Namibia: Patriots March

THE president of the newly launched political party, the Independent Patriots for Change, Panduleni Itula, says he is not interested in aligning to political ideologies that have failed to solve the challenges facing the people.

Itula, who launched his political party in Windhoek on Friday said he wants to educate the electorate to understand their rights and to restore their dignity.

Itula said although the Independent Patriots for Change (IPC) party might contest the upcoming regional and local authority elections, their focus would be devoted to educating the voters to understand their rights to participate in political activities.

"Our focus is to ensure that the electorate is educated in what its decision is going to be. Once they have been empowered and given that weapon of understanding their rights, they will be able to march on and free themselves from these shackles of the new imperialists in our country," he said.

The party also revealed its colours, flag and symbol. It also elected its founding leadership to serve for the next five years.

Itula emerged from those election as IPC president, while manufacturing association chairperson Brian Black was elected IPC national chairperson.

The IPC national general secretary post was given to Christine !Aochamus, while Stefanus Mvula was made national political mobiliser. The party will in the coming months elect its vice president at its national council of patriots.

The party is, however, still awaiting approval of its application submitted to the Electoral Commission of Namibia in May.

In an interview with The Namibian yesterday Itula said his party will be advocating equitable distribution of resources, social justice, urban land for housing and will fight against corruption.

He said the party intends to restore the dignity of the people and their rights enshrined in the Constitution to participate in political activities.

"Whether that is called radical or conservative ... Whatever ideas and knowledge we have, they do not feed the people. You can have as many ideologies as you want but if you are not feeding the people or looking after them to restore their dignity, your ideologies are useless," he said.

Itula said his party was indeed independent as its name implies. According to him, the party's membership was independent from the "shackles of any past, independent from any parental persuasion or coercion and independent from any corruption or any association with people who are corrupt".

"For too long we have been told that our budget is okay, our debt is okay, phosphate is okay. We have been told all of those lies. The Namibian people, however tolerant they are, have decided that enough is enough and they want to ensure that the future of their children is guaranteed," Itula said.

NOT TRIBAL

Itula added that his party had nothing to do with tribes, although acknowledging that Namibia was a tribal nation by default.

He said the fact that IPC's founding leadership is also made up of people from different tribal backgrounds, proves his critics wrong.

"The genes you inherit from your parents, do not mould and shape your political convictions and principles. We have got nothing to do with tribes. Namibia exists as tribes, deny that and deny your own existence.

"We are a people bound by common conviction, bound by the principles that we have adopted in this party to ensure we restore our people's dignity. We are not interested in which tribe you are as long as you have what it takes to serve the people, are accountable and bound by the party's code of conduct," he said.

He said his party will ensure that its central committee will be constituted by at least four people from each region of the country.

"We are going to serve our people not from a tribal angle but from the needs of our people and because their needs demand us to do so. The people are only following one thing, change for the better."

Itula unsuccessfully contested last year's presidential election as an independent candidate.

He received 30% of the votes, losing to Swapo candidate Hage Geingob, who garnered 56% of the votes.

He unsuccessfully challenged the outcome of that election in the Supreme Court. His participation in that election while being a Swapo member was one of the reasons for his expulsion from the party earlier this year.

Itula - a dentist, who refers to call himself a consequential politician, ran a campaign based on social justice and respect for the rule of law.

Itula becomes the third member to break away from Swapo to form his own party.

He followed in the footsteps of former Swapo stalwarts Ben Ulenga who founded the Congress of Democrat, in 1999 and Hidipo Hamutenya who formed the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP).

Hamutenya formed RDP in 2007 after he lost the Swapo presidential position to Hifikepunye Pohamba at Swapo's elective congress in 2004.

Another political party formed by disgruntled Swapo members is the All People's Party (APP) founded by then Swapo Party Youth League leader Ignatius Shixuameni who broke away from CoD in 2007 before forming APP.

CoD and RDP have had successful stints in their maiden elections, with CoD gaining seven seats in the National Assembly during the 1999 elections.

RDP had eight seats in the National Assembly in 2009. The support for these parties have, however, waned over the years, with either party getting one or no seats in the National Assembly.

UNPREDICTABLE

Political commentator Henning Member observed that it is difficult at the moment to predict if Itula's party will make inroads into Swapo strongholds because a lot can happen between now and the next elections in 2024.

He said the first challenge for IPC will be the upcoming regional and local authority council elections in November.

These elections, Melber said will present a good opportunity for IPC to prove itself as a formidable force as there will be other new movements contesting the elections such as the Affirmative Repositioning and the Landless People's Movement.

"A preliminary indication might be the size of the audiences when the new party tours the regions as planned. But this does not allow firm conclusions, given the degree of social distancing, there might be IPC supporters who would be reluctant to come out openly," he said.

He added that many Namibian political parties hardly deserve to be taken seriously.

For him, parties that are based on ethnic or regional strongholds and at times are guided by personal ambitions of leaders to secure a privileged career as members of parliament should not be taken seriously.

He added "if IPC is able to present a meaningful political programme with visions for the country's governance and is able to reach out to people in most if not all regions, it will stand a good chance to emerge as one of the relevant parties.

"It will therefore be very interesting to see how the party scores in the different parts of Namibia in the regional and local authority elections," he stated.

Melber further believes the 2024 elections will be interesting to see how Swapo and influential members of the party respond and position themselves vis-a-vis the new party.

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