Tuesday 13 April 2021
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The Swapo elective congress; a dangerous interregnum with morbid symptoms


Taking a cue from the Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks’ epigraph which reads: “The old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear” I wrote at the beginning of this year that we are living in a transition or an interregnum if you like but with doubly morbid symptoms if unaccompanied by a readiness to think anew about changed power structures.
I could not agree more with the assessment of some political analysts expressing their concern about the deepening divisions within the ruling party as it prepares to elect a new leadership. As one of the foremost African intellectuals and revolutionary leader, Amical Cabral, said in his address delivered to the first Tri-continental Conference of the Peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America held in Havana in January, 1966, titled; The Weapon of Theory, “whatever struggle one faces, the most important battle will be the internal fight and contradictions.”
There has never been so much bitterness in the party with some expressing their disappointment over the State President Geingob’s choice of candidates to run on his slate. For instance, the former Prime Minister Nahas Angula was quoted saying “There is a tradition in Swapo to follow the pecking order when selecting leaders. He (Geingob) violated that tradition.”
Meanwhile, the former Secretary General of the Swapo Party and current Minister of Home affairs and Immigration, Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, was quoted saying “for the past 27 years, we were able to manage our political differences, but this one is getting out of hand. Some of us are ready to sacrifice even our lives to make sure we restore the party’s principles”.
At one point, the message delivered by President Geingob at a SWAPO Party Star rally held at Keetmanshoop showed cohesion and unity, at least on the written speech. However, whenever he spoke off the cuff, he was digressing from his established narrative of ‘inclusivity, the Namibian house and no one will be left out’. I too remember commending him for his well thought-out idea of creating a Presidential Advisory Council with his predecessors and I praised him for extending an olive branch to his rivals.
But now more than ever before, the ruling party is living in an interregnum and morbid symptoms abound. The increasing number of candidates who will contest for posts at the next elective congress is a consequence of the ongoing and deepening crisis of leadership. There are so many people hurt and disappointed. Let us also not forget the number of Central Committee members who were dropped as Ministers and Deputy Ministers and the affiliate organ of the NUNW who were never accommodated in the winning slate of 2012. In addition, we have delegates from the regions that are dissatisfied and felt excluded.
On hand, it appears as if Geingob delivered a coup de grâce as a master tactician pitting one camp against another.  It also appears as if we are going back to identity politics of one region against another. Is a pity that some good leaders are caught in this cross fire and hopefully they will be accommodated in the winning slate to have some semblance of coherence and unity.
However, on the other hand, we should not be surprised if the contending camps come up with one single slate and instead of two candidates vying for the Presidency of the Party only one will be considered with the other one to become the Vice President of the country and for those vying for the Vice presidency of the party, one will be allowed to contend with the promise to become the next Prime Minister while the other candidate will become the Deputy Prime Minister. The same applies to the post of Secretary General and deputy Secretary General respectively.
In 2015, Achille Mbembe writing about the State of the South African Nation said “as new struggles unfold, hard questions have to be asked. They have to be asked if, in an infernal cycle of repetition but no difference, one form of damaged life is not simply to be replaced by another.”
Indeed the ground is fast shifting and a huge storm seems to be building up on the horizon. The winds blowing can be felt afar, in a different idiom, in places of abandonment where the violence of poverty and demoralization having become the norm, many have nothing to lose and are now more than ever willing to risk a fight. They simply can no longer wait, having waited for too long now.
Everything seems to indicate that ours is a crucial moment in the redefinition of what counts as “social protagonism” in this country. In these years of stagnation, rent-seeking and mediocrity, there is hardly any center left standing as the discourse of self-affirmation is in danger of being replaced by the discourse of fracture, injury and victimization – identity politics and the resentment that always is its corollary.
What is being said is that in twenty seven years after freedom, there was never such disrespect for the Party norms and rules. Thus, we are fast approaching a mass of structurally disenfranchised people. The old politics of waiting is therefore gradually replaced by a new politics of impatience and, if necessary, of disruption. Brashness, disruption and a new anti-decorum ethos are meant to bring down the pretence of normality and the logics of normalization in this most “abnormal” society.
The age of impatience is an age when new wounded bodies erupt and undertake to actually occupy spaces they used to simply haunt. They are now piling up, asking to be heard.  They speak in allegories and analogies blurring all boundaries, mixing times and spaces, at the risk of anachronism.
Let us look on the other side of the border where ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s CR17 (Cyril Ramaphosa’s) campaign is gaining traction and has made serious inroads in many provinces including the Free State, North West and KZN and was recently endorsed by the Eastern and Northern Cape provinces.
Notwithstanding, according to well-placed ANC sources, there is a concerted move to oust Ramaphosa and replace him with former African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma prior to the ANC Elective Conference. Zuma followers are pushing for the President to fire Ramaphosa on the basis that he is an “agent” of so-called white monopoly capital, a term employed by Bell Pottinger as part of the British PR firm’s largely discredited anti-white propaganda to divert attention away from the Guptas and the state capture they were accused of.
Those supporting the CR17 (Cyril Ramaphosa’s) campaigns say “there are tendencies to introduce a disguised term through crude and classic manipulation of gender struggles within the ANC. State security apparatus are hard at work to discredit those who oppose the disguised term attempt and Luthuli House has been reduced to a joke by the Gupta family and the beneficiaries of their largesse as the strategic centre of power”.
For this reason, South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa stepped up his criticism of the government, saying state-owned companies had been “captured” and funds looted from them. Ramaphosa’s remarks were tougher than others he has made on government graft, signaling the issue will be a main theme of his campaign. Little wonder why the State Security Agency’s (SSA’s) covert support unit is allegedly being used to target him ahead of the party’s elective conference in December.
This emerged in the wake of damaging leaked emails, which implicated Ramaphosa in extramarital affairs. The SSA has denied the existence of the covert unit. Ramaphosa has claimed that the fingerprints of the state intelligence services are all over the leaks. No one should be surprised if his allegations of state spying turn out to be correct. After all, in 2005, state spy agencies were abused in the bruising succession battle between then President Thabo Mbeki and his rival for the ANC presidency, Jacob Zuma, according to sources.
But it’s quite possible that Ramaphosa’s Gmail accounts were hacked. An intrusive piece of hacking software like Finfisher could do the trick. Expert say Finfisher is a weapons grade intrusion tool sold exclusively to governments. After all, sources say, by 2014, South Africa was the third largest named user of Finfisher, after Slovakia and Estonia.
Here at home we have already seen how factions are using dirty tricks to outmanoeuvre each other whether to unseat the incumbent or to maintain him in his seat at the next elective Congress with promises of surprises yet to come but what shocked me the most is the name calling of political opponents as enemies and the use of law enforcement agencies against opponents.
One thing I have observed though is that whatever happens in South Africa tends to be the exact opposite of what happens in Namibia and vice versa and for any SWAPO Party slate to emerge victorious from this contest, it needs to have a generational mix of leaders coupled with gender balance but above all preach the return to basic and the promise to fight against corruption and do away with the silencing of critical voices. All I can do is to wish the best team to win. Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of my employer and this newspaper but solely reflect my personal views as a citizen.

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