Want some insight in Namibian politics? I am no expert but have 16 years (1995-2011) of writing on Namibian politics in The Namibian newspaper and can probably offer you a bit more than you know about the who's who in the Namibian political zoo. You will also find a few articles commenting on other issues of concern in the country. Hope you find it interesting. - Christof

Thursday, December 9, 2010

From Pohamba, With Love

PRESIDENT Hifikepunye Pohamba finally lifted the veil this week when he announced some of the names of our new regional governors.
I was surprised by two appointments. I could never have imagined former teacher and Ambassador Joshua //Hoëbeb as governor of Kunene, nor the loud-mouthed bully boy of the Swapo kindergarten, Bernardus Clinton Swartbooi, as the new head of the Karas Region!
I know many in Swapo, as well as the Cabinet, were also surprised by the inclusion of the two.
While Swartbooi, a trained teacher and lawyer, will infuse energy into the Karas region, //Hoëbeb’s appointment probably had more to do with his wisdom and leadership qualities.
I have yet to establish the reasons behind the reshuffling of people like Samuel Nuuyoma from Erongo to Khomas and Pohamba’s decision to send Sophia Shaningwa to Omusati.
But both are tested leaders who came out with flying colours in the regions and to send a person with a hands-on approach like Shaningwa to Omusati probably means the President wants action to bring to an end that region’s colossally dysfunctional leadership.
He also probably wanted to ensure that Khomas will not suffer in the process and opted to move Nuuyoma, whose telegenic charm appears not to be his only major asset. He has delivered reasonably well during his time at the coast.
Pohamba has kept his faith in Clemence Kashuupulwa (Oshana), Katrina Hanse-Himarwa (Hardap), Penda ya Ndakolo (Oshikoto), Usko Nghaamwa (Ohangwena) and Laura McLeod-Katjirua (Omaheke).
Three months ago McLeod-Katjirua announced that she was going to become a full-time housewife! One or two others said they were going into full-time farming, but as we could see from the list they have changed their minds!
The President’s indecision on who should head Otjozondjupa, Kavango and Caprivi regions have cast doubt over the amount of thinking he has put into the new appointments.
Surely he must have initiated the process months ago when the amendments were made to the Regional Council Act.
But we must appreciate the fact that he is not appointing people just for the sake of it and perhaps he is giving the matter more thought than people may believe, as he still has three to decide on.
Caprivi especially, has so many cultural and local dynamics that need proper scrutiny before someone is appointed. In my view an outsider would be the perfect choice since the governorship now has more to do with the actual delivery of services.
This is a region that needs serious attention in terms of development projects and the uplifting of the living standards of so many depressed people.
From previous announcements it seems the governors will have a small team of technically skilled people (some at the level of a Permanent Secretary) to assist them in their work. I imagine people such as economists on such teams.
The small team will be expected to operate in tandem with already existing regional staff. That in itself will be a challenge as very clear guidelines will be needed to avoid office conflicts. My hope is that the President’s appointments will not be made based purely on political affiliation as the main benchmark. In other words, people such as regional coordinators and other party loyalists should not simply be appointed to lessen the pay burden on the ruling party.
We need go-getters who will stay away from sapping but useless, tribal, political and local fights.
We must avoid the conflict of political as opposed to regional social and economic interests.


Monday, December 6, 2010

What Went Wrong In Windhoek East?

SWAPO’s poor performance in the Windhoek East constituency in last week’s election has raised many eyebrows among the party’s followers while the political aficionados have their hands in their hair as they ponder what exactly might have led to the change.

As for Swapo members, the North was abuzz this week with discussion and rumours as to whether all those in Windhoek East constituency who claim to be members of the party were indeed so!
Democrats of all persuasions will agree with me that there is nothing wrong with Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) candidate Nic Kruger collecting the majority of votes in a constituency in which many of the rich and affluent society of Namibia live.
Kruger is a well known personality and led a strategic campaign and his win can be compared to Swapo’s victories in Omaruru and Dâures which created much euphoria among the party’s rank and file. They took the two constituencies from the United Democratic Front.
The Dâures constituency was an especially severe blow since it lies in the heartland of UDF and because the seat of the Damara people is Okombahe.
Therefore, like the UDF in Omaruru and Okombahe, there were very few vuvuzelas for Swapo to blow in Windhoek East.
But the ruling party can’t take an ostrich-head-in-the-sand approach in that constituency.
It is an area made up of, among others, the Suiderhof Military Base, Luiperdsvallei Military Base and Israel Patrick Iyambo Police College.
It means soldiers and Police trainees are supposed to be among the 8 660 registered voters in the constituency.
Residents of Ludwigsdorf, Suiderhof and Olympia are also in the constituency.
Those residents include Swapo’s top brass like founding President Sam Nujoma, President Hifikepunye Pohamba, Swapo vice president Hage Geingob, Prime Minister Nahas Angula, Speaker of the National Assembly Theo-Ben Gurirab, Swapo secretary general Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, former Deputy Prime Minister Libertina Amathila, Andimba Toivo ya Toivo, suspended army chief Martin Shalli, Tuliameni Kalomoh, Tom Alweendo, Eunice Ipinge, Aaron Mushimba, Andrew Ndishishi and former Windhoek Mayor Matheus Shikongo.
They are all regarded as very influential members of the party.
Windhoek East was gerrymandered and part of it was combined with places such as Groot Aub, Stinkwater, Dordabis, Brakwater, Mix Camp, Eselmaanhaar and other farms around Windhoek to ‘export’ votes out to Windhoek Rural and thereby increase Swapo’s chances of keeping the constituency.
So what exactly went wrong with Swapo in Windhoek East constituency?
The answer is simple. Many did not vote.
Soldiers, trainee Police officers and the rich or well-off Swapo members and their families living in the posh areas of Windhoek stayed away from the polling stations.
There is a feeling among Swapo members in Hakahana, Okahandja Park, Ombili and Havana that their well-off comrades in those areas see no need to vote. That is apparently also the reason why there were no campaign rallies there and many did not display the party’s flags at their houses.
That’s a tricky rationale because some of those living in the posh suburbs are judges (like Petrus Damaseb) and civil servants (like Andrew Ndishishi and Joseph Iita) who should not be seen politicking because of their duties in the society.
But I wonder whether we are not dealing with an embryonic trend here, especially in the army camps.
We all know that Martin Shalli, a highly influential soldier, remains suspended for more than a year.
What type of impact does his suspension have on the decision of the soldiers to stay away from the polling stations? Does it indeed have an impact? Were the soldiers and police discouraged from voting, and if so, by whom?
When Swapo narrowly beat RDP by two votes in New York in last year’s general elections, it was the catalyst to the calls by the Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) for the recall of Namibia’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Dr Kaire Mbuende.
Although Mbuende had no impact on the Namibians living in the US and who voted at the embassy’s premises, he has since been recalled.
Does it mean that SPYL will also agitate for the recall of the party’s top heavyweights after the Windhoek East failure?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Teachers, Etosha, And Piggeries

SOON schools will close for almost two months and while teachers and pupils are away many, including seniors in the Ministry of Education, will bemoan the grade 10 results as well as the high number of pupils who will end up on the streets.

This year Namibians expect some positive change.

We have a new team of Minister, Deputy Minister and Permanent Secretary of Education and judging by the time they spent touring the country to see the shocking state of some schools and hostels, listen to demoralised pupils and teachers and motivate them, results should show a marked improvement.

As Minister Abraham Iyambo said, some schools in rural areas look like “piggeries” and pupils sleep on the floor due to lack of beds and mattresses.

They are greatly disabled in an able society!

Recently, we have seen that the Ministry of Education received thousands of textbooks from various organisations, including the Millennium Challenge Account which, at some stage the Swapo Party Youth League claimed, were gunning for Etosha National Park in exchange for textbooks and money.

The books came during the second half of the school calendar year but did not make it in time for pupils to use them before the year-end exams.

The Government has also re-introduced bush allowances for teachers. Such allowances serve as an encouragement for teachers to work in rural areas.

But teachers in rural areas need more than bush allowances.

Some of them stay in places which can hardly be called houses, flats or rooms and they must teach under very challenging conditions.

I know of a school principal who is also in charge of a hostel.

The principal uses his own vehicle to fetch wood during weekends and also takes pupils to places like hospitals whenever the need arises.

That is in addition to teaching and managing the school. But he is an exception. It is a fact that there is a difference between those who take it on as ‘just a job’ and others who believe that it is a calling. But very few teachers regard their jobs as a calling and would use their own resources for the advancement of the pupils!

When the support structures from regional offices and the head office are not adequate and school’s management is left to overcome all the stumbling blocks by themselves.

So far we have seen and heard encouraging signs coming from Minister Iyambo.

He hates the dirt at schools, lambastes laziness and has vowed to pump millions into changing the core problem that has driven this country into its educational cul-de-sac.

In fact Cabinet has already agreed to avail N$85 million to build 183 classrooms at schools, repair blocked toilets and windows in the most severely dilapidated schools and hostels, fixing leaking pipes and taps at more than 200 schools countrywide and provide beds and mattresses for 3 584 pupils.

A long-awaited national conference on education is also on the cards for early next year.

While all the signs are there for an education revival, the Ministry would be best advised to step up efforts to re-employ some of the best and experienced crop of teachers it lost mainly to private and community schools.

The continuous education system, which is pupil centred, also needs to be re-assessed.

As it is now, children of uneducated parents suffer because they can’t be assisted with their homework. In fact, some of the homework is such that parents are forced to do almost everything for the pupils.

The system has contributed to a hugely expensive disaster and we will spend years recovering from it because it has taken the country back decades and yet no one seems to recognise it for the catastrophe it is.

