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Conviction Vs Covenience politics

By Paul T. Shipale
The concept of Conviction Politics as described by Patricia Lee Sykes in her book Conviction Politics (2000), does not lend itself to precise analytical definition but to a great extent, conviction politicians challenge the notion that leaders seek power or want to gain office for convenience sake and not as a means to achieve some other objective of promoting a better or ideal society. Thus, conviction politicians possess greater capacity to achieve fundamental changes at critical moments in history and usually puzzle social scientists and pundits alike as they defy conventional wisdom and political predictions.

Following the opening of nomination by the SWAPO Party Politburo, especially for the coveted slot of vice-president of the party, and despite the call by the President for this race to be clean, fair and transparent as possible, already, many started speculating on the inner party's political dynamics with diverse conspiracy theories springing up while some media houses have thrown their full weight behind certain candidates. I just hope the media will stop speculating whether so and so support this or that candidate, as that will only create frictions while they conveniently fail to point out that there will be no losers and winners but only the strengthening of internal democracy in the SWAPO Party.

Thus to insinuate that some candidates are fighting for the coveted slot of Vice President of the Party while others were simply put there for window dressing is to be economical with the truth and an old scarecrow similar to the one used by our former oppressors who were saying that the country was not ready for a black president. So this speculative journalism should be seen as an attempt to derail SWAPO's internal democratic process.

Some political pundits, social scientists and academics also joined the bandwagon and even tried to sway the campaign and the balance of forces to either one side or the other. Notable among them was our usual columnist Alfredo Hengari who suggested that to lead Namibia through SWAPO at the next presidential elections in 2014 is to call on the best impulses of a candidate with unique qualities.

Hengari then came up with a laundry list of those supposedly 'unique qualities'.

Not that I dispute Hengari's list of qualities but what he and others failed to tell us, is the advantages for the country to have one or the other candidate in the race at this point in time, especially in view of the wider geo-political spectrum and the need to gain a competitive edge both within the SADC Region and beyond. Furthermore, their analysis failed to point out the most imperative and pertinent issue of the unity and cohesion of the SWAPO Party as well as the peace and stability prevailing in the country thanks to the Policy of National Reconciliation instituted through the visionary and dynamic leadership of our Founding President, Dr Sam Nujoma and cemented by President Pohamba.

What is clear though is that this race will be crucial for the heart of the party and the direction it will take. That is to say, as the real battle will start next month after the Central Committee Meeting, every one's material to build on the already existing foundation will be tested by fire to see whether they used hay, straws, wood, precious stones, silver or gold.

From the outset, I should point out for the record that I don't belong to any camp and I believe that these are all comrades worthy to enter the race. Nevertheless, since many media houses only talked about some candidates and amply elaborated only on the males' leadership qualities, for fairness sake and balance reporting, it is wise and even strategic to ensure that both men and women in the race are fairly covered and their qualities known, that is, if we want to ensure that a smooth and successful transition takes place in SWAPO Party and the country as a whole.

After all, why put all our eggs in one basket, instead of enhancing the principle of duality evident in creation, as both males and females complement each other to ensure harmony?

In this regard, 'to lead Namibia through SWAPO at the next presidential elections in 2014' as Hengari said, we need a patriotic and tested leader who has shown remarkable commitment and unwavering loyalty to the principles and legacy of the Party and someone who will unite the party and the people of Namibia and not engage in issues of retribution. That is primordial in this race.

Against this background, history will record that it was under the tenure of the current Secretary General that SWAPO was faced with an unprecedented onslaught from the revisionists who were hell bent on destroying the party, including through legal court challenges and defamatory statements through the media to confuse, deceive and divide our people.

Indeed, history will also recall the pivotal role played by the current Secretary General when she again singlehandedly faced all odds to reverse the concocted 'coup de palais' by those who wanted the then President to relinquish his position but thanks to this gallant and vigilant Secretary General, who fought tooth and nail to convince others that such a move was illegal as only the Congress, as the highest organ of the Party, was mandated to remove the leader of the party, the planned move was thwarted.

She also outlined the implication the proposed ill-conceived move could have on the rank and file at the grass root level. Needless to say, wisdom prevailed at the end. At that time many of our 'wise and powerful men' were conspicuously absent by their silence.

