11 January 2019

Namibia: Congo Victory Wake-Up Call for Swapo - Opposition

Photo: The Namibian
President Hage Geingob and Swapo officials (file photo).

Namibian political parties yesterday reacted to news of DR Congo opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi's victory, stating that the ruling Swapo party should take it as a wake-up call.

Minister of international relations Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah said electoral officials in that county released preliminary results yesterday morning which showed that the Democratic Republic of Congo's opposition candidate, the United Party for National Development (UPND)'s Tshisekedi won the elections.

The British Broadcasting Corporation reported that the announcement sparked accusations of an "electoral coup" from runner-up Martin Fayulu.

France said the figures did not match results collated on the ground by monitors from the Catholic Church.

Tshisekedi will be the first opposition challenger to win since the DR Congo gained independence in 1960. Current president Joseph Kabila is stepping down after 18 years in office.

Nandi-Ndaitwah congratulated Tshisekedi, saying Congo's political parties had been in meetings with President Hage Geingob as chairperson of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) ahead of the elections. She urged president Kabila to give way, and allow the democratic process to take its course.

"We are just hoping they will work together to ensure that peace and stability prevail. The DRC is a very important country as a member of SADC and the African Union. When it is stable, it is good for the rest of us," she said.

Reacting to the victory yesterday, the official opposition's leader, McHenry Venaani, said he was elated for Tshisekedi, whom he described a "very good friend of mine".

He said Tshisekedi had invited him and other DRC opposition leaders to a secret meeting at Gorée Island in Senegal in 2016, which he said culminated in the opposition joining forces.

"I'm elated that a contribution I made to the DRC has resulted in a watershed moment," he said. Venaani, who also led an electoral mission in the DRC in 2006, said the people of the DRC have demonstrated that the power lies with those who are downtrodden in society.

"This is a lesson that Namibians should learn that the power to change their destiny lies within themselves, not in those who are powerful," he added.

He said the PDM and Tshisekedi's party have a close relationship, and he was scheduled to meet the new leader next month to discuss election strategies.

Nudo's Meundju Jahanika said he was happy that an opposition party had won.

"I hope the transition goes smoothly, and does not follow the same route as all other African election disasters. Let this be a lesson to all ruling liberation movement parties, including the ANC in South Africa and Swapo, that when voters are fed up, they will switch [to another party]. They must not think that when they are the ruling party, they will remain in power forever," he stated.

Jahanika urged opposition parties to unite and form a strong alliance in order to jolt the ruling party into action, or to take over. "However, until Tshisekedi is officially declared president, I will not be quick to make conclusions. You know how unpredictable elections in Africa can be. One moment a candidate is announced the winner, the next moment there are claims of rigging the elections," he said.

Rally for Democracy and Progress' Mike Kavekotora noted that this was a good sign that there is a degree of political maturity in some African countries. "It is a rare occasion that an opposition is given an opportunity to lead," he said. Kavekotora issued a similar warning to ruling parties.

"Once you are a ruling party, it does not mean that you are permanently there. It is also an indication to the tradition that the country can only be run by the party that has liberated the country. I think the two must be separated. There was a time the country needed to be liberated, but now it is time for the country to be run," he said.

Nandi-Ndaitwah said Swapo does not need to be reminded about its responsibilities.

"That is their [opposition] opinion. That is why we campaign, and that is what we will continue to do. Nobody can remind us [Swapo] that we can lose elections," she added.

Meanwhile, some Congolese nationals residing in Namibia say they are disappointed by the outcome of the election at home.

Cirimwami Byaombi Gola (41) said Tshisekedi's victory has taken him by surprise, and that the election results were "not well done".

"Everybody was expecting Fayulu to win. We can only wait until the day they confirm the true presidency. It doesn't make sense for us in the diaspora," he lamented.

Gola charged that Tshisekedi's father, who was also an opposition leader, never helped the country, and said he does not believe his son will be any different. Another Congolese national, Thomas Yemba (38), who has been living in Namibia for 11 years, said the outcome of the election might usher in change, but that he was not too optimistic.

"I really did not prefer Tshisekedi over Fayulu. As a Congolese, I'm not sure what Tshisekedi is up to. As a Congolese-born who was educated in Europe, Tshisekedi knows first-hand the suffering of the Congolese people and can help in that aspect, but he will not be able to bring real change because I believe he has an agreement with Kabila, and to protect him," he said.

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