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Restoring civility to the public discourse

By Paul T. Shipale
In an article titled: Fractured or Fractious? Dr Fholisani Sydney Mufamadi begins by quoting the German-born American physicist Albert Einstein who is famously reputed to have postulated that: "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it." This aphorism must be taken to heart by all those who are pondering the question of what to do about the country's political parties. The full measure of this is underlined by the siren voices that dominate the political discourse in the country.

In an address titled 'The Weapon of Theory' delivered to the first Tri-continental Conference of the Peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America in Havana in January 1966 where the Organization of the People's of Africa, Asia, and Latin America (OSPAAAL), was born, on the foundations and objectives of national liberation in relation to the social structure, Amical Cabral said "in colonialism and in neo-colonialism the essential characteristic of imperialist domination remains the same: the negation of the historical process of the dominated people by means of violent usurpation of the freedom of development of the national productive forces. This observation, which identifies the essence of the two apparent forms of imperialist domination, seems to us to be of major importance for the thought and action of liberation movements, both in the course of struggle and after the winning of independence."

Cabral further said "in this regard, it is often said that national liberation is based on the right of every people to freely control its own destiny and that the objective of this liberation is national independence. Although we do not disagree with this vague and subjective way of expressing a complex reality, we prefer to be objective, since for us the basis of national liberation, whatever the formulas adopted on the level of international law, is the inalienable right of every people to have its own history, and the objective of national liberation is to regain this right usurped by imperialism, that is to say, to free the process of development of the national productive forces."

On the basis of this, we can state, following Cabral's chain of thought, that national liberation is the phenomenon in which a given socio-economic whole rejects the negation of its historical process. In other words, the national liberation of a people is the regaining of the historical personality of that people, its return to history through the destruction of the imperialist domination to which it was subjected. This means that national liberation demands a profound mutation in the process of development of the productive forces and therefore necessarily corresponds to a revolution and the positive outcome in favor of the revolution depends on what Fidel Castro correctly called the development of revolutionary consciousness. This dependence necessarily calls our attention to the capacity of the leaders of the national liberation struggle to remain faithful to the principles and to the fundamental cause of this struggle.

This shows us, to a certain extent, that if national liberation is essentially a political problem, the conditions for its development give it certain characteristics which belong to the sphere of morals.

With that in mind, the theatrical disputations which were in evidence over the last weeks in party politics do not suggest that the dissenting voices continue to see unity as the leitmotif of their discourse but seem to see the debate amongst them as a sieve to be used to strain each other out of their Political Parties, hence the truculent insistence that those who lost must make up their minds which of the discordant tunes of political expectations they will dance to. In this regard, the underlying causes of the political atrophy have to be analysed, understood and assiduously tackled as these developments point to an obvious need for urgent steps to combat the deterioration of the parties' internal discourse, as well as to upscale the quality of discourse within the country as a whole.

Faced with scenarios similar to the ones we witnessed, leaders must avoid the easy but dangerous option of resorting to tactics resembling the habits and accents of those who seek to purge others from the Parties.

Leaders should participate in the building of their Parties not as people who hold a tragic view of the "others" but be astute enough to know how to live with their Parties in their necessarily complex heterogeneities and take care to help build parties which have the ability to formulate inclusive narratives that are appropriate to the country's situation.

Perhaps our leaders should read Dr. Myles Munroe's book on leadership to give them a whole new perspective on what it means to become an effective leader. The book is a gallery of superb ideas on leadership and how it relates to influence; self-mastery, determination, courage, criticism and countless other eye-opening ideas. In that book, Myles Munroe posits that the greatest need of our world today is effective, competent leadership.

According to him, the present and new emerging challenges our world face today will not be solved by old theories but will require trained skilful, wise and confident leaders in every discipline.

Myles further argues that Character, Attitude and Vision are the Moral Forces of Leadership and explains that there are many people, past and present, who have influenced others using threats and violence, but we don't call that true leadership. We call it manipulation, oppression, or dictatorship. True leadership fundamentally requires the responsibility of taking follower into the exciting unknown and creating a new reality for them.

