Swapo politburo member Ngarikutuke Tjiriange says the ruling party is at a point where it should reinvent itself to be more inclusive, including in its decision-making structures.
The ruling party has lost significant support in the just ended regional council and local authority elections, particularly to the Independent Patriots for Change and the Landless People's Movement.
The LPM has impressed in //Kharas and Hardap as well as in Windhoek and the coast, while IPC has snatched key constituencies such as Swakopmund, Walvis Bay Rural, Windhoek East and Sibbinda from the ruling party.
The ruling party also no longer control key local authorities such as Walvis Bay, Gobabis, Swakopmund, Windhoek and Keetmanshoop.
Reacting to Swapo's performance, the former justice minister said the party has to change a number of aspects to fit with the situation on the ground. Tjiriange who is also a permanent member of the party's central committee said the political dynamics have changed over the last 30 years and political parties, including Swapo, should move with the times.
"Namibia has not been stagnant in one place, politics moved and the situation on the ground has changed. We have to change with the situation on the ground. Sometimes the changing is not only the way you do things but changing is also the type of people you are bringing into play," said the 77-year-old Tjiriange.
Therefore, Tjiriange said, if Swapo is to be relevant, the party must adjust itself to keep up with the current situation. "In our situation, we have born frees, who were born after independence who never saw what had happened during the liberation struggle who don't even want to hear about the liberation struggle who are just interested in bread-and-butter issues. So, the party has to change in order to accommodate these born frees which it hasn't done," he explained.
Tjiriange also said the defection of new members to join political rivals was nothing new in the ruling party. "During the struggle for independence, people were leaving because they were not happy at what was happening at that time, they didn't believe in the party ideology then but most of them came back. After independence, we had people leaving for CoD, RDP and all of them are back at the party. We (Swapo) are not Jesus, we are bound to make mistakes and as long as we can rectify those mistakes, people will come back stronger," he said.
Tjiriange said there are a number of factors that contributed to the poor performance of the ruling party, citing the prolonged drought and Covid-19 pandemic.
"People expect you to bring the development that they want but sometimes you want to do that but the little that you have is not able to do that. While you are trying to do that you have to remove some money and divert it to address issues such as drought and the Covid-19," he said. Former prime minister Nahas Angula also offered his perspective, saying the culture of expulsion and discontent among the youth was haunting the party. "Swapo has come up with a culture of expulsion. When you differ with a person, you expel. That is a damaging tradition. Expulsion should only be used in a rare occasion when a person has really violated the rules. But if you make it as a way to administer your organisation, people will leave you," he said.
Angula also claimed elitism was at play, saying there was a "distance between the elite and the general masses". "There is a combination of many other things. The youth are dissatisfied because many of them cannot find jobs, they cannot start their families because they don't have the means to do so, so they are not happy. There is a situation in townships, the peri-urban areas, they have their own problems and don't have proper sanitation. We pay lip service to them to say we are going to address the issue and we don't go back to them when the issues are not addressed. We don't engage people. All these people feel they are being alienated. And of course, the stalwarts of my type, we also feel that we are alienated but we can't run away from our history."
Meanwhile, Swapo spokesperson Hilma Nicanor yesterday said the party was ready to move on and has accepted the outcome of the just ended elections. "We believe in democracy and we are ready to move on to serve our people," Nicanor said while addressing the media.
The ruling party has also resolved to enter into coalitions with the United Democratic Front (UDF), the National Unity Democratic Organisation (Nudo) in local authorities such as Arandis, Karibib, Omaruru, Usakos, Outjo, Khorixas, Okahandja and Kamanjab. Swapo also resolved to enter in coalition with Nudo in the towns of Gobabis, Okakarara, Leonardville and Otjinene. The ruling party has also entered in coalition with an independent candidate in the Kongola constituency.