The Swapo Party is preaching unity extensively, but comrades within the party ranks are failing to practice it.
With the Congress well underway, delegates and candidates are pulling out all the stops to conquer new ground, defend territory already held and secure roles as kingmakers.
Underground meetings and sleepless nights have been the order of the day the past week, a situation which will continue until the election results are announced on Sunday.
Both camps spent the past month amassing support around the country, culminating closing rallies in Windhoek a night before congress.
Over the next few days, delegates will debate the party’s policies, assess the state of the organisation and elect a new leadership. But rest assured, the deliberations are the least of the worries on the delegates’ minds, the elections have all of them under immense suspense.
As the leadership of Swapo under the stewardship of acting President Hage Geingob continues on the elusive path – one which preaches unity, inclusivity and prosperity – the picture on the ground paints a different picture, that of a divided party that is at war with itself.
This sentiment was echoed by a number of Swapo’s sister parties that graced the opening session of the four-day Swapo indaba in the capital yesterday.
The 6th elective congress is currently underway and some of the attendees include the African National Congress (ANC), Frelimo of Mozambique, the Communist Party of China as well as that of Cuba, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), Zanu PF and MPLA among others.
Delivering his statement on behalf of the BDP secretary general Mpho Balopi, warned that Swapo risks collapsing should it not address internal unity.
“Programme director, without unity, Swapo will collapse. Our democratic dispensation should strengthen but not undermine Swapo Party. Political parties lately have a tendency of being at war with themselves. These divisions within your political parties will – if not managed – bleed them to death,” said Balopi in front the over 700 Swapo delegates.
Sharing similar sentiments as that of Balopi, in its solidarity message Zanu PF called on Swapo to stick to its values.
“Comrades, our party[Swapo] should preach unity, unity, unity…May it impact democracy participation.” she said.
Speaking on behalf of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) of Tanzania, its secretary general Abdulrahman Kinana heaped praise on Swapo under Geingob’s watch as interim leader.
“It is through his wise and determined leadership that Namibia is forging ahead in achieving peace, stability and unity hence making the country growing faster economically,” said Kinana.
ANC’s Dipuo Bertha Letsatsi-Duba was satisfied with Namibia’s government relations between the two countries.
She was however quick to note that more needs to be done to strengthen ANC-Swapo relations.
“There is a need to strengthen party relations. We need to meet regularly to address the challenges highlighted by the President. It is imperative to strengthen ties…to engage robustly. The meetings we have should be viewed not as friends of the past but how to keep the values of the liberation parties,” said Letsatsi-Duba.
She further reiterated that the ANC is ready to work with all progressive forces within Southern Africa to ensure that “no one is left hungry” and “to make sure our communities have roofs over their heads. If we don’t, history will judge us harshly”.
Speaking at the same occasion, while painting a picture of a progressive Namibia for most of his statement, President Geingob used the opportunity to his full advantage.
In the run-up to congress the faction (Team Swapo) led by sport minister Jerry Ekandjo and former Prime Minister Nahas waged a fully-flagged war of words against Geingob.
On several occasions, Team Swapo argued that Swapo was not the same party it used to be as its constitution, core values, ethos and principles were being trampled upon.
At this juncture, Geingob who is one of the three candidates running for the vacant Swapo presidency position did not shy away from responding to his competitors.
“There are those who claim that Swapo has changed and it is no longer the party they used to know. For those I have the following to say: Swapo has not changed. The world has changed and in order not to be left behind, we have to change with time. But the Swapo core values remain (unchanged)” said Geingob in what seemed a clear response to Team Swapo’s campaign message.
Geingob who was firing from all cylinders went on to rubbish claims that Swapo was becoming a “club party” under his watch.
“Swapo is a movement for the people. It is not a personality cult. It is not an individual club” said Geingob before adding that “Swapo is not a short-cut to wealth creation”.
At this stage, the atmosphere in the room was becoming tense as mumbling sounds could be heard while a certain section, seemingly behind Geingob cheered loudly and consistently after each of his utterances.