Clearly Minister Iyambo has got a lot to think over through the school holidays and his birthplace Oniimwandi in the Oshana Region might be the best place to be at as he spends time pondering about the future of our education.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Swapo Government Or Government’s Swapo: What’s The Difference Anyway?

FROM last year to 2012, the taxpayer will pay N$156 million towards financing of political parties.

Yet, there is no law compelling the parties to account for how they spend the money.
At the moment around 0,2 per cent of the total State revenue is allocated to the funding of political parties each year and the amount is divided among the parties in the National Assembly based on the number of votes received in the previous election.
It means that prior to the 2009 election, Swapo with 55 seats received N$12,5 million while the Congress of Democrats collected N$1,1 million.
What’s worrying is that the parties can spend the money as they like and do not have to account for it as the current Electoral Act only requires parties to disclose foreign funding.
This includes opposition political parties who continue to shout the loudest about lack of Government accountability while they do not account to taxpayers how they spend their own money.
As for the ruling party, we are not only dealing with the “Swapo Party Government” as President Hifikepunye Pohamba and everyone else often refers to it, but also with the ‘Government’s Swapo’.
The party has become a department or agency of the Government and despite mega-funding they’re also using State resources for their campaign.
To qualify my statement, I would like to refer to some invitations we have received over the past three weeks.
Whereas in the past the department of information at the Swapo head office would send out invitations for rallies, these duties seem now to have shifted to ministerial offices.
A case in point was an invitation to Swapo rally at Arandis sent out by the Office of the Deputy Minister of Education on a Government letterhead. It was issued by the private secretary of the deputy minister.
Four days later somebody’s conscience triggered another invitation but this time apparently ‘from the private office of the Deputy Minister’.
All that changed was the date as well as the fact that the letterhead was missing. Same fonts and same person for enquiries!
We have had several public relations officers, personal assistants and private secretaries of ministers sending invitations over the past two weeks.
This is done on Government time, with Government equipment and the civil servants get paid by the Government too.
Of course the ministers follow the example of the President who is apparently on “24-hour duty” as explained last year by State House when the issue came up.
Recently, a group of people tried to get an appointment with the President and they were informed that he would not be available until after the elections because he is campaigning. That’s 24 hours for you!
While it is to an extent understandable that the President’s trips for Swapo business are funded by the taxpayer, it is a bit much for ministers and deputy ministers to get the same treatment while the party collects no less than N$12 million a year from the State coffers.
It adds insult to injury when it is as openly done with the use of letterheads and faxing Swapo rally invitations from Government offices. They even follow the invitations up with telephone calls from ministerial offices.
There is need for a clear separation between Government and Swapo operations.
The ruling party’s policy of deployment of cadres in key positions seems not only to be about ensuring the fulfilment of its manifesto but also the deliberate use of the State’s resources for the benefit of Swapo. For such people, the party’s interests come first and everything else is secondary.
For them it means they work for the Swapo Government, the Government is for Swapo’s use and Swapo is part of the Government’s agencies.
If this can’t stop, party funding must end.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Only Swapo Gains From The Marriage With Unions

THE union affiliation to Swapo has never benefitted the workers and will not in the foreseeable future. The only positive for the workers is that their leaders have access to local, regional and national political offices through the ruling party ticket.

In the upcoming election, a few leaders of unions affiliated to the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW), and through the umbrella body to Swapo, will be standing for office.
That is one of the reasons they were opposed to the now-abandoned workers’ march of Wednesday.
The problems at the Government Institutions Pension Fund (GIPF) and the approximately N$650 million in capital losses through the Development Capital Portfolio (DCP) investments have received widespread adverse reaction and I don’t intend dwelling too much on that.
But it is astonishing that a report was submitted to Prime Minister Nahas Angula and Finance Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila by Namfisa in August 2007 already by the Namibia Financial Institutions Supervisory Authority and left to collect dust for such a long time.
Angula is reported as having said that “somebody” assumed that GIPF would have acted on the report.
However, he also did not dismiss the theory that following up on the perpetrators would have been seen as a witch-hunt against former President Sam Nujoma whose brother-in-law Aaron Mushimba and son-in-law David Iimbili were among the recipients of GIPF funds.
According to him 2007 was a “sensitive time”.
It was a ‘sensitive time’ for Swapo because the Rally for Democracy and Progress was formed round about then and would have tried to make political capital of the negative publicity.
The Namfisa report said GIPF lost about N$1,2 billion in opportunity costs. In total the fund lost over N$1,8 billion, it said.
Losing that much money was not as harmful as the pain RDP would have inflicted on Swapo, had the matter became public, it would seem.
A few months after the 2010 national and presidential election NUNW secretary general Evilastus Kaaronda was, however, able to use the very same information to defeat those who attempted to get rid of him.
But there was always a risk that they would strike back and this they did this week.
It is a pity that their revenge came at a cost to the workers despite such leaders being given a very clear mandate at the last NUNW congress to act on GIPF.
For their part, the Namibia National Teachers’ Union (Nantu) took out an advert urging members “to concentrate more on the upcoming national examinations” instead of the demo.
These are the same people who, five years ago, forced Government to improve teachers’ salaries and working conditions. That was while the pupils were busy preparing for exams. Clear double standards at play!
I do also not believe that the demo over the pension money would have affected Swapo’s performance in the upcoming elections.
When Nantu pushed Government for increases and agitated for a demo in 2005, it was also around 50 days before Oshikuku, Ruacana and Okahao had their first elections.
So one is prompted to ask: Which is more important? The impact a two-hour demo might have on the ruling party’s election showing or civil servants losing N$1,2 billion?
As things stand now, the GIPF issue won’t be dealt with after the elections, because everyone will then be going on holiday.
I don’t believe that the workers will take this one lying down. It also deals with their freedom which includes freedom of expression and the right to hold meetings (marches).
Cabinet would be better advised to accelerate their action whilst time is on their side.
If not, the workers will take it upon themselves to recover the money and not even Swapo, the union leaders, or honorary members will stop them.

Monday, November 8, 2010

I’ve Got A Feeling It’s Over Between Ithana And Geingob

ONE of Gregory Abbott’s most well-known songs is entitled ‘I Got The Feelin’ (It’s Over)’ and he sings about the “funny feelin’” he had that his relationship with a girl was on the rocks.

I got the same impression over the past couple of days about the relationship (not love, but camaraderie) between Swapo secretary general Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana and the party’s vice president Hage Geingob.
The two were close allies for years and many regarded Ithana as a protegee of the former Prime Minister.
In fact, her support for Geingob was tested to the limits in 2002 when he refused to accept a lesser position of Local Government Minister and was frozen out by former President Sam Nujoma. Both were prominent figures in the party’s inner circles as Prime Minister and the country’s first female Attorney General respectively.
Geingob’s differences with Nujoma resulted in him plummeting in the party top structure and within a month he failed to be re-elected to the Politburo. The same congress also rejected Ithana to an extent that she was placed 23rd in the election for the Central Committee seats. Worst was when she failed to make it to the Swapo Party Women’s Council executive committee, of which she was an almost automatic choice for many years.
Reading the latest reports about the feud between Ithana and Sport Minister Kazenambo Kazenambo, you get the impression (and “funny feelin’” as Abbott put it) that she is on a very clear mission to become president of Swapo at all costs – even if it means pushing Geingob out of the way.
I know that Ithana has rejected claims that she was on a collision course with Kazenambo (better known as KK) and that she attempted to get him fired because of a remark he made about prostitution.
But I believe the news report that appeared in a weekly newspaper.
First, Swapo has the tendency to deny such sensitive stories very quickly if they are not 100 per cent true- which the party’s top structure did not do for days.
Secondly, the story was broken by a newspaper whose top structures are known to be close to both Geingob and Ithana. As a result, they would not have reported on the issue unless they were ‘dead sure’.
I believe Ithana’s attempt to get KK fired as a minister was not provoked by the statement about prostitution. It had all to do with his previous statement about wanting a non-Owambo Swapo president.
He is a known Geingob supporter. In fact he is one of the main proponents for his presidency.
And because there is the illusion that Ithana is very powerful in the party, she tried to push for KK’s demise at the top-four level.
I wouldn’t be surprised if she had not also tried to use other party instruments, such as the Youth League, Women’s League and Elders’ Council before attempting at it at the highest level.
The fact that KK didn’t even get a rebuke from the President tells it all.
Ithana has shown that she does not have the authority to dictate appointments or dismissals and that she is just another minister.
In fact, KK’s political resilience was boosted in the process.
But what is more harmful to Ithana is that she has not only disclosed her presidential ambitions very early (something that is not advisable in Swapo) but also possibly isolated herself in the process.
While already dealing with the undeclared ‘cold war’ with Jerry Ekandjo from the same Omusati-clique stable, Ithana has added more enemies by isolating herself from those who supported her through Geingob.
Ekandjo must be having a good laugh!
Ithana can also not expect any favour from the Ndonga group in the party, who want Nahas Angula as the party’s next president.
The end result is that her actions might lead to a complete realignment of allies and powers within the party while, in the broader scheme of things, I have the feelin’ it’s over between her and Geingob.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Lift The Ban And Let Democracy Be The Victor

I HOPE the penny drops in the Swapo hierarchy and President Hifikepunye Pohamba decides to lift the advertising and purchase ban the Government imposed on The Namibian almost 10 years ago.

The President must realise that it is the sensible thing to do and that Cabinet made an error.

Cabinet banned the paper on December 5 2000 with claims that the newspaper was hostile towards Government and too critical of its policies .

They were soon followed by the likes of the Swapo Party and its youth league, National Youth Council as well as many Government-sponsored agencies.

