opinionBy Paul T. Shipale
THE SWAPO Party 5th Congress, described as watershed, just ended.
The congress reviewed progress with regard to strategic objectives and policies, assessed the state of the organisation, and elected the national leadership, among them the top leaders of the party, that is, the incumbent Vice-President Dr Hage Geingob and now PM who was re-elected with a resounding victory and his team mate, Nangolo Mbumba, who was elected as the new Secretary General of the party deputized by the now Governor of Khomas Region, Laura McLeod-Katjirua.
I congratulate the winners and those who could not make it and remind them, as the newly elected leadership already allayed the fears, that there are no losers in SWAPO but only winners as they all contributed to the consolidation of the inner democracy in SWAPO.
Without wasting time, President Pohamba formed a new cabinet in the much anticipated and long expected reshuffle, which saw the outspoken former Minister of Youth, Kazenambo Kazenambo being left out of the newly constituted transitional cabinet.
Whether this was meant to release him of his duty temporarily only time will tell. Nevertheless, it is a good move as I always thought it was wise to give him a diplomatic post somewhere in order to silence and pacify the angry chants of the public and those waiting with bated breath for ripostes, howling exchanges, verbal venoms.
What is clear is that, if the recent analysis in the media are true that Ekandjo, now the Minister of Youth, was given the powerful position of the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development in order for him to be close to the grassroots, then the appointment of Rtd Major General Namoloh to that post should be seen in the same light and is aimed at bringing an end to the squabbles in the traditional authorities as well as to put into another gear the decentralization policy, while Minister Ekandjo will be seen as a father figure by the youth whom he said in the interview on NBC that he seems to work well with them.
Furthermore, if media speculation is anything to go by that Minister Utoni Nujoma was given a key and powerful Ministry of Foreign Affairs to get international exposure, then Minister Nandi-Ndaitwah's appointment back to her field of study should be seen as a promotion as one of the trusted lieutenants of the President, while Minister Ithana is seen as an implementer who will bring the much needed changes at Home Affairs.
All in all, this is a good move as the President said the outcome of the congress has necessitated the redeployment in order for cabinet to speedily adopt and implement the congress's resolutions as government's programmes as well as to reaffirm the principles of the rule of law and democracy and maintain the peace and stability prevailing in the country. Let us just hope that next on the card is the much anticipated diplomatic reshuffle.
Media hype aside, as for the rest, they are all running mates if we don't base our assessment on election spin, and as such it doesn't matter which Minister or Deputy Minister is in charge of which ministry, as they are all mere "soft cop" with no real clash of values or of ideologies but only contestants in a swirling battlefield where contenders are fighting for turf and where temporary alliances coalesce and break down.
Despite some people's disdain for the rural poor, and long derided by others as stultifying mahangu producers, ironically, the same rural poor are the ones who rescued their floundering campaigns which worked to their favour when they managed a split between the so-called former eastern and western Owambo in the northern four regions, something HH could never achieve even though he is said to have masterminded that plan.
It seems the prospect of five years under some candidates was no cause for celebration for those who would like to see greater social justice and reduced inequality but it may prove less damaging to the country than allowing some people to wreak damage on the economy that could take decades to unwind. On the other hand, others would offer five years of technocratic, corporate power.
Yet at the same time, their administration, contrary to the claims of moderate operatives and at times also the mainstream media, would be establishmentarian in a "sensible shoes" kind of way.
I will just stress that whatever the specific form of operation, the ranks must decide the question of leadership in the party and the leadership must not push the ranks around, maneuver with them, and perpetuate itself against the will of the ranks.
Despite the behind-the-scenes lobbying and accusations and counter-accusations of what seem to have altered the outcome at the congress and despite some subtle threats of victimization and ostracizing from some quarters to those who didn't support their team, I am glad that everything went smoothly without any bloodshed and SWAPO indeed emerged stronger and more united from this contest, thereby raising the bar high as a trendsetter to other sister parties who should learn from this experience of conducting peaceful internal party elections.
I am glad that there was not a repeat of the 2004 Congress with conspiracy theories, thanks partly to some of us who bravely stood up and asked hard probing questions without hiding behind anonymous letters which greatly contributed to a cordial and peaceful environment that prevailed before and during the congress.
Above all, I am delighted that the party came up with the necessary tools to curb indiscipline in its ranks when it adopted a code of conduct providing the necessary checks and balances in the party structures and which clearly outline disciplinary procedures to be followed by all members of the party.
