rules in their favour? Let us all play by the rules of the game without any exception. Now that some stand exposed and unmasked when they were claiming to have a vision and predicted victory despite my warning that no one should start counting the chickens before they are hatched or burn the bridge before they cross it.
Surely, next time the reporters, political analysts and pundits alike would have long deconstructed the reasons for Team X or Y's win or loss, from the determination to bridge the gap to a mastery of the modern tools for campaigning; thus providing a detailed account of exactly how the candidates and their chief strategists created and executed the blueprint that gave them victory or the missteps they made along the way in their overall strategy that made them lose as well as their purposeful, uninflected, and utilitarian wizardry with the arithmetic of the delegates for the final check-mate of the game.
As President Pohamba said, let us just hope that all the Swapo Party members will support the winning candidate and will not go and form another party. As the congress draws to a close, we are reminded that the challenges before the current generation of leaders and rank and file are as momentous as those that faced the founding fathers in 1960 and they dare not fail but make this a watershed congress!
• Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of my employer and this newspaper and are not in any way connected to my position but merely reflect my personal opinion as a Namibian citizen.