Sunday 16 May 2021
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SWAPO ‘Cabinet’: A case of merit or factional loyalty?

Without an iota of doubt, the SWAPO Party’s 6th congress held last year concluded with the adoption of very ambitious resolutions aimed at administering the party and by extension national governance.
The 22 resolutions range from clarifying the party ideology, promoting research in Namibia, implementing the Kudu Gas project by 2020, combating corruption, gender-based violence and road fatalities as well as securing water and food but to mention a few. It thus came as no surprise recently that the Secretary General of the party announced the new National officers or party cabinet that will ensure that these resolutions are implemented.
The implementation of these resolutions rests on the shoulders of the recently constituted secretariat of the party because it is in essence the Cabinet of the party. Last week’s central committee where a new secretariat was elected saw some big names such as Charles Namoloh, Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, Sakeus Shanghala, Bernard Esau, Peya Mushelenga and Utoni Nujoma, failing to make it into the secretariat.
This analysis bears down on the resolve by the party to clarify its party ideology which maintains that a well-articulated SWAPO Party ideology is one of socialism with Namibian characteristics which embraces the open market principles and techniques to develop the Namibian economy. An apparent echo of the socialist ideology embraced by the Communist Party of China.
History narrates that the foundation of SWAPO has intrinsically been inspired by tenets of communism if the bilateral relations with Cuba, Russia, Former East Germany (GDR), Russia and Czechoslovakia are anything to go by. Furthermore, it is a known fact that many Namibians both children and adults were exiled in these nations during the liberation struggle. However, a pre-condition for Namibia’s independence was democracy and the adoption of a capitalist system. This led to at least over 27 years of SWAPO leading the nation chanting democracy in public yet inherently socialist while also somewhat unclear on what being a socialist ruling party would entail given that national governance embraces democratic principles.
This calls for a definition of key terms, whereas democracy refers to governance by the majority as enabled through elections resulting in a few representatives governing on behalf of everyone as is the common practice since independence with the SWAPO leadership. Synonymous to democracy as dictated by the West is the adoption of a capitalist/ free market economy where private individuals have access to the market on par with the State.  Communism on the other hand is a governance system that aims to counter private ownership of property in favour of state or community ownership. And socialism by extension is a more sophisticated version of communism as enunciated by Karl Marx.
According to the socialist view, individuals do not live or work in isolation but live in cooperation with one another. This basically translates to the clarion call by President Geingob that no one should be left behind and also explains the constant promotion of the Namibian house imagery to the citizenry.
The President by far from the entire party cabinet has been doing a stellar lone-wolf job at embracing the newly clarified party ideology- socialism with Namibian characteristics.  However, one needs to ask, what exactly does socialism with Namibian characteristics look like and furthermore, is the newly appointed cabinet competent to embody this ideology?
At first glance it appears that the SWAPO cabinet is resultant of factional politics. The 6th congress witnessed a show down between ‘Team Harambe and Team SWAPO’ and the dismissal of President Geingob’s opponents such as Pendukeni Ivula-Ithana and Jerry Ekandjo from public office reflected just how deeply enshrined factionalism is in the fibres of the party.
Furthermore, looking at SWAPO’s apparent role model from Communist governed China; socialism with Chinese characters means embracing the principles of governance ‘for the people by the people’ tailored to Chinese conditions and characteristics. According to former President Deng Xiaoping, China regards socialism as the primary stage of communism. In a 1984 publication by The People’s Daily- Beijing the former communist leader was talking on ‘Building Socialism with a Specifically Chinese Character’. He stated that, “at the advanced stage the principle of; from each according to his ability and to each according to his needs will be applied.”
This calls for highly developed productive forces and an overwhelming abundance of material wealth. Therefore, the fundamental task for the socialist stage is to develop the productive forces.
The superiority of the socialist system is demonstrated, in the final analysis, by faster and greater development of those forces than under the capitalist system. As they develop, the people’s material and cultural life will constantly improve. One of our shortcomings after the founding of the People’s Republic was that we didn’t pay enough attention to developing the productive forces. Socialism means eliminating poverty”.
A glance at the resolutions adopted by SWAPO reflects that socialism with Namibian characteristics is finding a way for a free market and democratic system to lower the high Gini Coefficient (unequal wealth distribution) that we have become widely known for globally with the end goal being to eventually eliminate poverty.
The core team or cabinet to direct this great task as announced by the SWAPO Secretary General, Sophia Shaningwa (Graded on merit and public image in relation to the new portfolio ) reflects ; Hilma Nicanor: Secretary for Information,  Margareth Mensah-Williams: Secretary for Health and Social Services,  Pohamba Shifeta: Secretary for Environmental Affairs, Albert Kawana: Secretary for legal affairs, Doreen Sioka: Secretary for Education, Sports and Culture, Tjekero Tweya: Secretary for Finance, Loide Kasingo: Secretary for Labour, Alfred !Naruseb: Secretary for Economic Affairs, Peter Katjavivi: Secretary for External Affairs, Erkki Ngimtina: Secretary for Defence and Security, John Mutorwa: Secretary for Transport, Sylvia Makgone: Secretary for Agriculture, Laura Mcleod Katjirua: Secretary for Housing, Sanitation and Rural Development.
Overall the SWAPO cabinet looks more factionally inspired than elected on merit.
What is glaring though is that if the ruling party seeks to draw inspiration from China, it should also take into consideration that the central committee of the communist party of China is made up of members who have been tested and tried by the socialist ideology for years. They are members who are as much technocrats as they are politicians.
Granted the SWAPO party’s ideology only became clear end 2017, however if leaders are elected into positions because of party loyalty then the task of implementing the party resolutions as well as building the Namibian house with a strong foundation rooted in socialism with Namibian characteristics where no one is left out is remains but a very ambitious dream.

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