4 December 2012

Namibia: The Improbable Run of Jerry Ekandjo for State House


LAST Saturday, we were at the National Theatre of Namibia indulging in a thoroughly colonial affair – the occasion being a rendition of the concert Händel’s Messiah.

At the same time, and on the other end of the town, a number of Swapo delegates to its fifth congress were electing their leaders in the splendour of the Safari Conference Centre. Unlike a hotchpotch of upstarts who pass themselves off for revolutionaries we are at peace with these two events – one for the cultural and the other for the political soul of the nation.

By the same logic, therefore, there was no need to trek, on the back of mules, to Okanghudi (President Pohamba’s village) to have this meeting, in a homestead, and spend the three days on a diet of omahangu, ekaka and omalovu, exposed to the elements, where there are clearly superior facilities available at Safari, thanks to colonialism. This is far from singing praises in the name of colonialism but as Karl Marx has taught us, any new order always has the imprint of the old as it was conceived in the womb of the old. To be sure, evidence is now conclusive that the development and progress of society is incremental and that fables of Chinese leaps and skipping modes of production are but flights of fancy.

The very mode in which we transact politics via political parties, parliaments with their borrowed traditions and symbolism, are but what colonialism has bequeathed us. It is in this tradition that Swapo’s elections of last Saturday were conducted – namely multiple candidates nominated and elections conducted by means of secret ballots to ensure the credibility of the vote. All these were preceded by a robust, if bigoted, campaigns. It is the candidates and their entourages who were the main actors in this case. Despite this being an internal party election, the level of venom and vituperation was no less than we came to expect from Swapo during national elections. This culture of gratuitous insults capped by abusive language is something Swapo’s new leaders need to address urgently. Surely, it should be possible to show the electorate why and how one’s case is superior without degenerating to the shebeen brawl. Swapo and they alone have to take the blame for this subculture.

Then there were, obviously, the cast of candidates. It was always clear that the contest would essentially be between Ekandjo and Geingob. This was because Iivula-Ithana was going to be a victim of her own conceit in addition to the patriarchy of her party, despite occasional noises of Swapo to the contrary. And if any evidence was needed the results of the recently concluded Central Committee bear us out in this regard. For reasons of parti pris, the educated view also was that Geingob’s campaign will equally stumble. The fact that more than 50 percent of the delegates voted for Geingob is not only a measure of his managerial adroitness but speaks of a party which may have found the formula to reinvent itself. It speaks of a party which has rediscovered its soul and is able to move on, confidently, in the future with a new leader. The constant presence of senior party leaders and a rainbow of party members at Geingob’s campaign events was a clear pointer to this. These group of members felt the need to fight back to protect their heritage given the infantile disorder which chaperoned Ekandjo’s bid. Ekandjo was not only a victim of poor maths based on the results of previous leadership elections. He was a victim too of overall poor counsel as well as the vitriolic campaign, mainly, by SPYL [Swapo Party Youth League] office bearers via the social media; and the shenanigans around NUNW [National Union of Namibian Workers] in his name could only hurt his campaign.

But then, Ekandjo is not a wholesome candidate to sell for high office, despite his past gallantry and his handlers punting his ‘exemplary’ Western marriage as a game changer! Clearly, his views on how the world functions are alarmingly myopic. He is the only ranking politician, at least in Namibia, who condemned the recent teachers’ strikes as well as the ‘Arab Spring’ in the same breath as ‘imperialist’ plots to overthrow governments run by former liberation movements.

Really, Mr President, we ask? This sounds like an unhinged mind. Ekandjo has scant regard for the institutions of state, with an unenviable record of most adverse judgment from our courts in executing his functions, as minister. He has an equally disagreeable record in Parliament calling for the voting down of motions even before they are debated. And yet democracy thrives on debate and a kaleidoscope of ideas. All these demonstrate a man who has little appreciation for a diversity of views and opinions which are the bedrock of democratic governance. A man of such intolerance and scant understanding of our system of democratic governance is clearly unfit for high office. And this much the delegates to the Swapo congress understood.

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