As with all well-established and functional institutions with established rules and procedures which all the members are required to comply with, the SWAPO Party adopted a new code of conduct that will enable the organization to take corrective measures procedurally and consistently as opposed to arbitrary measures. This is done with the view to instill discipline in the party and mould party members into principled individuals for its long-term viability.
One important aspect that emanates from the adopted code of conduct is the issue related to the Democratic Character of the SWAPO Party that prides itself on a rich history of open debate within its ranks. The said code again emphasizes that no single individual becomes irreplaceable and that elected leaders could be recalled before the end of their term of office if found violating the established rules.
Furthermore, the code highlights and underscores the importance of criticism and self-criticism, as there is no member or any party strategy that is beyond criticism.
Therefore it is important to have regular policy evaluations in order to pose hard probing questions to the leadership and rank and file in the spirit of camaraderie. At the same time it is crucial to have a cadre-ship and leadership who are humble and always prepared to listen to constructive criticism and advice.
Another important aspect contained in the newly adopted code of conduct is the Principle of Collective Leadership and Democratic Centralism. The latter includes respecting the decision taken by the majority as binding on all party members. Democratic Centralism requires political cohesiveness inside the party, which derives from relative political homogeneity in the party ranks. There is homogeneity in the sense of fundamental agreement with the party's program and principles; and this, in turn, lays the foundation for the application of discipline, which permits united action with a common purpose. Indeed, building one inclusive nation 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 does not mean having an all-inclusive party serving as a political hodge-podge.
In addition, the code points out the importance of the responsibility of its leadership to be in touch with popular sentiments in the party structures and the public opinion, while on another hand, cadres are allowed to display strength of their convictions and to raise matters and challenges in forums and platforms where they have the opportunity to do so.
However, we must guard against instant expulsion that epitomizes the general character of monolithism, which is the suppression of internal political dissent, the proscription of free expression and the imposition of rigid political conformity. For this reason, a periodic appraisal is necessary in order to make readjustments, from time to time, in the leadership, and make it possible for the party to carry forward its programme in the best possible way.
This procedure safeguards the party against the development of dry rot in its official bodies and helps to keep it alive, dynamic and in touch with the times.
Conflicts between the older and younger generations in the party are minimized and bureaucratic remoteness from the real life of the party among the leaders is prevented.
The question of clique formations has also been dealt with, if we understand a clique as an unprincipled combination based on personal loyalties rather than political agreement. Within the letter and spirit of Article IV of the Party's Constitution, a true cadre of the party must resist any pressure to advance the interests of an individual, a tribe, race or sex at the expense of the entire party membership, says the new code.
For this reason, the notion being circulated that simply because we had to ask those hard probing questions to allay the fears of the people, we were against some is highly misplaced and erroneous.
The congress thus reaffirmed the core values and principles that place the party above all other parties in the country, as a national oriented political party that has succeeded in unifying people from different ethnic, racial and social backgrounds.
Now that the war rhetoric has abated and the angry chant has quietened, let us put behind us the most outrageous things said about adversaries to stroke the injured egos and hopefully the self-aggrandizing and victimology sermon deceptively wrapped in our discourse in short-tempered bomb throwing settling personal scores will also be a thing of the past.
The newly elected leadership should not repeat the same mistakes of the past by ostracizing some people simply because they supported candidate Y or X. It is precisely this tendency that has fueled revulsion among some people and created continued hostility that appears to have helped some opposition parties to solidify their support in some parts of the country. We must stop calling each other derogative names and unite as one inclusive nation.
The late Julius Nyerere, former President of Tanzania, had this to say in 1997: "This is my plea to the new generation of African leaders and African peoples: work for unity with firm conviction that without unity there is no future for Africa. That is, of course, if we still want to have a place under the sun...We are all Africans trying very hard to be Ghanaians or Tanzanians.
"Fortunately for Africa we have not been completely successful .... Unity will not make us rich, but it can make it difficult for Africa and the African peoples to be disregarded and humiliated...My generation led Africa to political freedom. The current generation of leaders and peoples of Africa must pick up the flickering torch of African freedom, refuel it with their enthusiasm and determination, and carry it forward."
Few people could have made the point better. Now is the time to put in practice what we preached about inclusion and democracy and I am happy that we all heed the call by both the Founding President Dr Sam Nujoma and President Pohamba to accept the outcome and support the elected leaders. I wish you a happy festive season.
• Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of my employer and this newspaper but solely reflect my personal views as a citizen.