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, June 14, 2012

Swapo Succession: Marching Left But Walking Right

IN Swapo not everything the party leaders say from the public podium is ‘the whole truth and nothing but the truth’. In many instances the word ‘party’ is used to achieve personal goals and also coerce members into a certain thinking or direction. Take, for instance, the decision taken by the party’s Politburo and rubber-stamped by the Central Committee that there should be a lid on the succession debate until ‘the party’ decides otherwise. It makes one wonder who ‘the party’ then is. Is the party the Politburo or is the party general membership at section, branch and regional level? It was decided that campaigning should not be allowed until ‘the party’ decides otherwise nearer to the congress. What that decision basically means is that ‘the party’ is the Politburo. It is the Politburo who decides when campaigning will start. But most importantly, it is also the Politburo which decides who should stand for election and in what position because the names will be first thrown in the hat at that level before being submitted to the Central Committee and later to the congress. It means that, first, someone who is not at Politburo level has almost a zero chance of being named as a candidate for a top four position. Not that I am arguing for a complete outsider as leader of the party but to point out the exclusiveness of the presidential race. Secondly, there has been no instance where the Politburo had invited nominations for the top four positions prior to deciding on the candidates. What it has done is to nominate and endorse them at Central Committee and congress level before elections take place. Therefore, the Politburo is in fact the ‘party’ which the leaders refer to when they talk about the succession debate, when people should start campaigning or who the candidates will be to stand for elections. I know that some will argue that the congress delegates still get a chance to nominate a candidate from the floor, but what chance does such a person have of being elected? When does such a person campaign? So the question really is whether it is truly a Swapo tradition, as many leaders claim, not to campaign before congress. To whose benefit is such a move? What impact, if any, do the continuous claims of availability of someone like Prime Minister Nahas Angula also have on the succession campaign? What about former minister Helmut Angula’s claim that the next president of Swapo must also come from the Tanganyika group? Am I wrong in concluding that the seniors in the party want the succession debate to continue on their terms and that they want to decide where and when it should be held? Is what is happening not to their advantage? Recently, my colleague Asser Ntinda wrote that “those who are pushing for a public debate on this crucial issue (of succession) outside (Swapo) Party’s structures are not necessarily members” and that it will be “a fatal mistake” if the party “plays into the hands of such elements” by discussing it publicly. According to him outsiders want to hijack the debate and should thus not be allowed to do it. Ntinda and many others in the party know that what happens in Swapo is of interest to Namibia because it is the ruling party. There is no way Namibians can pretend how Swapo runs its affairs has no effect on the country. In many things already our Government has become a reflection of who Swapo is. Therefore outsiders have the right to poke inquisitive noses into the party’s affairs even though Swapo evangelists like Ntinda might argue that what the party does is its business alone. If outsiders, especially those with genuine concern for the country, cannot help guide the democracy that we have the party’s flames of internal fires ultimately descend into energy-sapping but useless fights within the Government also. Therefore, there’s no fudging in politics. You win or you don’t even if you are a so-called outsider or onlooker and with Swapo’s succession debate publicly marching left but physically walking right, there is also a need for a debate both in and outside party structures.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Is Ours A Government Of The Few For The Few?

FOR a former classmate of mine, it feels like the world has turned against her. Unemployed, a single parent, she faces taxi price hikes, electricity increases soon and the City of Windhoek has demolished her new 'kaya'. After being promised a job and better living conditions, she had hoped her vote would change life for the better but it is ‘a luta continua’ for her and many of her neighbours in Windhoek’s Okahandja Park. And she is a person who has been trying all her life to live within her meagre means. Like many others in her area she has complained vigorously to the City of Windhoek authorities about the hygiene and other conditions in her area but all they have done is make promises. Before the last elections politicians promised the settlement reduced water and electricity tariffs, better housing, shopping centres, a health institution and free school. Now that they have waited so long, she was part of the group who decided to set up new shacks as winter approaches. Hers was close to her mother’s but the authorities moved in fast to break it down. I wonder why they habitually choose to do the breaking down in winter and only in places where hunger and the struggle for better living conditions are so critical! Can one blame her for thinking that the shack demolition brought back the memories of the illegal removal she went through with her parents during the 1959 Old Location debacle? And if that was an inhumane exercise, what about the shack demolitions they have gone through in an independent Namibia? A better life, as hoped for by those martyred in the liberation war and those who died in the Katutura removals, is surely out of grasp for people like her mother who have lived to tell the tales of that epic battle with municipal authorities. In fact, such tales will continue to be told to the ‘born-frees’ but only the venue of the battle has now changed. For instance, earlier on, some of her neighbours were among those who made the long daily trek across the city to the rubbish dumps to collect food and other items to make ends meet despite sometimes being sjamboked by the security guards at the dump. She is but one of the many Namibians who authorities keep telling that they have set up a task group to investigate their living conditions or reasons for the continued struggle at dumps. Many such investigations end up in empty promises or temporary solutions like giving them piecemeal jobs here and there for which they earn a pittance. One such case was when some of them were taken up to do work at a certain place and their ‘pay’ was food (under the food-for-work programme). After some time the same project was tendered out to someone else who was receiving money and employed other people. Why, if one may ask, was it not possible to also pay the first group in cash? What makes them different or inferior? It is worthwhile to mention that authorities have become used to threats by the people. When there is an uproar over services, some even join in the complaints although they have been voted into office or given key jobs to work for the people. One gets the feeling that whatever the people will do or say to complain about services, politicians and authorities know that they (people) do not have any hope in hell of changing things. It is sad that the land of milk and honey which many expected at independence (rightly or wrongly so) is extravagantly real for some and excruciatingly absent for the majority of the people. A small group of people continue to live well at the cost of others and one cannot fault those who have a sense of resignation that the possibility of a better Namibia is nothing more than pie in the sky. Our leaders need to guard against the general feeling building among many at grassroots level that the only demonstrable point of political contact defining common citizenship between the highly and the lowly placed is only the vote. People feel they only become important when their vote is needed. I am leaving you with a question: Is ours truly a Government of the people for the people? Or is it a Government of the few for the few?