Today the ruling Swapo Party of Namibia is to convene an extra-ordinary congress to discuss amongst other matters amendments to the party's constitution.
Although not expressly stated, either by omission or commission, it is understood and accepted that the Swapo Party constitution is the supreme law of the party, is binding on all party members and all other rules and procedures are subject to the party's constitution.
Swapo goes into the 2018 extra-ordinary congress a divided party. The same way it went into the 2017 elective congress a divided party, the same way it went into the 2012 congress a divided party. Division is not new to Swapo. The public has rather grown accustomed to it in post-independence Namibia.
The 2004 Swapo Party elective congress which pitted Hidipo Hamutenya, Nahas Angula and Hifikepunye Pohamba against each other for the position of party president for the impending national presidential elections was a defining moment for the party that degenerated into a scathing battle for votes, influence and the heart of the party.
The after-math of the 2004 congress saw the establishment of the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) under the leadership of Hamutenya as a Swapo break-away faction that would eventually become the official opposition in the 2009 national and presidential elections.
In the run-up to the 2004 elections, the Swapo Party internal processes were characterised by witch hunts, name-calling, vote buying, slandering, meandering and the infamous list. As if this was not bad enough for the party, history would repeat itself in the build up to the 2017 elective congress.
German pastor Martin Moeller authored a poem titled First They Came... .!
It reads, "First they came for the socialists and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me."
The relevance of this poem speaks to the character of Swapo and its membership who often remain silent when it is expedient to do so but cry foul when they perceive they have suffered injustice. A group of Swapo members have approached the courts in a bid to interdict the upcoming extraordinary congress as reported in the media pending the outcome of a dispute regarding last year's elective congress.
Internal party processes are nuanced with regard to how the party deals with grievances, discontent, discipline and contravention of the party's rules and procedures. One would assume matters of grievance would be dealt with internally, following principles of due process under the auspices of the disciplinary committee, secretariat or office of the secretary-general whichever is best suited to hear, adjudicate and pronounce itself on matters concerning its membership.
This would set a precedent for dealing with future matters of a similar nature and safeguards the party's integrity and confidentiality. The problem lies in the fact that Swapo Party members only advocate for the observance of the party's constitution, rules and procedures when they are aggrieved and when they can draw interest in the applications of the rules.
When the matter of injustice does not pertain to them they remain indifferent and oblivious to the fact that the Swapo Party constitution should be the supreme guide in all matters pertaining to Swapo and not the personalities of individuals within the Party.
In certain African cultures it is regarded as taboo to speak of someone's eminent death but there will come a time when all founding members of the Party will be no more but the party needs to remain for the future generation of Namibian's who regard the party as their political home.
Personalities come and go but principles when accepted as standards and norms by a society remain relatively unchanged for a longer period of time.
Bribery and undue influence is regarded as misconduct in the Swapo Party rules and procedures for obvious reasons including the fact that it undermines the legitimacy of an electoral process. It happens from the highest echelons to the grassroots levels and members turn a blind eye or seek to justify it as acceptable under certain circumstances.
Rule 27 of the Swapo Party rules and procedures makes provision for an election committee headed by a Returning Officer "who shall be responsible for the overall conduct of elections". Sisa Namandje the private lawyer of Swapo Party President Hage Geingob served as Returning Officer for the 2017 elective congress in terms of rule 22 of the rules and procedures.
"Conflict of interest occurs when someone who is in a position of trust has a competing professional or personal interest. Such competing interests can make it difficult to fulfill his duties impartially. A conflict of interest exists even if no unethical or improper act results."
Professional conduct is subject to scrutiny on the ethical probity that a professional will be compromised. Sisa Namandje is trained to pre-empt questions regarding his character and professional conduct. To oversee an election process in which his client Hage Geingob is competing for the Presidency of Swapo puts him in a position where he can draw material benefit in the event that his client wins the election and he can suffer professional and personal losses in the event his client were to lose the election. It can as well be said that Sisa would be in a position to directly benefit from the outcome of the elective congress a la suspicions regarding Russian land deal.
Putting principles before personalities is no easy feat especially in politics because the two are not mutually exclusive however the party needs to re-align itself according to the needs of its membership and take into cognizance the fact that it is a broad based organization made of individuals with different, separate and identical interests and because of this it is advisable that it puts principles before and above personalities.
* Vitalio Angula is a socio-political commentator and independent columnist.