NAMIBIA'S opposition political parties, especially the Swapo-breakaways, are no longer Judas Iscariots. Casspirs are not returning to Namibia [never mind that they were and actually remain 'originally made in Namibia'] to re-ensconce apartheid. The opposition is no longer to be denied water and other help. And, hopefully, there are no longer places known as a "no-go areas".
This is not mere wishful thinking on our part. How do we know all this? Well, unless President Hifikepunye Pohamba is running a destabilisation campaign behind the scenes, his public gestures point to a man determined to fix the massive cracks and senseless political divisions, including those he willfully caused, and differentiate between political opposition and enmity.
His latest move is the public display of friendship and, dare we say, cameraderie, with Hidipo Hamutenya, the leader of the Rally for Democracy and Progress. RDP was formed in 2007 after an acrimonious race in 2004 for Swapo's candidate for state president pitting the two brothers-in-law [Pohamba and Hamutenya] with former Prime Minister Nahas Angula as an also-ran.
To be specific, Pohamba recently invited Hamutenya to be at the head of the main table for his 30th wedding anniversary together with founding President Sam Nujoma, who it can be said would need no invitation, having handed Pohamba the presidency on a silver platter.
Under normal circumstances that invitation would not be newsworthy. But in 2008, speaking at Omuthiya in Oshikoto region, Pohamba said of Hamutenya and his RDP leadership: "They are comparable to the biblical Judas Iscariot - they were with us (in Swapo), but they betrayed us." He made other strong attacks but emphasised the traitor-line: "They (the RDP) are betraying the people who sacrificed their lives for Namibia's freedom."
We leave it up to your imagination to determine what could be done to traitors. But subsequently, Swapo officials of lower ranks called on the rural masses and other supporters not to give RDP members water and to deny them economic activities, such as trading or jobs.
In fact, RDP supporters were physically attacked and blocked from campaigning in traditional Swapo strongholds [whether in the capital or in villages]. Even trees and open fields were designated as belonging to Swapo to prevent RDP from gathering. The political field was long poisoned with Angula infamously brandishing a questionable apartheid paper that said former guerrilla and Robben Island prisoner Ben Ulenga was a spy.
After the 2009 elections, President Pohamba added RDP to his list of State House 'consultations' with national leaders, something he has been doing since becoming President in 2005.
But the picture of Hamutenya at the high-table of the Pohamba's 30th marriage anniversary last weekend speaks volumes, even if one discounts the fact that it was a private affair, that the RDP leader is a cousin [or some such close relation] of First Lady Penehupifo Pohamba or that he was their benefactor at the wedding in exile. We gather Hamutenya was not invited to the silver jubilee as the 25th anniversary is the more widely-celebrated for such unions. Or perhaps was there no such celebration, conveniently?
Cynics would observe that the last Swapo congress in December strengthened Pohamba's hand and that he can now let his will be done. Those who viewed him as a mere plek houer, as Afrikaners put it, would also note that he is close to retirement and would not want family issues overshadowed by past political clashes [as we are told was the message drilled in at the weekend event].
The optimists we are, want to believe that the 'repentance' is a massive political stance the President is taking to send out the message that political opponents are not sworn enemies; that peaceful and democratic political exchanges amount to a difference of opinion and tactics rather than betrayal and treason.
We trust the President has given the cue as to what Namibian political conduct should be like henceforth. It may not be obvious to some but the symbolism of Pohamba and Hamutenya, as well as other politicians, wining and dining in private and away from political events, has a great impact on the nation and can defuse physical conflicts in future.
President Pohamba and other national leaders must now build onto this great opportunity for a worthwhile legacy.