The decision was of an arbitrary nature and violated people’s right to information.

At the time many defenders of press freedom and freedom of expression urged The Namibian to take the matter to court.

In fact, in Botswana, where that country’s government instituted a similar ban on Botswana Guardian and MidWeek Sun, there was a court challenge and the move was declared unconstitutional.

Editor Gwen Lister chose not to take the same route although the paper would have won the case hands down.

She believed, among other things, that challenging and winning against the Government would have been used against the paper by some who would then have bolstered their argument that The Namibian needed Government and couldn’t maintain its independence.

Although it was the democratic right of former President Sam Nujoma, his Cabinet or any other citizen of Namibia to criticise or take issue with the newspaper itself or its independent editorial stance, or for that matter, not to read and/or advertise in The Namibian if they chose not to do so, the ban was an indictment against our professed democracy and certainly a blot on the Government’s press freedom record since Independence.

And if the ban is lifted, there must be no illusion that it will influence the newspaper’s way of reporting. The tradition of the past 25 years must continue.

The Namibian has a role to play and an independent and responsible press can only benefit the country.

The past 10 years have been trying times in terms of penetrating several key markets but the newspaper has at no stage depended on either Government advertising or its purchases for survival.

Therefore lifting the ban will also not mean that the Government will be subsidising the paper in any way.

In fact, when the ban was announced almost 10 years ago Government advertising accounted for just over six per cent of the paper’s total advertising revenue; and newspaper sales to Government were around 400 per day.

In 2001 the paper’s circulation was around 26 000 copies per day, based on sales figures for Fridays.

At the moment that figure has surpassed 40 000 and readership surveys have estimated that up to 17 people read one copy of the newspaper in northern Namibia.

This shows that any adverts Government places in the newspaper will be for the sole purpose of reaching the readers of The Namibian, which has the biggest daily national audience. The purchase of the newspaper by Government, likewise, will be done so that officials can inform themselves of what is happening in the country.

The Namibian survived the apartheid era, made the transition from pre-independence donor dependency to a position of financial viability and has clearly shown that it have overcome what many thought would be a major economic obstacle.

It is more than just a newspaper and its business model is one of very few success stories in Namibia.

As Lister put it at the newspaper’s 25th anniversary celebration last month, The Namibian thrives on a “solid work ethic, commitment and a feeling of ownership in what we do”.

Over the past 10 years the paper has put back into the community no less than N$15 million through sponsorships of the Newspaper Cup football tournament, a fully subsidised weekly Youthpaper, which targets the youth of our country in an attempt to empower and uplift them, and various other projects. The same cannot be said about many companies run and owned by so-called comrades.

If the ban is lifted, it will show that democracy, and not The Namibian, will be the victor and that Cabinet has matured beyond the stage of ‘struggle politics’. Press freedom, and more importantly an independent press, are vital to the wellbeing of any democracy.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

How The Local Vote Can Change Things

A YEAR ago people from Asab vowed not to vote in the presidential and national elections because they felt left out with no electricity and water for a village on the main road.

Twenty-four hours after The Namibian published the story, Asab residents were visited by high-ranking Government officials who came to inquire about their needs and less than a month later a newspaper advert was out calling for tenders to electrify the place and surroundings like Gründorn.
Asab now has electricity as well as an information centre while plans are at an advanced stage to set up a service station and a shopping centre.
I believe that following the article, officials actually ‘discovered’ that money had been budgeted for the electrification of Asab and other villages in the Hardap Region and that it was just an oversight that the projects hadn’t been pushed through.
The people from Asab stood up for their rights and it paid off.
Similarly, many communities around Namibia have been demanding certain services since Independence.
Just 30 kilometres north of Asab, some residents of Gibeon still use the unhealthy bucket toilet system. They are not the only ones in that boat because a few years back unhappy Bethanie residents actually emptied their buckets at the doors of the village council!
In recent months we have seen several communities standing up against their elected representatives to demand better services at places like Okahandja, Grootfontein and Otjiwarongo.
But, as in the case of Gibeon, residents of places such as Okahandja have long been complaining about the services without seeing change.
The elections are a powerful tool for such communities to bring about change but their hands are tied.
Electing their representatives directly to town and village councils is probably their only hope for change.
In the beginning Swapo had planned to have only the first two elections with the party representative system while the 2003 local government election was to have been conducted using a ward system.
It means that towns would be divided into wards and for each ward, only one representative would be elected. It is called the winner-takes-all system.
A year before the 2003 local elections, former Deputy Minister of Regional, Local Government and Housing, Gerhard Tötemeyer, tabled the Local Authorities Amendment Bill and introduced the proportional electoral system instead of the ward system.
He argued that while the winner-takes-all system had the advantage of direct representation, it was unfair to minorities.
Others also argued that the proportional system would ensure greater gender representation.
While he and others who motivated the move might be right about that, voting for a party instead of a candidate directly mean that such person’s first allegiance is to the political party they represent on the council.
The end result of such voting system is that it hardly provides a chance for issue-based voting in which rational voters will collect information on each candidate, party or organisation in the race and decide on what she is she believes is the best option to serve the community’s needs.
As it is currently most of our voters do so along the lines of party loyalty, ethnicity or opt for a protest vote.
Most of the United Democratic Front voters in Kunene and Erongo, for instance, are in the ethnic category and use their numerical advantage to out-muscle opposition even though they might not be happy with their services they receive from their councillors.
Others identify with the political party and so only look for the slogan or sign when they enter the voting booth to show their loyalty.
The other group of voters who are not happy with the party or organisation’s representatives will either stay away from polling or go for the best option left.
That is how many voters from Keetmanshoop, who were not happy with Swapo in last year’s election, voted for the Rally of Democracy and Progress. They wanted to give them votes in protest against Swapo.
Similarly, some voters in the Khomas Region tactically opted for RDP instead of, for instance, the DTA or the Republican Party. They wanted to prevent a Swapo majority and thought the best chance for that was to vote RDP.
If Namibia introduces the ward system at local authority level, people will vote for their candidates of choice directly and hold them accountable without such candidates being protected by political parties or other organisations.
If it does not happen, expect the trend of local community associations to re-emerge while independent candidates will also have a go in some towns and villages.
Swapo will probably expel them from the party but that won’t be the solution for long.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Elections? What Elections?

NEXT month Namibians, relatively fresh from voting in last year’s presidential and national elections and still waiting for the outcome of a court challenge, will be expected to vote for new regional and local councillors. I would be surprised if even 35 per cent of the electorate turn up for voting!

There is hardly any mention, from any political party, of the elections that are six weeks away.
The regional council election is the only platform for voters to directly elect their representatives while the local authorities handle crucial issues such as the provision of water, electricity and other important services.
Therefore, the upcoming election is one of the main events on the 2010 calendar, especially since voters only get the chance once every five years.
Alas, the election seems to be the last thing on the minds of national politicians.
Their concern was about their seats in the National Assembly last year and that was why they campaigned for two years. Now they enjoy lucrative salaries ranging from N$35 000 upwards.
If you tune in to any radio station around the country, or watch any of the ads on television or in newspapers, you will notice the glaring absence of campaign material.
In contrast, the whole of last year was almost all about the things you probably thought elections should be about: job creation, provision of basic services, healthcare etc.
And when they ran out of ideas, last year’s campaign ended with name-calling, character assassination and threats of court cases between various parties, individuals and even against the media.
This year not even half a dozen public rallies have taken place. No one is looking to move the voters with slogans or advertisements.
This despite the fact that we have seen voting in the regional and local elections dwindling remarkably since 1992.
In 1992, when the first regional elections were held, the voter turnout was 81 per cent, but this decreased to just 40 per cent six years later in 1998 and 55 per cent in 2004.
Similarly the local authority elections attracted 82 per cent of voters in 1992 but the number dropped to an all-time low of 34 per cent in 1998. In 2004 it was at 44 per cent.
This can be compared to a more gradual drop from 97 per cent in 1989, to 76 per cent in 1994 and 61 per cent in 1999, for the National Assembly elections.
The drop in voter turnout was due in part to the failure of political parties to mobilise their supporters, but also voter dissatisfaction as well as confusion over registration cards and the constituencies in which people should vote.
At the current rate there is no evidence that even a 35 per cent voter turnout will happen on November 26 and 27.
In 2004 there was a pending court case, in which five opposition parties challenged the results, when voters had to go back to the polling stations for the local and regional elections. Again this time around, opposition parties have mounted a court challenge to contest the results of last year’s elections.
While it might be too early to diagnose the impact of the pending case on the November election, there are some voters who have already questioned the need to go back to the polls when they are still waiting the ‘final’ outcome of the previous election.
And who else is best qualified to encourage their supporters to vote, if it is not the political parties? Yet, some of the parties have gone into hibernation.
Gone are the ‘new media’ and other technologies used last year to canvass for votes. The websites of some of the parties were last updated in 2009!
All parties need to wake up, dust off their campaign material and get to the voters with bags full of promises, if they are to prevent major voter apathy.
And time is not on their side.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

RDP/RP Merger: A Marriage Of Convenience And Survival

IN the Damara and Nama cultures marriage is a family affair. You can be rich as a bridegroom-to-be but will never be allowed to organise and marry alone. In fact, whoever wants to marry a Damara or Nama woman is likely to be sent home to get his ‘parents’.

