Days after the DTA of Namibia renamed itself to the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), analysts have started expressed their views on the possible impact the name change could have on the country’s official opposition.
On the eve of November 4, President of the then DTA McHenry Venaani broke the news that his party would change its name to PDM, a move he said was aimed at divorcing DTA from its dark past while at the same time addressing the present and future needs of Namibia.
The Patriot spoke to director of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), Graham Hopwood, who branded DTA’s transformation to PDM as “superficial”.
“It appears to be quite a superficial move. I don’t know why they changed the name and left the party colours and the party symbol intact. For me they should have gone for a complete change and a complete new image,” charged Hopwood.
He added: “This seems to be a halfway house instead of completely reinventing the party trying to appeal to younger voters. Which is the next logical step for them?”
Asked about his initial reaction when he heard the name ‘PDM’, Hopwood replied: “It doesn’t really stand out as its abbreviation goes. I suppose people will eventually get used to it the same way they did with DTA. But the important thing is that it is no longer the DTA. DTA in many people’s minds is reminiscent of the pre-independence period. So the important thing is there is a different name. That’s why I am questioning why they didn’t also change the colours and the symbols because they cannot look like the pre-independence party that was accused of supporting the apartheid government.”
Another analyst who shared his view, although seemingly unimpressed by DTA’s move to change its name, said the move was not necessary.
In a telephonic interview this week, deputy director at the University of Namibia’s Centre for Professional Development and Teaching and Learning Improvement, Ndumba Kamwanyah said it was “not necessary for DTA to change its name”.
Kamwanyah’s argument is premised on the basis that DTA retained the position as an official opposition party at the 2014 election, hence the question “why fix it if it’s working?”
“I don’t think it was really necessary for several reasons. In the last election, DTA came in second as the official opposition. So that is an indication that people are forgetting about that. So I was so surprised that they changed it because you don’t change something when you know it is working,” Kamwanyah stated briefly.
He added that for DTA to have come from what he termed “political dustbins” to position of official opposition party was an indication that the party was on an upward trajectory.
“For me, the fact that it[PDM] came back from the dustbin to be the official opposition energised by young Venaani, all those were good indications for them to remain the way they are because it seem like the Namibian people have forgiven them or accepted that whatever happened in the past is not a factor to judge them,” he noted.
According to Kamwanyah, the name change presents its own challenges.
“They really have to work hard to sell the name to the Namibian people’s minds and conscience. That is going to be a huge task especially when considering that 2019 is almost around the corner. So it might actually backfire in terms of people recognising the brand especially those in the rural areas who cannot read and write,” stressed the humanities lecturer.
Kamwanyah further stressed that: “The correct timing (for DTA’s name change) could have been a few years before independence when the party was really struggling. At that time, the memories of it being a colonial party were still fresh in the minds of Namibians.”
Kamwanyah, however, was quick to note that the transformation could pay dividends in the “longer, longer run”.
Seemingly disagreeing with Hopwood and Kamwanyah was political commentator and radio personality Vezemba Katjaimo, had nothing but praise for the new name.
Katjaimo said: “It is a great move. The name change completely removes the perception that DTA was a colonial party which was not even the case. How was DTA a colonial party when its first President, Clemence Kapuuo was killed by the colonial regime?”
Katjaimo credited PDM’s leadership for keeping the party’s famous blue, white and red colours saying: “When you change, you don’t change everything. You should keep your base.”
He further pointed out that under its new name, PDM now had what it takes to go head to head with the ruling Swapo party.
“PDM has a vibrant leader, someone you can really trust. This name can only make the opposition stronger and will create a balance between it and Swapo. Having a Swapo that is too strong is an injustice to Namibia because it has made them too arrogant,” said Katjaimo shortly after the official announcement of DTA’s new name and corporate identity in Windhoek on the weekend.
Sharing similar sentiments with Katjaimo was 24-year-old University of Namibia student, Kaatutjiua Mbinge who said PDM was an inclusive name that resonates with the younger generation.
“The name sounds inclusive which is key to maintaining peace and stability in the country. If all the goals as articulated by its leader are anything to go by, you would say we are taking a leap in the right direction as a country,” said Mbinge.
Mbinge went on to say “comparing this name[PDM] to the former name[DTA], the other name had a clique of apartheid in it. Now the current name represents an independent party, free from its misinterpretation and twisted past.”