If we look at the leadership qualities of this brave woman of substance without preconceived ideas and prejudices due to character assassination by those who wanted her out of the way as she was seen as spoiling their plans, she is standing not just for convenience sake but because she was dully nominated and seconded, and accepted the nomination to stand following in the long tradition in SWAPO to carry out the duties assigned with distinction and absolute conviction. She was moulded and steeled in the crucible of the struggle and was even trained militarily. She was also at the helm of the women's council and is trained as a lawyer right here in Namibia.

She is eloquent, well versed in international, regional and local politics and sufficiently experienced in governance. She served as the first Minister of youth and sport and later as the Minister of Lands, Resettlement and Rehabilitation. She then was appointed to serve as the Government Chief Legal adviser as Attorney General and as the Minister of Justice, a position she still holds today.

She is also one of the Founding Parents of our Republic and constitutional representative democracy when she served in the Constituent Assembly which drafted our supreme law. In addition, she is fair and does not hold grudges but abhors retrogressive tendencies of ethnicity, tribalism, regionalism, racism, sexism, including looking down on people and she hates corruption.

It is an open secret that the enemies of peace and progress have an agenda to see the end of the former liberation movements in Southern Africa. Most importantly, these agents are not sleeping and have been hard at work to advance their sinister agenda to install puppet regimes that will dance to their tunes and enable them to have easy access to our natural resources. As the first ever female to hold the position of Secretary General of one of the former liberation movements in Southern Africa, she worked tirelessly to ensure that those who intended on destroying SWAPO, with their 'Absalom plots', were neutralized.

Furthermore, the Secretary General recently presided over the first ever National Policy Conference held by the party, with the selfless contribution of the Think- Tank that she initiated, in order to fine tune the party's policy roadmap. This Policy Conference was described as a resounding success as it discussed and critiqued policy positions with a view to producing better policies that will effectively address the development challenges facing our nation today and in the coming years and for the country to continue keeping its national agenda on course.

Thus, the notion being circulated that she is just there for window dressing to show that SWAPO cares for gender equality is completely erroneous as some people tend to easily forget that our female compatriots have been part and parcel of the struggle right from the beginning and contributed immensely to the liberation of this country. The story of bravery of the great Ana de Sousa Ngola Nzinga of the kingdom of Ndongo of Angola who is still remembered as the woman who lost many battles but never lost the war, dismantles the myth that African women are weak and that they cannot rule. We recognize the role played by our female compatriots and therefore, policies were enacted to promote gender equality. There is no better time than now for the party to reaffirm those policies.

Indeed, this is a unique and singular chance for the country to have a female President and give it a competitive advantage in terms of recognition that will bring in investments for economic growth and job creation. I am convinced that she will not allow what happened in some neighbouring countries to repeat itself here when a former Vice President upon taking the reins of power, turned against others, and formed a party and ultimately turned the back on the African development agenda and the unity and solidarity of the African people. It is also certain that she will assemble a team of young and competent technocrats from all races and ethnic groups without forgetting our experienced and veteran politicians as well as her fellow women who constitute the majority of our population.

It then goes without saying that she enjoys the support of many people, including traditional and church leaders, a host of young competent and skilled technocrats, business personalities including unionists, the youth, the elders and her fellow women compatriots. Above all, she has the full backing of the leadership and rank and file of Swapo that is why she was elected competitively and not by acclamation as the first woman Secretary General of the party and was dully nominated and seconded through the party structures to contest for the position of Vice President of the Party.

For this reason, I submit that she will be the perfect keeper of the legacy of unity of action and purpose and the principle of collective leadership as well as our policy of national reconciliation and the motto of "One Namibia, One Nation". She too will not hold any grudges or engage in issues of retribution. We can no longer afford to continue perceiving women as inherently inferior creatures and thus sideline them from positions of power and influence. There remains a great deal of human values that can only be transmitted by women in the process of rebuilding the damaged African societies. Thus, let us recognize that there will be no development of African societies when women are left aside.

Besides, she might as well be the key to the future and decisive factor as kingmaker and if the tradition is maintained, she might as well become the next first ever female PM or Female President as the candidate of compromise and a unifier! That is why I urge people not to support leaders just because they promised them money and jobs to get to power for convenience sake but to support those leaders with conviction and to consolidate our hard won freedom and the peace that we all enjoy today. After all, not all that glitters is gold and what is considered foolish and weak, might serve to silence the wise and powerful with their 'adonijah's conspiracy'.

Now that all the candidates' qualities are known, let the best man or woman win and let peace prevail. Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of my employer and this newspaper but solely reflect my personal views as a citizen.


SWAPO Headquarters Mandume Strt
Windhoek, Katutura