Family must have a say, no matter how poor or insignificant they might appear.
Towards the end of negotiations for a bride, the family of the bride-to-be are likely to ask for a ‘apa gomas’. Others refer to it as lobola. With Damaras and Namas, it is a cow which will be handed over to the mother or guardian of the wife-to-be and the idea is to keep it in the family kraal as the ‘seed’ for the couple’s new life as (part-time) farmers. Their children will one day live off it, the elders will say.
The recent political merger between the Rally for Democracy and Progress and the Republican Party represents a similar marriage.
As the Republican Party was formed in October 1977 when Dirk Mudge left the National Party, it is no longer a young bride. It has one divorce behind it after leaving (in 2003) a disastrous marriage – the DTA alliance.
That’s when Henk Mudge, son of founder Dirk Mudge, was entrusted to reactivate the party and target the lost white vote.
For me, the idea was to continue the Mudge political dynasty and it succeeded to an extent when the RP won seats in seven local authorities councils and one for Henk Mudge in the 2004 National Assembly elections.
Mudge made no secret that he was targeting the white vote, claiming that they were being “seriously discriminated against” but the pipe-smoking politician also targeted a section of Damaras through several pentecostal churches as well as people in and around Katima Mulilo.
Therefore, while progress was made in expanding the support base of the party in especially Khomas, Caprivi and Erongo regions in 2004, the scale was still decidedly almost non-existent, especially in the North where the biggest number of voters reside.
Their total number of votes in the 2004 National Assembly elections were 16 187 but because the Namibian democracy is unfortunately littered with a series of party infightings (which have resulted in some failed projects), the RP failed to overcome ego politics and become a strong opposition.
The results were very evident last year when the party collected only 6 541 votes throughout the country.
While they were able to get one seat in Katima in 2004, the RP only managed to collect 79 votes in November last year.
At Keetmans, where they also have a local councillor, only 293 people cast their votes for the party while their support in Khomas went down from 5 040 in 2004 to 1 812 last year.
It became clear that the RP membership was dwindling and that the party, if it continued on its own, would struggle to stay afloat.
The Mudges had to look towards Hidipo Hamutenya, with whom they had serious past animosities.
Interestingly, Mudge’s RP was the first political party which, when Hamutenya resigned from Swapo in 2007, issued a statement to welcome his decision. Maybe then already Henk Mudge had a vision and saw Hamutenya as a potential comrade.
There is no doubt that it is a marriage of survival for the Mudge family and one of convenience for Hamutenya.
As RP has been dwindling over the past couple of years, there is not much in it for RDP.
Yet, they seem to have paid the ‘apa gomas’ (lobola) as Henk Mudge first needed to consult and get the blessing of his parents before walking up the aisle.
In fact, last year’s election results indicated that the RDP benefitted big time from the support base of the likes of RP and the Congress of Democrats.
The majority of supporters whom Mudge claim to join RDP with, are already there! They saw the ship sinking and jumped some time ago.
Therefore, it will be interesting to see how the RDP will cope with demands by a few RP leaders and how long it will be before Hamutenya is served with divorce papers by the Mudges.
So at the end the merger is really much (read Mudge) ado about nothing.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Wholesale Changes – In Public Interest?

I HAVE a feeling that I am not the only one surprised by the wholesale changes that we have witnessed on the Swapo Party candidacy lists for the upcoming local authority elections.

Having called for fresh or new blood earlier, I still insist that change is a good thing since it injects new ideas.

However, change not managed properly can be dangerous.

There is a saying that “if you don’t master change, change will master you”.

In this case, Swapo members at grassroots level decided to master change. In so doing, there is a risk of throwing out all experience and reinventing things rather than combining the two.

Clearly Swapo members at local level could not wait for the primaries to make their voices heard, electing candidates they feel will best serve them at that level.

That’s democracy for you. People elect their candidates, whether they are right or wrong. The people have spoken!

For this intervention, I am concentrating only on the local authority elections.

While the Swapo voters wanted change, experience as well as institutional memory was shown the door.

Take, for instance, places like Swakopmund (or ‘Swapomund’ as they call it in Swapo) and Usakos where only one of the current councillors from Swapo are likely to return if elected on November 26 and 27.

At Oshakati, five of the six Swapo candidates will be new as people like the Mayor Katrina Shimbulu and Deputy Mayor Skinny Hilundwa did not make the cut while at Ondangwa, only two of the current councillors stand a chance to return after the local authority election.

That’s a drastic change when you need experience to improve the status of local authorities.

Of course, the question remains whether those who were not nominated for candidacy had in fact contributed positively during their term of office. Some believe they were left out because of party inner squabbles and divisions which are bound to happen prior and during primaries.

Politics, especially in Swapo, is of such kind that during party elections your enemy’s enemy becomes your friend. As a result even people who would normally not be the right candidates for certain positions will sneak in by conspiring with a leading group to oust another obvious candidate of choice.

What one sees with the latest primaries is that even councillors who only entered the fray five years ago have been chopped, just as their feet were about to find ground.

I see the new ones trying to reinvent the wheel.

Of course, some councillors are regarded as having overstayed their welcome.

Windhoek Mayor Matheus Shikongo and long-time chairperson of the management committee Bjorn von Finckenstein are both out.

Some believe it will leave a big vacuum but I believe they had time to groom others to take over from them.

The question is whether they’re out because it was time for change or because they became casualties in a scrum of external players? We know that there were previous attempts to oust them and that they were accused of not attending party public gatherings.

That shouldn’t be the criteria.

Ideally we should have councillors in the mould of those you come across when visiting countries like China. Listening to the mayor you not only get the impression that the person knows what’s going on in the city but you can easily assume them to be senior leaders in that country because of the way they say and do things. They know their stuff.

It is thus important that those who come in will understand their roles.

At some smaller councils, there has been too much interference in management by councillors who are supposed to govern and not run the institutions.

Above everything else, my hope is that the candidates have no attitude of careerism and thus do not only see the councils as a stepping stone to a political career.

Rather they need to see themselves as people ready to serve others for the betterment of living conditions and more efficient service delivery.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Governors can do with a bit of more truth

COME on, Swapo governors. It won’t do you any harm to tell the truth. These past two weeks have seen intensifying media reports on the upcoming local and regional council elections.

As a result some of the regional governors who are no longer standing on Swapo tickets have been quoted as stating that they are going into full-time farming, becoming full-time housewives, or going to concentrate on other personal issues.
As far as I can recall only one was on record as stating that he was ready to serve the party and the people in a different capacity. That ‘capacity’ was surely referring to the imminent appointment by President Hifikepunye Pohamba as regional governor with new and more powers.
I don’t understand why politicians find it difficult to tell the truth, even if it won’t hurt them. Especially those who hold responsible positions!
Why should dishonesty take the front seat when it comes to politicians?
In some countries, specifically in Europe, politicians have resigned after they were caught lying.
On the African continent our ‘elected liars’ regard it as some sort of sport or art to remain in office.
That is why there is a tale about an accident in which a plane, carrying politicians, crashed near a village. When the survivors reportedly approached the villagers for help their answer was a resounding “no”.
When a journalist asked the villagers why they ignored the fate of the politicians, one answered: “You never know when they tell the truth”.
There are of course professions where some regard it quite acceptable to lie.
Lawyers would fit in that category as they habitually substitute a ‘guilty’ plea with ‘not guilty’ when they defend rapists, murderers and other clients and use their talent of lying to generate income for their next splashy trip to Mauritius or some obscure place with a beach and lots of expensive drinks.
With reports going around – and to an extent confirmed by the Permanent Secretary of Local Government – that most of the governors will be appointed in a capacity equal to that of former regional commissioners, transparency should be paramount.
People who are about to be appointed in such capacities need to be trusted because their new duties require transparency.
When they continue with political lies which some used for gimmicking throughout their terms as governors, that is unacceptable.
Pathological liars have no place in regional leadership, especially since they will carry much of the dreams and hopes of the people through decentralisation of responsibilities.
What we need are people with gazillions of ideas to uplift the living standards of so many depressed rural populations.
Since Independence, most of our regional economies have struggled. The best among them only sputtered.
That is why anyone steering the regional ship will be more than a bootlicker or a ‘progressive’ pygmy who don’t think big and act as such.
Because of the many hurdles facing our regions, it will be suicidal to appoint people who just seek fame and fortune like bees seek honey. In other words people with the sole aim of staying in the limelight.
My understanding is that the commissioners/governors will have a skeleton staff of highly technically skilled people (some at the level of a Permanent Secretary) to assist them in their work.
Such skilled personnel will be expected to operate in tandem with already existing regional staff – something that needs very clear guidelines to avoid office conflicts.
While the idea behind the appointment of commissioners is a good one, former governors will be expected to work hard while keeping a low profile – something which might be a bit of a problem for those who have become self-styled demigods of regions.
Their new duties will be true to the fact that leadership can’t be faked for long. And they shouldn’t transform those offices into retirement villages.
Maybe, while we are at it, since the President seems to show increased powers, he should think of ‘real experts’ when appointments are made for the skeleton staff instead of using political affiliation as the main benchmark.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The rise of uxoricides

FIVE years ago, Judge Kato van Niekerk imposed a 20-year sentence on Rehoboth resident Prollius van Zyl for killing his wife after a heavy drinking spree. For outsiders the marriage appeared happy but was marked by several incidents of violence even though Van Zyl told the court repeatedly that he loved his wife and had been intent on saving his marriage.

