By Kelvin Chiringa
Newly elected president for the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP), Mike Kavekotora has hit back at critics who have described his party as a white elephant that has failed on its objective to wrestle out the ruling Swapo party’s parliamentary majority.
Below is an extract of an interview conducted between Mike Kavekotora (MK) and The Patriot (TP).
TP: Congratulations for taking the reins at RDP. This is a party that came in 2007 as a result of disgruntlement within the ruling Swapo party. Do you still consider yourself as that vibrant opposition party thought to be a threat to Swapo 12 years later?
MK: Thank you very much. Let me go just a little back as you rightly said. Some of us wanted to react way back in 2004 to say we need to have an alternative political party after we realised that the ruling party is no longer catering for the interest of Namibians.
I was one of the people that were pushing comrade Hidipo Hamutenya to form another political party He said no let us give the current leadership of Swapo a chance, because there was a change in leadership, an opportunity to see whether they will change course.
Unfortunately, that did not materialize. Come 2007 November we formed a political party. Yes we faced a number of challenges, both internally and externally. The most significant development was the election of 2009. RDP was the most formidable party in Namibia. We did very well. The announcements started off as per the law that they should be made at polling stations. It went on for a number of hours and then the ruling party, realizing that RDP is doing very well in the North where they had a complete monopoly, decided to stop the announcements and they created a so called verification centre in Windhoek where they informed the ECN that all the announcements should stop and everything must be brought to Windhoek and only thereafter (would be) verification. The question is, verified by who?
Eventually that has led to the situation that we currently are in. We have realised that the whole process was manipulated. So when people are telling me to say that we did very well when we got eight seats, I disagree with that because I know those seats were allocated to us and not based on the real voters who voted for RDP.
Since then we have faced a situation where the ruling party has taken an onslaught on us because of the fact that most of us who formed the RDP came from the ruling party. I think there was a serious attempt to try by all means to destroy the RDP because they knew that we were the only alternative.
TP: Have you recovered from that?
MK: What does the word recovery really mean? Even the question that you are putting is not based on realistic assumptions. Obviously we might not even talk about recovery, we might talk about have we fought the system strong enough to ensure that the result is an indication of the wishes and aspirations of the people?
That is to me a fair question. I believe that we are still fighting to makes sure that elections in Namibia are free, fair and credible. Since 2009 and even beyond that, there was never a situation where elections were free, fair, transparent and credible.
Our recovery is based on our success to fight the electoral process.
TP: So in fighting the electoral process are you saying that there is collusion between Swapo and ECN in the outcome of all the elections that we have witnessed?
MK: Definitely. In my mind there is no doubt about it. I am saying that because I was one of those people who audited the 2009 results. I saw how the electoral commission and the ruling party colluded. I saw the type of methodology that they used to manipulate the election.
We had evidence but the judge pronounced that some of these things are not material enough to justify…
TP: And ultimately it’s a court battle that you didn’t win. Do you have trust in the justice system in the face of this alleged collusion?
MK: I wouldn’t chuck off the justice system but the justice system is composed of individuals. I really have questions about some of the judges who are sitting on our benches. Are they really there to protect and to do justice to the justice system?
TP: So we are a few months away from another water-shed election and this time it comes as you take the reins of RDP.
How will you make sure that this alleged collusion is broken?
MK: There are two things. There is an internal intervention from our side but I want to focus on the external one. I have put a motion in parliament already to do away with our EVMs…
TP: That is a parliament where you don’t have a majority.
MK: I know, but the thing went through to a committee for them to bulldoze. And I think Namibians must start to wake up and not be always emotional about issues. It’s very unfortunate that the ruling party including the President is telling Swapo members to say you must toe the line. I am saying that they are abusing their majority. You find some members outside, when I put a motion in parliament, they want to support my motion but they are told this is the line of our stand. The people tell me, Mike Kavekotora I am going to disagree with you in parliament but…
TP: Are you saying these are the things you actually witness in parliament?
MK: Yes! People coming to tell us that what you hear me saying in parliament don’t think it is my opinion, it’s because I have to toe the line. Why did guys like Swartbooi get out of the party? They could no longer swallow the fact that an intelligent person like him is being told this is what you should do. That’s a failed leadership.
TP: But is it not the norm that they act on the whim of the appointing authority?
MK: But do you think it’s fair for somebody to say one plus one is equal to five and I have to toe the line of that?
TP: Now political analysts consider RDP as a hype-train that has been derailed. Have you inherited a white elephant?
MK: What is a white elephant? You’re not the first journalist to ask me that question. When people continuously say that, some tend to believe that. Some of us on the ground have been out there testing the water. Yes we went through a very turbulent time of leadership challenges and people on the grassroots have gone back, but they are just laid back, waiting for us to get our house in order at the top to continue where they left off. There was a high degree of disappointment when we lost the elections, when we moved from eight to three seats, when the late Hidipo Hamutenya went back to Swapo; all these things were just disappointments. We’ve set up branches. Will you believe it if I tell you that in Omasati that was a no go area for the RDP, we’ve 12 branches? In each region we have districts with leadership.
The people that were (at congress) to my surprise were 40% of those I know. The remaining 60% are people I don’t know. The quality of people who came together, we’re talking of pilots, medical doctors. If RDP is a white elephant, it could have been impossible for the party to draw delegates from the lowest possible structures that you can imagine.
The political landscape and the political dynamics of this country, even in this short period that we have, is going to change significantly and that change do not discount RDP.
TP: But how strong is your base in the south?
MK: At this point in time it’s very difficult to tell how strong we are. One thing is that in a democratic set-up you’ll always find movement, people leaving the party and joining. Maybe we don’t have friends in the media because they always talk when one individual leaves the party, when a100 join they keep silent.
We’ve people that went to join Swartbooi. That is fine. At the same time we’ve people joining from other parties. The net effect in all this is still a positive movement.
TP: In 2019, the future of many Namibians remains grim. What are you going to bring to the table?
MK: A better life. Swapo did a good job bringing independence to the people, but that is where they stopped. They succeeded in the wrong things. They failed in basic things that every human being needs. That is why I am talking about a better life.