…..Has Namibia fallen victim?
Yes. At least this is what one of the local analysts thinks and asserts that patronage is being practiced in the country-albeit covertly.
There is a wide-held perception that top jobs in the country’s public sector are reserved for those who share close-ties with the political elite class or those with some form of relationship.
“We[Namibia] have come to a stage where you need political support or muscle to get top positions, simply because the elite class need people they can trust in positions,” said Dr. Hoze Riruako.
There has been complaints over the years from disgruntled members of the public claiming that they are being sidelined due to their political affiliation.
In 2013, the ruling party was accused of intimidating Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) members at the Sibbinda Constituency in Caprivi Region by denying unemployed RDP members job opportunities within the constituency, in favour of Swapo members.
Just last year, the state-newspaper New Era reported that National Unity Democratic Organisation (Nudo) promised to ensure that decision-making jobs would be reserved for people from that constituency and who are Nudo members. Positions, such as those of school principals, mayors, CEO of the town council and many other strategic positions would be reserved only for Nudo supporters, party leaders said at a party rally last October.
A ruling party source who chose to speak under condition of anonymity, said political patronage is part and parcel of African politics.
“To survive longer in politics you need patronage. Namibia is not an exception.”
According to the source, patronage is key when it comes to maintaining order at a party and national level because “most of the people will be well-catered for”.
Riruako is convinced that political patronage, not only exists in political parties, but within the echelons of government as well. Riruako claims political patronage “has become a legitimized system to fill positions”. “Other African states practice it openly, but in Namibia it is still carried out secretly. We can deny it all we want, but in today’s world you need to know someone to get a position,” he said.
Politics is dirty, warned Riruako, adding that “it is not for the feint-hearted.”
The political machinery in the country controls everything, hence people are often left in the cold for making wrong political choices.
The problem with patronage politics, according to Riruako is: “When the door is opened for you, you are forced to depend on that person. Politicians even go as far as eliminating people who fail to toe the line”.
These things are done in the dark, he said. Another analyst, Dr. Andrew Niikondo said democracy should not be mistaken for patronage.
“If someone has overwhelming support, we want to call it patronage thinking that people support a certain candidate because they want something in return, but it is not always the case,” said Niikondo.
Niikondo said patronage equals to corruption, adding that: “The low levels of corruption in the country is a clear sign that patronage is not an issue in Namibia.” Niikondo, who also serves as a Swapo Party Think Tank member, warned against a political system that allows individuals to benefit unfairly from the State apparatus.