During the hearing it was clear that Van Zyl was a devoted and loving father, and a husband who liked helping his wife with household duties such as cooking – but when he drank, a hidden capacity for violence tended to come to the fore. Ultimately it resulted in a bloody end to the marriage.
Over the past couple of months, we have witnessed a disturbing trend of a sudden increase in similar uxoricides – men killing their wives.
There is also what others refer to as familicide – a multiple-victim homicide in which the killer’s spouse and one or more children are slain.
Such violent acts are almost exclusively perpetrated by men.
In most cases people believe they are an unintended result of violence that went too far, but spouse murder cannot be and should not be understood as loss of control or a moment of insanity.
I believe most of the cases are deliberate and have been thought about over time.
Many such culprits have reached a stage of readiness to destroy another even if it means destroying themselves.
But before I go that route, there are also those men who believe that their victims could not persist or cope in his absence and regard their deaths as ‘necessary’ or perhaps even ‘merciful’.
In both cases, though, it seems that the killers have some sort of feeling of entitlement to decide on the victim’s fate.
The many cases I’ve referred to are almost entirely linked to violent interpersonal conflicts between a couple – whether married or not – and shootings constitute a substantial proportion.
These men display a hostile masculine proprietary mindset – in other words they think they own their spouses.
In some instances they profess a grievance against the wife and this is usually about alleged infidelities or her intentions to terminate their relationship.
In a recent instance a man travelled all the way to the North from Walvis Bay to kill the woman who had fled from him.
According to neighbours and friends, it was the second time she had run away from him.
This made me think that some of the murders could be a substitute for either divorce or separation.
When one speaks to some of the relatives and friends afterwards, they recount how the boyfriend or husband had threatened: “I’ll kill you and the kids if you ever leave me”. In other words, they can’t picture her with anyone else.
They are using murder as a way to end a rocky and unhappy relationship or one in which the partner opted out. This leave others shocked and in a state of disbelief.
But most the culprits are prone to fits of rage prior to the incidents and have a history of violence, while there are also traces of being obsessed with controlling the partner.
These are men who will have a knife at her throat one minute, and the next minute will be kissing the ground on which she walks while pleading for forgiveness.
Clearly, based on the sudden increase in the number of uxoricides over the past couple of years, there is a need to ask why: What is wrong in our society? What can we do to curb it?
If we turn a blind eye to what is happening around us, we are likely to see more of the killings.
There is a need for parents to sensitise their children (especially boys), society to help educate young men and Government and other institutions such as the Churches to step up their campaigns against violence.
We should not only embark on demonstrations but, among others, educate men that life does not end when relationships are broken, or help them to accept that they do not own their spouses or their destinies.
I believe even politicians, some of whom many worship, can get more involved by utilising their platforms to talk about these issues, instead of ranting at colonialists, imperialists and other -list(er)s!

Monday, September 13, 2010

NUNW Congress: Issues Triumphed Over Personality

FOR the first time in many years, Namibian workers have spoken not only loudly but also demonstrated that they can take their destiny in own hands. Worker issues triumphed over personality at last weekend’s National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) congress.

While many thought that history would repeating itself and that the Secretary General of the NUNW Evilastus Kaaronda was about to be kicked off the podium at the congress, as they did with Peter Naholo five years ago, the workers’ voice kicked in and the planned hostile takeover by a group which has been flexing its muscle at both industrial union and at federation level failed.
Naholo was sacked after he dared to differ in public with a group aligned to former President Sam Nujoma. That group included the likes of former NUNW president Alpheus Muheua and Peter Nevonga of the Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu). Interestingly Kaaronda was also in that camp and assumed the mantle after Naholo left.
Naholo took issue with Muheua and his group after they backed Nujoma’s account of the events of April 1 1989 and was shown the door. Shortly thereafter Naholo resigned from Swapo and joined the Rally for Democracy and Progress.
His resignation was further proof that rifts in the NUNW often reflect power struggles in the ruling party.
That is because the NUNW, Namibia’s largest umbrella group of unions, is not only affiliated to Swapo but also has voting rights at ruling party congresses.
Because of that, since Independence, workers’ issues have not always received top priority at the NUNW congresses, but were overshadowed by Swapo political intrigues.
Delegates mainly arrived at congresses ready to fight over leadership of the umbrella body knowing that the group which takes over the engine room will automatically ensure 15 votes for a particular clique in the ruling party.
That was also one of the main reasons why so many ‘men in dark glasses’ (intelligence) were present at the congress. They were there to maneouvre things to ensure a victory for the candidate of someone’s choice.
But, having campaigned in the region, prior to the congress, the group underestimated the power of the working class and believed that they could bulldoze their candidates through.
However, it was not to be this time around.
First, there was a clear division among those who were previously united. The outcome of the voting showed that there was no block voting by industrial unions.
In the past, Kaaronda would have been an ideal candidate for Nevonga and the congress would have been a formality.
Over the last weekend, it was a matter of dog eat dog as former allies spent hours campaigning against each other. Nevonga was backing a different horse and Kaaronda had to rely on the support of the workers. He played his cards well. Or, rather, he articulated workers’ concerns well.
Having picked up on the vibes well in advance, Kaaronda spoke openly about issues that concerned workers like the Basic Income Grant, Government Institutions Pension Fund, Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) vs Transformation of Economic and Social Empowerment Framework (TESEF), high unemployment rate and the Chinese investors, among others.
Tired of being used and abused, workers responded positively.
They had enough because, over the past five years, Ramatex closed down and it resulted in a loss of around 4 000 jobs while some unionists in cahoots with the new predatory elite syphoned workers money at institutions such as GIPF for own gain.
Even the central executive committee, which decided to pull out of BIG to please President Hifikepunye Pohamba, was given a vote of no confidence after the congress directed the NUNW secretariat to rejoin the poverty alleviation initiative.
Workers feel unemployment every day. It is their sons, daughters, wives, husbands and relatives who remain jobless and must live off their meagre salaries.
They were no longer the complacent, disempowered and unorganised crowd which would normally be coerced into and be limited to slogan-shouting but they pressed for debates and decisions on policies that will benefit the working class. If a similar trend prevailed with industrial union congresses as happened at last weekend’s watershed congress of the NUNW, this will only benefit the workers. A similar attitude at the congresses of affiliate unions can surely only benefit the workers.
In the meantime, Kaaronda and others who were voted into office must take their mandate seriously and use the next five years to the benefit of workers.
For starters, they need to relook at companies in which workers have shares and how they benefit the members. For too long only an elite group have benefitted from such companies while workers do not even have a special fund to rely on when they lose jobs.

* This column also appeared in The Namibian.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Of national days, ‘comrades’ and ‘traitors’

I MISSED last week’s Heroes Day celebrations. No, to put it more bluntly, I deliberately avoided attending any events and I don’t feel guilty or unpatriotic.

Swapo has hijacked national days and they have become platforms for the party’s rhetoric.

More disturbing is the fact that some of those who address such gatherings regard themselves more as ‘heroes’ than many of those whose contributions remain unacknowledged by the powers-that-be and who have thus become ‘nobodies’.

According to Tuesday’s New Era, David Namwandi, new Deputy Minister of Education had the following to say at the Omaruru Heroes’ Day commemoration:

“Comrades don’t be confused by some politicians who don’t have (a) long-term vision, let alone strategies to rule this country. Swapo and Swapo alone can claim to be the authentic representative of the people of this country, because it has liberated this country from the yoke of colonialism, that is a fact.”

First, if it was a day for comrades, why make it a public holiday? Why not call it a ‘Swapo day’ and let others, including businesses which could otherwise have remained open to make money, continue with their daily operations. As it was last week, any business which operated on that day had to pay their staff overtime because it was a public holiday.

Others, which opted to close for the day, obviously lost out on some business.

Yet we see a national leader addressing the gathering with words such as ‘comrades’. I thought Namwandi, being a founder of a university, would know better.

He was obviously addressing a Swapo gathering and not people who attended a national day to remember why they no longer have Casspirs parked on the fringes of their rallies and can move freely within the country as opposed to being beaten up if found in the centre of a town after sunset.

Of course, many who attended the event were Swapo sympathisers and members. They have come to accept that such days are actually ‘Swapo days’.

That is why their leaders arrive fully clad in party colours and greet them with the ‘mannetjie sign’ as they emerge from Government-owned vehicles.

The NBC TV had similar visuals on the Tuesday evening bulletin with a Heroes’ Day event addressed by NUNW acting president David Namalenga, who was telling people to vote Swapo in the upcoming elections.

Again, I wondered whether it was Heroes’ Day event or a Swapo day.

My contribution to Namibia’s Independence was very insignificant. At one stage I was dismissed from a school for refusing instructions and attending student political meetings until the early hours of the morning when I was supposed to be in hostel learning or sleeping. That’s my only claim to fame which, obviously, is not really worth mentioning.

But I am aware of many stalwarts inside Namibia who opposed the abominable system of apartheid by leading us as students to class boycotts; teachers who refused to feed us with Bantu education; parents who lost their children when they abandoned school and went into exile without returning; those whose houses were, night in and night out, raided by the apartheid forces apparently looking for ‘terrorists’; those who sacrificed their lives by harbouring and feeding known political activists; girls who were brutally raped by both sides in the struggle; and many who criss-crossed Namibia in the late evenings to hold clandestine meetings to mobilise people.

Many others were detained for turning their church sermons into political speeches while others, like The Namibian , were petrol-bombed and their staff often harassed and arrested.

Today, many of those nameless and ordinary people are regarded as unpatriotic, puppets and traitors just because they question certain things and opted to stick by their principles instead of being dragged into name-calling or mudslinging or refused to become lapdogs, like The Namibian.

Yet there is a group of people who have decided among themselves whose contribution was worthier than others in opposing apartheid rule. They are ably assisted by some who conveniently weren’t part of the struggle in the past but now know more than many who were actually involved.

Not only are their vehicles plastered with Swapo colours but they have the audacity to downplay the role others played.

In most instances, they use platforms at national days to create the impression that they are more heroic than others.

Whenever they have nothing to say or lack something of substance, they jump on the bandwagon many of us have grown tired to.

I wonder whether they are not intellectually bankrupt!