That said, let me hasten to point out that I am glad with the wisdom displayed by President Pohamba who invoked the clause that gives him a mandate to appoint two additional members to the SWAPO Party's Politburo and reinstated Finance Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila and SWAPO Veteran politician and current Secretary for Information and Mobilisation Helmut Angula after the shockwaves which rippled through the famous Caucus Room at Parliament buildings, when the new SWAPO Politburo was announced during the first post- Congress party Central Committee meeting on Tuesday, December 11, 2012. Minister of Finance Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila and SWAPO Veteran Helmut Angula were amongst those that lost their seats on the Party's highest decision-making organ when they received 30 and 28 votes respectively. A candidate needs 36 votes as guarantee for a seat on the Politburo. Similarly, I commend the political maturity and magnanimity of the newly elected DTA President Mc Henry Venaani who decided that former DTA Party President, Katutire Kaura and the former Party vice President, Phillemon Moongo, should keep their seats in Parliament while Kaura was also accorded the Honorary Chairmanship of the Party.

Let's hope this is what is going to happen in the RDP after their second elective convention where the incumbent emerged victorious in a three-horse race after many troubled waters. The bitter bickering was confirmed by former RDP Secretary General Jesaya Nyamu who is reported to have said he will quit RDP at its convention but was later made to retract and eat up his words to save his party the embarrassment after he was openly heard saying he was "very disappointed" by the fact that all candidates gunning for RDP's presidency are from 'one ethnic group' with Kandy Nehova and Jeremiah Nambinga who were sharpening their knives to finish HH off.

HH himself, in his motivation speech shortly before voting started, was quoted saying that he was not going to slam those who have cast aspersions on his character but was however saddened to see underhanded attempts by his lofty comrades in arms resorting to dirty tactics to oust him. It seems at the final hour, common sense prevailed as the convention voted for members from different ethnic backgrounds contrary to 'one ethnic group' which was positioning itself to take over the leadership of the party but exposed the long held suspicion that this was a party that was founded based on what others called 'ethnic entrepreneurship or tribal solidarity'.

Against this backdrop, I will refer my readers to the editorial of the Namibian Sun newspaper on Tuesday 27 November, 2012, when it talked about the lack of sincerity in politics, where who you thought was your best friend, could actually be your biggest enemy. "This just goes to show that in politics - just like in international relations - there are no permanent friends, but only permanent interests" said the editorial which also highlighted that "party politics is a process riddled with individual ambitions. Everyone seems to be in it - not necessarily for the greater good of the party alone - but also to position themselves in a place that can take them higher in the foreseeable future."

As the parties seek to address the urgent and important task of restoring civility to the public discourse, party members must be made aware of the disutility of the violent polemic, and of the onus they must discharge to demonstrate why the country's view of reality is a superior vantage-point. For their own sake and for the sake of the country, parties must sensitise their members to the knowledge-burden that devolves on the whole citizenry.

Members must also be sensitised to their obligation to familiarise themselves with worldwide contemporary debates on such important matters as transformation, governance and economic statecraft. All this must be done in order to renew the momentum of cultivating the masses and leaders who possess a high level of moral imagination and the requisite nous for transformation.

In the final analysis, leaders are chosen in a manner geared towards further capacitating the party to resolve societal contradictions and not for personal vain-glory or to be worshipped by a group of pliant cheerleaders. Take the example of Brazil, according to a professor at the Fundação Getulio Vargas, a leading economics school, Fernando de Holanda Barbosa Jr, "If someone had said in 2002 we're going to double the minimum wage and half unemployment, I would have said they're crazy," says Barbosa. And yet that is exactly what happened.

Unemployment fell from 12% since 2002. Brazil boasts about the almost instant creation of a "middle class" and the "near eradication" of extreme poverty over the past decade. Brazil's President Dima Rouseff claimed in a recent speech at the UN that the government has "lifted 22 million Brazilians out of extreme poverty in only two years." That's nearly one-tenth of the population. Rouseff and her Workers' Party predecessor Lula da Silva's terms "promoted the greatest reduction in social inequality in the last 50 years. Many of the gains are attributed to the combination of social security and national minimum wages in what others call "the Lula Moment".

If Monica Kalondo, Albert Auxumab, Tim Ekandjo, Bernadus Swartbooi, Dr Mbambo, Nhikembua, David Nuyoma, Helmut Angula, Sara Kuugongelwa are efficient, I don't see why they should not be given posts simply because of their ethnic backgrounds. Leaders should understand that the Party which is malleable to sectarian agendas would be a danger unto itself, and to the character and destiny of its democracy. When Leaders display a calm appreciation of the big picture: demonstrating the explanatory power of their theory and its potent praxis.

Consequently, the broad democratic movement will also have people whose proficiency in the majority masses theory goes beyond the elementary level of the politics of the belly, tribalism, ethnicity, regionalism, etc. The theme of the strategic centrality of unity and an inclusive society must be transferred to the ongoing agenda of the transformation of the post-2013 Party's Congress, Conference or Convention.

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.


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Windhoek, Katutura