He reiterated that Swapo will remain intact even after its current crop of leaders and members depart the earth and that “no individual is bigger than Swapo”.
On his part, politburo member Nahas Angula seemed rather perplexed by Geingob’s speech.
“We were expecting a state of the party type of address, not a state of the nation. But it is fine I guess, at least he placed emphasis on social elements. Let us see what the congress has in store.”
Rhetoric vs reality
Speaking to this publication shortly after Geingob’s statement, Swapo Politburo member Kazenambo Kazenambo was unimpressed by Geingob’s statement.
According Kazenambo, Geingob pointed out that Namibia was distancing itself from IMF bailouts but failed to indicate that government was in fact borrowing from other institutions.
He said the question should not be whether or not Namibia was borrowing from the International Monetary Fund but how the borrowed money would be repaid.
“The question should be why are we borrowing and for what purpose are we borrowing. Having asked yourself those questions, ask yourself: are we borrowing to generate income to honour our debt or are we not generating income. If we are borrowing today, will we be able to honour this debt in the foreseeable future? Or will we keep on borrowing and borrowing? I am not getting that.” Kazenambo pondered.
Kazenambo further noted: “What I am getting is that we are borrowing and that we are within the threshold of SADC. But I am not getting the message of where we are going to generate the money from and how are we generate money to honour our debt and how are we going to roll back our borrowing.”
He further added that the gap between Namibia’s rich and poor was widening by the day before adding that social protection nets were not a remedy to the economic question.
The former youth minister went on to suggest that Geingob’s statement was not in agreement with Namibia’s economic situation on the ground.
“Statistical, rhetorical statement are not the reality of the situation of our people who are feeling the pinch. If you are a nurse working in the hospital and hear this beautiful statement that we are making, the two are not speaking to each other. If you are a parent of a child who has been sent back home from the hostel in the rural area (because there is no food), this statement does not speak to them. It speaks to the few that at the top of our economic cake,” Kazenambo said briefly.
“The statement is beautiful. The statement is academic. But the reality speaks another language,” he concluded.
Seemingly agreeing with Kazenambo, National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) Job Muniaro said job losses in the country were not reflected in Geingob’s statement.
“People are losing jobs, people are being retrenched because the economy of the country is not doing well. If one worker loses a job, in a family 10 people are suffering. Due to job losses, people have lost their houses, medical aids and they are now dying because they can no longer have proper access to medical facilities. So these are things I wanted to hear. So from my side I am still worried. There is still a risk in the lives of the Namibian people,” said Muniaro.
The fierce rivalry between President Geingob and former Swapo Party Youth League Secretary Elijah Ngurare will be reignited again this weekend.
After several attempts to have Ngurare blocked from congress, Ngurare and Geingob will finally see eyeball-to-eyeball.
“It has been a long journey where people have tried to block us left, right and centre. But eventually we are here and in accordance with the Swapo constitution of Swapo which says after every five year there will be a congress. Namely, there must be people who are duly elected from the district election. Districts are made up of branches. Branches are made up of sections. Therefore, those who are elected from the districts and regional conferences are representing the hopes and aspirations and wishes of those people in the 121 constituencies.
So in terms of that, we are here and we hope to represent the hopes and aspirations of those constituencies…to speak and articulate issues that are in the broader interest of party political programme and the aspirations of the general public,” the jovial Ngurare said.
On Geingob’s congress statement, Ngurare said: “The speech is sounding more like a state of the nation’s address as opposed to the state of the Party. This is a Party congress. It’s not a state of the nation’s address. The statement could have touched on the challenges and opportunities that are taking place in the party.”
“What are the challenges? A lot and a host of irregularities (and) unconstitutional ways of doing things have been the order of the day for the past five years. That is absent in the speech. What is the political programme of Swapo vs that of the past five years? That is absent. Therefore, it is merely a speech for PR, of somebody (Geingob) wanting to campaign and speak to the emotions of delegates to vote for him because he is a candidate,” he charged.