Those are the people who keep some of us away from national days.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Time To Incorporate The Youth Is Now!

youthIN the next few months political party leaders will have the daunting task of finalising their lists of candidates for the upcoming local and regional authority elections.

Sections, branches and districts have started submitting names of their preferred candidates and some wannabes are also pushing their luck by forcing themselves on people through different manoeuvres such as smear campaigns against opponents as well as holding party meetings clandestinely with selected supporters to rubber-stamp their candidacy.
The time will also be an ideal opportunity to not only reflect on the achievements of the candidates at local and regional level but also afford members a chance to deliberate and consider how to blend in youth, more especially young women, into mainstream politics.
The retirement of former Deputy Prime Minister Dr Libertina Amathila earlier this year after 20 years in Government and many years of hard work at party level was coming for some time and was thus no surprise to all when it happened. She was, however, the first of a generation that is on its way out and needs to be replaced with those of impeccable quality.
Amathila was a sober-minded, stable and committed stalwart and Swapo, as well as opposition political parties who intend to rule Namibia one day, need to groom such cadres as they did yesterday.
I am referring to people who will not struggle to adapt to the challenges facing our communities at local and regional level and who will be able to mix leadership with management.
We have had enough of young supposed firebrands who offer nothing other than party slogans but lack direction and maturity.
And with youth I mean those up to the age of 35. I choose that age limit reluctantly because the national youth policy has it that way. But then we also know whose brainchild it was and that Swapo also have it so in their constitution!
Somehow I have noticed a gradual alienation of young women in Namibia’s political landscape and when parties refer to the youth, they mostly tend to pinpoint to the wannabe young lions they have churned out.
I am no proponent of women empowerment if it is purely based on the number rather than the quality. But we definitely need to reflect on sexual politics.
My input, however, is more for young people generally against the background of the dearth of new blood as seen in last year’s national elections.
I believe that the next five years will be crucial for blending in the youth into mainstream politics.
It is a fact that the younger they are the less they will struggle to adapt to challenges.
Of course, they will lack authority at the beginning but they can use the time to build on their experience. Thus the trial and error won’t be as public as that of known national leaders whose mistakes can be seen by all and who regularly come under the microscope due to their public office.
After five years such young leaders will be able to lead with authority and provide energy, vision and influence. This should be done through noncoercive means and not like the current pushing and pulling of the people.
Again, I do not mean that elders lack energy and vision. Some do, but not all!
I believe we have youth who, with time on their side, will be able to mobilise people to face problems. Youth who will challenge and help the communities.
Just last week the Government announced that it had downgraded some local authorities.
It is no secret that some of the downgraded ones had been struggling for years and marked with such things as corruption and mismanagement. Others, of which Keetmanshoop is the most appropriate example, spent more time on infighting (physical and verbal). They mislead instead of lead!
Such leaders have had their time and need to be replaced by those who can direct disciplined attention to issues and bring back a sense of hope among the communities.
Of course, not all youth are disciplined and have leadership characters. Just look at the ‘struggle kids’, for instance, who should have done better because of the input their parents had in the country’s liberation as well as some corrupt young managers at known institutions.
But there are gems out there ready to be unearthed and released.
They are in regions – some doing voluntary work, quietly sweating with fire in their bellies – and ready to explode their talents if given the chance.
While such youth will be active, seniors will be able to have time to reflect and guide them into a new era. As such the youth won’t need to reinvent things and will also be able to avoid falling in the same traps.
We cannot afford to just see the Libertina Amathilas of this world quietly remove themselves into the obscurity of their farms while our youth dwell in the unknown without guidance. Let’s blend in the youth, even if it is one or two on parties’ local authority lists of five.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Police’s Protest Ban Designed To Stifle Rights

MY sincere apologies to the oppressed people of Swaziland and thousands of others from countries such as Zimbabwe who came to Namibia with the hope of getting their voices heard through a peaceful demonstration.

I am embarrassed, but at the same time also saddened, by the decision taken by our Police to ban demonstrations where you had planned to air your legitimate concerns about human rights violations by mainly securocrats back home.
I know that SADC meetings are not just about human rights issues in Zimbabwe and Swaziland. Our leaders spent hours discussing pertinent concerns such as electricity for the region, food security, regional integration, job creation and a new customs union. Some other issues were on the table.
While I appreciate the discussions as well as the time spent on preparing the summit, I was very depressed by the extent to which our Police went to silence the voice of the masses.
The Minister of Safety knows, as do the rest of the Cabinet and top Police officers, that the ban on demonstrations announced very late last week was a calculated move aimed at stifling the voices of the masses and had almost zilch to do with the availability of the officers to ensure the safety of the demonstrators.
I use the term ‘calculated’ because the ban was issued very late on Thursday and hardly gave any challenger time to approach the courts before this week.
Secondly, the Police knew very well that they had no powers to ban a demonstration for the reasons they gave.
In fact, in 1997, following several anti-Government demonstrations, former President Sam Nujoma announced a ban on all demonstrations not authorised by the Police but there was a legal challenge which nullified the decision. One of them was against a planned demonstration by the Himba people who were opposing the construction of the Epupa dam.
The Namibian Police probably took a leaf out of the books of their counterparts in South Africa last year when the Tshwane Metro police refused to give Zimbabwean opposition Movement for Democratic Change a go-ahead to stage a demonstration on the sidelines of the SADC emergency summit on Zimbabwe in Pretoria.
There were reports that the Namibian ban was mainly instigated by the fact that the demonstrations were initiated by the opposition Rally for Democracy and Progress who wanted to apparently embarrass the Government.
Whether the demonstration was instigated by RDP, MDC, any other political party, or was just a move by furious masses yearning for change, is not the issue for me.
What the Police did was to disrespect the same laws they are trying to enforce on people!
They knew very well from previous experience that the courts would declare their action invalid but they went ahead to declare a ban on demonstrations. They knew that, if anybody wanted to challenge their decision, they would have to approach the courts and that there was a likelihood that such a hearing would only take place a day or two after the summit.
While many would probably find the Police action clever in this respect, it brought to the fore a vexatious disrespect for the laws by people who are entrusted to enforce them.
Police chief General Sebastian Ndeitunga argued, through his lawyer Gerson Hinda, that the move was just a “limitation” and not a ban.
For me the approach was as an ostrich-head-in-the-sand one which, in similar instances over the years, gave more power to thuggish rulers to continue oppressing people.
For instance, someone who rules Africa’s last absolute monarchy as his own personal fiefdom got protection and was thus left with an arrogant impression that the rest of SADC agrees with the spate of human rights abuses occurring in Swaziland.
These are the same people who are dragging the reputation and image of SADC down.
SADC Inc.’s success depends on tackling, among others, human rights issues, instead of unholy alliances with one another, and the actions of our Police did not help much in this regard.

Monday, August 16, 2010

SADC doesn’t get it about people’s rights

THIS week Police in Swaziland arrested a man for making photocopies of an article in a South African newspaper that detailed a royal sex scandal which had shaken the small kingdom.

A plainclothes police officer overheard the man requesting photocopies of an article about an alleged love affair between the country’s justice minister and one of King Mswati III’s wives and charged him for copyright violation.
Subsequently the police raided the home of the man to find the original article.
In Swaziland the king remains the law, and political organisations have been outlawed since 1973.
Last week South African ace investigative reporter Mzilikazi wa Africa of Sunday Times was arrested for possession of what police said was a fraudulent letter of resignation from Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza to President Jacob Zuma.
That was three days after he broke a story about the rental of new police headquarters at a cost of N$500 million without following the usual tender procedures.
These are but two incidents which show the disrespect governments in southern Africa have towards the freedom of expression of their people.
Back home in Namibia, spying on others has reached peak fever in recent months.
This after Parliament passed the Information and Communications Bill last year.
The Minister of Information described the bill, which became an Act, as "progressive and popular in the eyes of many people" and even said Namibia had been commended internationally.
According to him the Act will have many benefits – chief among them the safety and security of the country and the protection of its citizens.
The Minister also told the Swapo party newspaper, Namibia Today, that "the requirement for a warrant to conduct interception is an absolute necessity based on the law that gives the right to intercept".
In short, any interception of information was to go through the court.
That, however, has not been the case in the past few months.
Many people I have spoken to have been tapped and they, like me, do not believe that there have been any warrant issued by a court.
What concerns me most is that the interception of information has picked up after discussions around the succession debate in the ruling party intensified.
This while the proponents of the bill argued that the main intention behind the interception was to curtail cyber-crime and terrorism. Critics always disputed this.
Various Swapo leaders have ‘spies’ in the country’s intelligence service and such people work around the clock to monitor the activities of others and feed them with information.
It has reached a stage where so-called comrades do not trust each other, cannot say certain things over telephones or on cellphones, and have ‘invented’ vocabulary to avoid the intelligence picking up on their discussions through ‘key’ words.
How such interceptions benefit the country, I have yet to comprehend.
What worries me most is that there seems to be no watchdog for those who watch others (or listen to the conversations of others) and information they pick up generally spreads like a veld fire among a smaller clique of friends but also reach those who were not supposed to be privy!
I have heard of an incident where one person sent an e-mail to another but it was intercepted and shared with the subject of discussion. The subject of discussion promptly replied to the sender and left the comrade in a state of shock.
Worst of all, the person did not hide the fact about the source of the leaked information and informed the comrade that he/she had ‘boys’ in intelligence!
All the above cases are a direct result of laws enacted by SADC governments under the pretext of peace, safety and security.
There can be no reference to democracy in the same breath as safety and security, or so we have learnt through experiences of citizens and journalists in the region.
And it all started with a symptomatic silence on who ought to challenge such behaviour by our governments.
When challenged by civil society and the media, the majority of the governments resort to the tired old clichés of declaring those who criticise such moves as unpatriotic while they continue to bully them.
I hope that as the leaders reflect on 30 years of SADC’s existence, some sanity will prevail and there will be time to ponder about the disrespect some of the member countries have shown towards protocols and declarations they are signatory to such as the one on culture, information and sport which, among others, commit them to the free flow of information and the freedom and independence of the media.
Sidestepping this will once again give others a licence to continue acting at will.

