21 December 2012

Namibia: 'Ekandjo Boys' Vs 'Geingob Boys' the Politics of 2012 Swapo Party Congress


THE Swapo Party constitution provides for a congress to be held every five years to, inter alia, elect new leadership and "to set the policy of the party, review and assess the overall activities and development of the party".

Thus the fifth congress in a free and independent Namibia was held in Windhoek from November 29 to December 2 2012. The congress ended with the election of new leadership for the next five years inclusive of the 'Top Four (Hifikepunye Lucas Pohamba, as the president, Hage Gottfried Geingob, vice president, Nangolo Mbumba, secretary general and Laura McLeod-Katjirua, deputy secretary general, as well as new members of the Central Committee).

In the democratic spirit of Swapo Party, each member has a right "to put forward proposals and defend his or her opinions before a decision is reached on the matter under discussion". Accordingly, two months before the congress we put forward candidates for vice president in the person of Jerry Ekandjo, for secretary general, it was Utoni Nujoma, and deputy secretary general, Abraham Iyambo. Historians shall one day have their say, but it is fitting to reflect on some aspects of the just ended 2012 congress for the sake of posterity.

The journey to the congress is well known, the manner of the campaign (s), the role of the State institutions to advance a preferred outcome, the role of money etc can also not be forgotten.

The 2012 congress is over. The journey of another five years has started. The 2014 presidential and National Assembly elections is one such destination where we must campaign and win for Swapo. In particular, the expectation is to move forward in unison to address bread and butter issues of our people. How can the State power act as a catalyst of unity and not of disunity? How can the actions be seen to speak louder than mere words? Is there seriousness in the words "unity of purpose" as opposed to "imposed unity" for a select group?

Shortly after the congress some people within and without Swapo, particularly those who are close to opposition parties, described the congress results as a defeat for the so-called 'Omusati Clique' and the ascent of the so-called 'Ohangwena Clique' in Swapo. Some in their excitement trumpeted their victory against the anti-capitalist block in the party. And some are unashamedly beating their chests saying "we have money" and that "we are business partners with top leaders in Swapo".

Money has become the root of friendship but can it be the tree of ideological progress? How does this tally with the virtues of "humility, simplicity, hard work and accessibility" of any party leader? Can these leaders sit under trees with the poor? Can they have a cabinet meeting under a tree at Okangwati in the same way they can dine in hotels and restaurants with foreign investors and their local business friends? Can these leaders deliver on youth empowerment, rural development and genuine economic empowerment for the poor and most vulnerable members of society?

Equally, we cannot ignore the thin line between what is said in public and what is said behind the scenes. The very person who proclaims unity in public turns around and spreads tribal disunity behind the scenes. Some are saying they have won; some are running all over the place singing insults against fellow Swapo comrades purely because they held a divergent view to the gospel of "don't embarrass the president". The other day one weekly paper referred to senior ministers as 'Ekandjo Boys'. Can the same paper refer to other senior ministers as 'Geingob Boys'?

In my view, the just ended contest can be compared to a game of soccer. When a team like Manchester United comes to an African village and plays against, say the village team Onambiya United, the expectation is that Manchester United will win hands down. However, if Manchester United is held up by Onambiya United for 85 minutes goalless, and the win for Manchester United comes in the last five minutes, the win is not commensurate with the stature, financial resources and prestige associated with Manchester United. Therefore, logic will dictate that Onambiya United is a winner in its own right.

Thus while we recognise that Manchester United has won, the reality is that in accordance with the Swapo constitution we have the obligation to "observe and comply with decisions, resolutions and directives of the majority, even though he or she might have voted against them or held a diverging opinion during the discussion". Conversely, it is expected of the winner to be humble and not arrogant with that victory because many did not vote for you. In the final analysis, it was a contest within the party and the bigger battle lies ahead for 2014 and beyond.

What are the virtues of our leaders and how reflective of that to the greater society? We expect therefore from all our leaders to act as the Swapo Party constitution requires: namely, to "act with dedication and commitment in the interest of the party and the national interest of Namibia" to defend democracy and not "moneycracy".

On that note, may I extend best wishes for Christmas and a prosperous 2013 for all our people, especially the elderly.

*Elijah Ngurare is the Secretary [head] of the Swapo Party Youth League

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