The new enlightened leadership, under the leadership of my good friend and brother Hage Geingob, has gone a long way in restoring my confidence in this great party,” were the words of the late Rally for Democracy and Progress, Hidipo Hamutenya upon his return to the Swapo Party in 2015.
From the late Hamutenya to former DTA president Katuutire Kaura, under the watch of acting President Hage Geingob, Swapo has adopted an open door policy which has led to party defectors and detractors alike freely joining the ruling party.
Since Geingob’s overwhelming victory at the polls in 2014, Swapo has seen former Congress of Democrats (CoD) president Ben Ulenga re-join the party from the backdoor; long-time DTA faithful and Swapo detractor Hikuminue Kapika join Swapo in a dubious way and now the endorsement of Kaura as its newest member in the run-up to its elective congress.
Then Ulenga re-joined Swapo at the genesis of 2017. It happened at a time when his former party, CoD was virtually nowhere to be seen on the political arena. CoD failed to secure a single seat in Parliament in 2014.
His U-turn to Swapo was however not as ceremonious as that of Hamutenya who received a heroic welcoming .
Ulenga’s return was described by current Swapo Party secretary general Nangolo Mbumba as “not a fun-fair event”.
Despite the historic connotation that the name DTA carried with it and after waging a fully-fledged war against Swapo for over 27 years, Kaura was welcomed with open arms at the party’s headquarters in the capital this week.
He joins Swapo a mere four years after losing out as party president to youthful leader, McHenry Venaani.
Kaura succumbed to the might of Swapo Party after failing to topple the party for nearly three decades. He joins Swapo at a time when his relevance in the now rebranded Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) is close to naught.
Additionally, Kapika joined at the age of 81, an age considered too old to make an impact in Namibia politics and where most politicians hang their political boots.
Kapika joined Swapo after disappearing from his home for nearly twelve months.
Kapika’s return to his home in the Kunene’s Epupa Constituency – who controversially refused to allow the Government to proceed with the hydro-electric power project – was marked by heavily-armed police officers guarding his person and homestead – the highest number of police officers ever assigned to a traditional leader in an independent Namibia.
These further fuelled speculations that during his lengthy disappearance, Kapika was kept at a special farm in the Outjo area.
Those in the know suggest it was during this period that Kapika was trained; offered money and a farm in exchange to join to Swapo.
Coincidentally, it was only after Kapika joined Swapo and was gazetted as the chief of the Ovahimba community.
As a consequence, The Patriot spoke to analysts to dissect whether it was indeed Geingob’s leadership style that attracts new members to the party or whether these high profile figures only join the ruling party for political convenience after losing credibility in their respective parties.
Deputy director at the University of Namibia’s Centre for Professional Development and Teaching and Learning Improvement, Ndumba Kamwanyah attributed Swapo’s reunion with its former foes to the level of tolerance that its current leadership possesses.
“Remember, Swapo at some point was becoming intolerable in terms of different views and it was operating as a liberation movement and not as a party where they wanted to suppress different views and opinions. That happened largely under the founding president. I think in that context, we can contextualise (as the reason why they are coming to Swapo). Remember, Geingob himself was also a causality of that context that I described. He was demoted and then he left to go to America,” Kamwanyah said .
He added: “People are having standards for Geingob. When a new leadership came in, people were putting a badge on Geingob to change what was happening in the party. He was a ‘change’ candidate in the party. That’s why, because of that perception, people thought he was going to bring change in terms of inner party democracy and that he is not going to use the old style of his predecessors, more in particular the Founding[President Nujoma]. I think their beef was not with Geingob. Their beef was the leadership of that time. So it does not necessarily say he has that leadership quality to bring back the people. But it’s just that opportunity and the expectations that people have of him.”
Kamwanyah was quick to indicate that there was a difference between the expectations that the electorate had for Geingob and the reality of what his leadership has delivered in his short stint as Head of State and acting President of Swapo Party.
“Expectations and reality are different. Expectations are mere perceptions. It does not mean the person has those qualities. The people that are coming back are coming back because of the expectations. They are not coming back because of the reality that President Hage Geingob has good leadership skills.”
To back up this claim, Kamwanyah said: “What people are criticising is the reality. Then you have seen that under his[Geingob’s] leadership, Swapo has been dragged to various court; the regional conferences were cancelled; people were fired – it speaks to his leadership. He is the person at the top. I think the expectation was that he is going to unite the party when he was elected as the vice president but also the acting president of the party. There was that high expectation.
Remember, Swapo was so divided after the 2012 congress. And people had the expectation that when Hage comes into power, he is going to unite. But the reality is hitting that he did not do those kinds of things.
That’s why we need to separate the perception of a good leader and the reality of a good leader.”
Also speaking to this publication this week, political analyst Uazuva Kaumbi said it was not sure whether or not it was Geingob’s leadership that attracts new members to the party.
“On one hand we have to congratulate him. I think his philosophy of one Namibian house and of no one should feel left out…I think that’s a practical manifestation of that. Especially with former arch-rivals with the like of Hidipo Hamutenya. That’s commendable,” said Kaumbi.
On the opposing end, however, Kaumbi suggested that it could be the reunion of Swapo and its former defectors was a ‘coincidence’.
He said: “If you look at Ulenga really, that’s after the CoD collapsed. [And] the manner in which he exited (CoD) was obviously not honourable and so there was no other way but to return.
With Kaura it’s the same thing. After the presidential struggle with McHenry Venaani and now also with the change of the name to PDM, he is in the newspapers saying he was not consulted and you don’t whether this is a form of bitterness. But he is there now looking for a political home. But we also know that Kaura and President Hage Geingob are good friends. They schooled together in Augestinium in the 50s. They were together in the U.S.”
Kaumbi added: “Hidipo Hamutenya and Geingob were also friends. I don’t know whether those links have anything to do with it.”
Kaumbi was quick to note that the precedence to welcome opposition leaders did not begin in the Geingob era.
“The goodwill towards the opposition was also started by President Pohamba. He was the first President to invite the opposition to State House. On the other hand, President Geingob has so far not invited the official opposition to talk to them. So I am not really sure whether it’s his[Geingob’s] leadership abilities or whether it’s a result of his own doing or whether it’s because for many people, their parties are disintegrating or whether they’ve come to the realization that Swapo is the only viable movement,” he explained briefly.
Kaumbi went on to suggest the recent decision by Geingob to welcome Kaura to Swapo without following due procedures and consulting the central committee and Politburo has given Geingob’s opponents “more ammunition” in the battle for Swapo’s heart at congress.
“It is unfortunate that it is happening during the campaign period. I think he[Geingob] is just giving ammunition to his opponents. Somebody was contrasting on Facebook how the Team Swapo seen in a picture with the founding President and President Geingob was welcoming Kaura to Swapo. Maybe the timing was not right. Maybe Geingob was trying to use that as part of his campaign strategy to show that he is somebody who is open to everybody…even to people like Kaura. But he should’ve have taken more time,” further noted the analyst.