* This column first appeared in The Namibian

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Dealing With The Symptoms Rather Than The Causes

ON February 9 1990 an open-air ceremony was held on the steps of the then colonial Tintenpalast administration building where all 72 members of the Constituent Assembly, led by its chairman, Hage Geingob, agreed on a new Constitution for Africa’s last colony.

“Now, therefore, we the people of Namibia accept and adopt this Constitution as the fundamental law of our sovereign and independent Republic,” Geingob said during that ceremony.

The next month, on March 21, the country’s first President, Sam Nujoma, said in his inaugural speech that Namibians will be “the masters of this vast land of our ancestors. The destiny of this country is now fully in our own hands”.

For the past 20 years we were, thus, supposed to be masters of our own destiny.

The “sick society” that some have referred to over the past two weeks following the barbaric killing of schoolgirl Magdalena Stoffels thus made me wonder where things have gone wrong and why we seem to have lost the moral fibre to the extent that we are constantly faced images of almost unsurpassed gore.

Is it a case of violence being used by men to achieve a certain purpose? And how effectively can we respond to such violence?

I am not qualified enough to come up with solutions to the questions I have just posed.

However, I am ‘dead’ certain that calls for the death penalty are misdirected, even though we are hurt by the atrocities committed against our daughters, mothers and sisters.

We need something more radical than the death penalty, life imprisonment or an effective justice system. Somehow we must recover the values of life as a nation.

There is an age-old African proverb that says “it takes a village to raise a child”. That is, among others, what I am alluding to. It strikes at the heart of what we are experiencing today.

My issue today, however, is about the calls for the return of the death penalty and the cries by some of the angry mob who pleaded with the Police to hand over the suspect in the Stoffels case so that they could avenge her death by killing him in return.

Similar calls were made in February 2005 when two girls, Rachel Hamatundu (6) and Manuela Sofia Hoesemas (4) were raped and brutally murdered in Swakopmund and Windhoek within a space of a week.

The reaction included calls for the death penalty; cries that we have lost morals; are a hypocritical society which accommodates and protects criminals; and calls for a commission of inquiry into rape, murder and domestic violence.

Looking back on those two cases now, it appears that our response towards violence remains more muscle than power. Our blood reaches boiling point for a couple of days but then we revert to the same devil-may-care attitude with which we had tackled many other crucially important issues.

The only time we hear such concerns is when those who make careers and money out of citizens’ problems, air them once again! And I found it sickening to notice this week how some supposedly ‘concerned’ people tried to cash in through publicity stunts with the death of late Magdalena.

Some people wearing political parties’ colours at a clean-up operation, others distributing company T-shirts to promote themselves while some organised/attended a clean-up in a riverbed which had already been cleaned simply to get publicity.

One news report even said the young girl would be buried in a T-shirt of a certain entertainment group!

But back to the death penalty, which is a big ‘no’ for Namibia because for it to happen we must completely throw away the Constitution – our fundamental law as Geingob referred to it 20 years ago.

Chapter three of Namibia’s Constitution explicitly outlaws capital punishment as it states that that part of the fundamental human rights and freedoms cannot be amended.

Article 6 in that chapter states that the right to life shall be respected and protected – that is irrespective of whether we are dealing with a rapist or a murderer.

“No law may prescribe death as a competent sentence. No court or tribunal shall have the power to impose a sentence of death upon any person. No executions shall take place in Namibia,” the article states.

Thus for the death penalty to return, we must first completely get rid of our Constitution – something which is certainly not desirable or advisable right now.

Also, Namibia has signed several international treaties which enshrine the right to life and thus we are obligated to honour them.

Studies elsewhere have not been able to show that the death penalty can deter or reduce crime rates.

What it has shown is that the death penalty can lead to state-sponsored killing of innocent people. In countries like the United States, individuals who were on death row were released following an appeal which showed their innocence.

All I am saying is that (a) individuals are innocent until proven guilty and thus cannot be handed over for mob justice and (b) the death penalty is basically a cop-out from dealing with the root problems facing our society.

In fact, Members of Parliament in the National Council should be among those on the forefront, not only to protect the Namibian Constitution, but also help tackle the social decay which contributes to the senseless violence and the horrific killings.

I am as horrified by Magdalena’s untimely death as I was by the deaths of Rachel and Manuela, but killing the perpetrators, who by the way are our own sons and come from our midst, instead of dealing with the underlying social causes which result in these atrocities, is not the solution.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

About The South Africanisation of Namibian industries

I WAS glad when the central bank blocked the sale of a controlling stake in Namibian financial services firm, Capricorn Investment Holdings, to Absa.

Capricorn Investment Holdings has a 72 percent shareholding in Bank Windhoek and the deal would have resulted in Bank Windhoek losing its status as the only wholly Namibian-owned bank.
Absa is majority-owned by Britain’s Barclays.
The same group of people sold their 34,4 per cent stake in Bank Windhoek to CIH four years ago.
So why would they now suddenly want to buy back not only their shares but aim for a majority stake? It clearly shows that something good is happening at Bank Windhoek. Also Absa wants an easy entrance back into the Namibian economy.
Bank of Namibia Governor Ipumbu Shiimi said the merger, if approved, would have pushed foreign shareholding in the local banking sector up from 65 per cent to nearly 80 per cent.
But not only that. He also spoke about a “single-country risk”, meaning that we tend to rely too much on the South African (SA) economy.
Of course there would have been some benefits to clients like getting access to certain credit cards but these would have been minimal in the long run.
Absa’s attempt to take over Bank Windhoek is but one example of how Namibia’s economy continues to be run from Pretoria, 20 years after the country’s Independence.
There are three other commercial banks: Standard Bank, First National Bank and Nedbank in Namibia, and all three are basically run from there.
They have to report to SA, almost on a daily basis, on how much they have made, the products they have sold and also get approval from head office on many aspects of their operations.
Their systems are run from SA and they pay millions in so-called ‘management fees’ to their bosses on the other side of the Orange River.
Above all, some of these banks pay no less than N$50 million to SA at the end of each financial year.
That is very disempowering to their staff, many of whom who spend hours in front of ageing computers.
I have seen some staff helplessly trying to explain certain things to frustrated clients. That because Namibia is just too small and their bosses in SA do not take their clients across the border seriously.
Apart from the banks, another example is the mushrooming of SA retail chains in Namibia.
The majority of them, in large shopping malls, are SA-based and Namibians hardly have a chance to enter certain retail markets.
I am neither xenophobic, nor anti-SA.
I just feel that we need to go the extra mile as a country, not only to take ownership of our economy but also to rid ourselves of SA’s paternalistic ruling.
It is interesting to note that when the Absa deal was rejected by the central bank some people in the industry were shocked because they believed that Namibian banks “need a big brother”.
As a consumer and a Namibian, I have had enough of a ‘big brother’ who does not care about me but is only interested in taking my money.
Maybe it is time for Namibian businessmen and women to step up to the challenge of Namibianising the economy instead of getting rid of their shares at Bank Windhoek and others just for the sake of a quick buck.
Surely, if Edgars, Pick ‘n Pay or any other SA retailer pack up, somebody must be there to supply to the market.

* This column first appeared in The Namibian

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Dreams of Rundu’s Unsung Hero

NEARLY nine years ago, I met one of the unsung heroes of Namibia – a courageous woman who stood up to discrimination against HIV-positive people and lived a dream of seeing a cure against the disease.

The Wednesday before I met Roswitha Ndumba of Rundu in person on a Saturday, I spoke to her over the telephone. She was down with a bout of flu and told me that she was just hoping to live to see that Saturday.
She wanted to tell her story to the world and she had many (roughly 130) others, led by her, who wanted to do the same.
Roswitha did not only live to see that Saturday, but saw around 3 200 days and nights (nine years) before she lost the battle against the virus this year.
During those nine years, she learned to survive and later started building bridges of hope.
When Roswitha first told her story publicly, another icon in the fight against HIV, Emma Tuahepa-Kamapoha, had her arms around her in Rundu’s St Mary’s Parish Church. Many others were by her side, like the Minister of Health Richard Kamwi and prominent campaigner and people’s favourite, Lucy Steinitz.
They came out under the banner of Lironga Eparu – an organisation established by people living positively with HIV-AIDS. Lironga Eparu means ‘learn to survive’.
Indeed Roswitha learned to survive.
When I visited her home the first time, the former principal of a primary school had lost all her belongings and was living with a sister.
In fact, the then 40-year-old campaigner only had a bed in her room and used empty boxes in which to keep her remaining clothes.
She lost her soldier husband two years earlier due to an AIDS-related illness. She had walked out of their home when he brought a second wife under the same roof.
Soon thereafter she became sick and lived with her mother in the village but her brother collected her, had her tested and the four siblings were given N$1 000 each month to buy her drugs.
Roswitha soldiered on and many who saw her lying almost half dead in the Rundu Hospital could not believe their eyes when she became stronger to the point where she started an organisation called Kavango Bridges of Hope.
Roswitha became a beacon of hope in the region and was not only the voice of the HIV-positive people but also raised funds for material support and empowered the people through training and counselling.
She also started a rights group called ‘Women’s Rights for Change’.
Roswitha built many bridges that were not visible to the eye but created a sense of hope and life for those who test positive for HIV.
Her dream was to see the Kavango Bridges of Hope going strong and becoming a national organisation for people living with HIV.
At some stage Roswitha said she was “not thinking about death anymore. I never gave up even when I was seriously ill”.
I visited Rundu this week and saw how Roswitha’s dreams are dying a slow death.
The building is now used as a printing shop as no one seemed to have taken the baton from her to take the organisation forward.
If it continues the way it is going now, all her efforts would have been in vain.
More importantly, those who have been left behind will feel increasingly hopeless as HIV will become the victor by killing not only her dreams but also the dreams of many other HIV-positive people.
It is important that those who lead serious campaigns with dreams such as those of Roswitha ensure that there will be continuity long after their departure.
Not only that, but to instil passion and drive among those who follow, so that the dreams will last.
Roswitha lived for nine more years and showed that there is life after HIV.
Although she is no longer here, with the anti-retroviral drugs available, anyone can live their dreams like Roswitha did and Emma is doing right now.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Let’s Tackle The Land Issue Once And For All!

SOMETHING is brewing in Namibia, especially among people who call themselves the /Khomanin in the Khomas Region, and it should be of serious concern to our leaders.

This is the same community who, more than 15 years ago, camped at ≠Arexas (also known as Aukhaikas) outside Daan Viljoen to claim their ancestral land rights.
This week their traditional leader Josephat Gawa!Nab told the /Khomanin people through the Damara/Nama radio service of the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation that he is taking back what belongs to them “whether there is a death or not”.
The community gave him a petition and demanded he responds within 30 days but one of them said “not even he will stop us” and that they were heading back to their ancestral land regardless.
“We waited for 20 years and now we feel like orphans wandering around. We had enough of that,” another shouted.
The off-hand remarks carry a very radical critique on the land issue in Namibia. It means that nearly two decades after the country’s Independence, many people remain in the same landless situation. But more about that later.
First, it was clear that the whole petition handover ceremony was set up. Why else would the community stage a public demonstration and hand over a petition to someone who is not only known to support them but is part of their campaign!
The /Khomanin group is a very subtle movement. While they might look like a small group to the authorities, they are quietly being joined by people from as far afield as Omaheke, Kunene and the South.
That is an indication of the growing unhappiness, not only among them, but many landless people.
I do not support claims for ancestral land. It would lead to chaos because, among other reasons, it would be very difficult for some to prove that their ancestors owned the land. If they fail to provide documentary evidence, it could lead to more frustrations and unnecessary fights.
The answer is in fast-tracking the land reform programme.
Many have described the land question as a painful and sensitive topic yet the wheels of justice have been very slow for the last 20 years.
A few years back a Legal Assistance Centre report said that at the current pace of resettlement, it will take around 100 years to get everyone on the Government’s list a place they can call home.
This despite there fact that since 1995, Government had been setting aside about N$20 million per annum in the National Budget to purchase land, and this amount has since been increased to N$50 million a year.
One of the main reasons for the failure of the land reform programme has been the willing-seller-willing-buyer approach which is cumbersome. But then land expropriation was introduced and even that has loopholes which those who want to hold onto large tracks of land are exploiting.
The result is that more than 200 000 Namibians who want land remain on the Government’s waiting list.
While there are differing figures on the land that has already changed hands – Government claiming to have placed more than 300 farms in black hands and the commercial farmers stating that their records show more than 1 000 – the issue needs a genuine and honest reflection from all sides.
If someone has four large farms of which they use one for holiday hunting, one for weekend farming, one for a lodge and another to entertain overseas friends, surely that is excessive when you compare it to what people like /Khomanin, meaning people from Khomas, have.
The /Khomanin demands should thus be seen as a springboard and treated as such. Beneath it is a threat that could boil over into an ethnic unhappiness.
Already many are unhappy about the way the people – many of them grandparents – were being pushed around and jailed for taking up this issue.
So let’s tackle the land issue once and for all!

* This column first appeared in The Namibian

Friday, July 9, 2010

Parties seem to have gone back to sleep

LAST year’s presidential and national elections had one thing in common – Caprivi and the two southern regions of Namibia seemed to be rethinking their allegiance to Swapo.

The performance of the opposition in several constituencies of the three regions gave some the impression that a shift in political power was emerging, while Swapo apparatchiks perhaps sat up to take note of their fading influence in those parts.

Political analysts were unanimous that Swapo’s performance in some constituencies of the Hardap and Karas regions was a clear indication that the voters were unhappy with either the local leadership or what they were getting out of their membership to the party.

In fact, political infighting at local and regional authority level resulted in many casualties and a feeling that certain groups in the party were promoted at the expense of mainly indigenous people from the regions.

The high number of votes received by mainly the Rally for Democracy and Progress also signalled that the electorate has become aware that they can turf out those who try to lead them astray.

The impression created was that the electorate had shown those in high office that their positions came as a conditional gift – you keep them only as long as those who gave them to you allow you to keep them!

As a result most observers believed that the 12 months leading up to the next election (local and regional ones in November this year) will be crucial.

In fact, I thought that political parties, especially Swapo and the RDP, would become involved in a battle for the soul of Karas, Hardap and some constituencies in Caprivi.

Yet, I get the impression that RDP is not much different to Swapo!

Both groups, as well as other opposition parties, including new ones, have gone back to sleep.

Since the December election hardly any political rally by the opposition has taken place in those areas to explain their intentions to the masses, yet, come November this year, they will scream to high heaven of impending danger if the ruling party continues to rule there.

It is a proven fact that successful political parties have a penchant for directly interacting with voting masses. The best time to improve your image as a political party is to campaign and reach out to the masses when everyone else is more distant or removed from the people.

Given the anxiety which political leaders went through as the results trickled in last December one would have thought that politicians had learnt something.

How wrong I was. The same flaws are still in play.

In fact, politicians continue to concentrate on minutiae of political contestation such as who should stand in which district and who are the hibernators in which party.

I would not be surprised if we have a below 30 per cent voter turn out in this year’s November elections because the purges happening in Swapo, coupled with the lacklustre approach from the opposition, is likely to discourage voter turnout.

For me, RDP has left in the streets the hundreds of votes they picked up in the South in last year’s election.

Not only are they absent in Parliament, despite being voted in, but they are also not seen as championing the aspirations and wishes of the people who voted for them.

There are so many issues out there which the political parties can use to jointly tackle with social movements (the Basic Income Grant and the land issue a case in point) but it seems none stand a snowball’s chance in hell to get the attention of the politicians until a month or two before elections.

Ultimately, it tells us a lot about the state of our political parties, doesn’t it?

* This column first appeared in The Namibian

Monday, July 5, 2010

Imagine a Namibia without Nujoma

FORMER US politician Chester Bowles once said: “Government is too big and too important to be left to the politicians.”

He was 100 per cent right. I want to take his quote a little bit further by stating that a Swapo without Sam Nujoma is too big and too important to be left to Swapo alone.
That is why I have decided to raise the question: If Nujoma dies tomorrow, who will be his successor as the main power broker in the party?
Who will succeed him as the one who holds the party together? Who steps into his shoes? Who will hold things together when Swapo is clouded by his absence? Where will the power come from? And will democratic centralism (which requires that the ruling party should provide direction to the government of the day) in Swapo still remain as powerful as it is now?
I don’t think people wish for Nujoma’s death, and that includes myself.
However, it is time we start thinking about a Swapo without him.
With the word ‘successor’, I do not mean someone who can just take over as a leader of the party. For that we already have President Hifikepunye Pohamba and others will follow in time.
I also don’t argue that Nujoma is irreplaceable. I am one of those who said more than six years ago that he had served the country brilliantly but that it was time for him to make way for new blood.
At that stage I also expressed concern about the perceived lack of ingrained culture of succession in the party.
I am thinking along the lines of a United National Independence Party in Zambia without Kenneth Kaunda or the Kenyan African National Union Party without Daniel arap Moi and the impact their absence had on the election performance of the two political parties.
That means I am looking towards someone who has the gravitas of a struggle background and also the necessary charisma to pull the party in a new direction and at the same time hold it together.
Of course, charisma alone is probably not sufficient to guarantee the survival of a party in the future.
Pohamba has since taken over but, for me, being a good person does not equate to effective leadership.
Judging from the open infighting between Swapo cadres, he also appears not to be able to stamp his authority.
You need more than just being a good person but then again we get some strongly Machiavellian characters. A good person also cannot wield that type of leadership.
The others include the cantankerous type who foments things like tribal wars and dictatorships.
For me Pohamba is best described as benign but I am not convinced that he has what it takes to hold things together in Swapo.
If one throws the net wider it will mean zooming in on the likes of Hage Geingob, Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, Nahas Angula, Marco Hausiku, Jerry Ekandjo and possibly also Nujoma’s son Daniel Uutoni Nujoma.
Do any of them have the characteristics displayed by Nujoma who held the party together for more than 40 years or will it result in a power vacuum and intense power struggles?
Another key question will be: What does Nujoma have? What makes him tick? Who is therefore the ideal person to replace him?
This can be coupled with questions such as whether people will still be loyal to the Nujoma-less Swapo.
I am raising all these questions because Swapo needs to brainstorm them.
They cannot afford a vacuum as experience elsewhere has shown that such a situation can be exploited.
Perhaps one of the key issues is whether he mentored or coached someone to take over from him and indications are that he has not.
Is there still time for him to do succession planning even though he is no longer the leader of Swapo? Will such a move be seen as him interfering with or remote-controlling party structures?
I believe now is perhaps the time for the party to start interrogating the ‘Nujoma succession’ in order to avoid a power vacuum and the subsequent exploitation of such a leadership lacuna.

* This column first appeared in The Namibian