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The final strecht to the elective congress

By Paul T. Shipale
The race to the Vice presidency of the SWAPO party has now reached its final stretch after a roller coaster and whirlwind of campaigning by the candidates canvassing for support as per the Party's resolution that stipulates that the Central Committee should submit three names of candidates for the top positions, one of whom should be a female candidate.

As Chairman Mao would say, thrashing out our differences is part of active ideological struggle and is a weapon for ensuring unity within the movement. And as Cabral put it: "Now taken together, unity and struggle mean that for struggle unity is necessary, but to have unity it is also necessary to struggle; Unity for us to struggle against the colonialists and struggle for us to achieve our unity."

I am glad that we are thrashing out our differences thoroughly, to learn from the exercise and go on and do our work better. That will show the level of maturity after a fierce and bruising battle and will be a clear indication that the party's members are now grown up and do not need baby-sitting and to be spoon fed.

Now, it is a final countdown to the Party Congress and surely, everyone wants to pass the others in dramatic fashion on the final stretch to claim victory.

The last couple of miles are going to be tough, and all are hanging in there as they are trying to drum up support for their candidacies. In this regard, there are mixed signals and confusing messages being sent out on who is supporting who.

Nevertheless, like the vigilant Nathan serving as a watchman, we are here to alert the people not to be misled by the Adonijah's conspiracy bragging that they are going to make themselves rulers by hiring chariots, paying large sums of money to officials and making feasts with the fattest calves, cattle and sheep. If some people have so much money and the interest of the Nation at heart, why don't they plash the money on the poor, including the education of our children?

I recently attended a fundraising event for the People's Primary School in Windhoek, where the Government, after independence integrated and harmonised our education system by accepting the learners and teachers from SWAPO's Health and Education Centres in exile and do away with the Bantu education system. The seed of unity planted at independence has grown at the grassroots level as both the teachers and learners' revolutionary spirit is not dampened, contrary to the views of those in leadership positions and who did not even attend the event. One wonders, if they are not interested in the future of our children, in whose interest are they working?

Apart from our Founding President and Father of the Nation, H.E. Dr Sam Nujoma, only a few leaders contributed at the event, leaders such as the Right Honourable Prime Minister Angula, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Utoni Nujoma, the Minister of Fisheries, Bernard Esau, the Director General of the Intelligence Services, Lt. Gen. (Rtd) Lucas Hangula and Tatekulu Kanana Hishoono. The rest were conspicuously absent like officials feasting in Adonijah's conspiracy. There can only be one true shepherd. For this reason, those who follow as care-takers of the flock should not scatter the flock and lead it astray into a lion's den or to a slaughter house.

For this reason, the wrong notion being advanced that simply because one is the incumbent, he or she automatically qualifies for re-election and should be endorsed by the leadership, needs to be exposed and unmasked as it is misleading and makes a mockery of the entire process of having an elective congress and is setting a wrong precedent. The party should allow its members to exercise their democratic right of choosing their leaders freely without coercing them. Leadership is about legitimacy which comes from the democratic choice of the people.

Why do we now try to copy what happened in 2004? The dynamics of the 2004 elections are completely different from these one. Besides, if we followed closely what happened at Polokwane, in South Africa, former President Thabo Mbeki was endorsed by the leadership and still went on to lose the election and was even recalled by popular demand.

An Igbo people's proverb says that one should not out of politeness swallow poison. Yes, we must be even-handed and respect the hierarchy provided we stay within the bounds of the truth. Even-handedness is not, by itself, a virtue. The truth, for example, is not evenhanded. It takes sides fiercely. Such is their peculiar wisdom to the extent that they will glorify and entrench errors even if these errors would clearly guarantee our defeat.

To me, the issue of endorsement is more like a label people are putting on in order to lend them prestige and shield them from scrutiny while behind the scene they call others all sorts of names as some have even vowed never to consider others as comrades again while calling them penniless. Is funny that those who publicly admitted that they never voted for President Pohamba, are the ones who are now looking for endorsement. One wonders where the respect for the hierarchy and the elders was. We are still to hear what certain candidates will have to say on the principle of collective leadership when they are busy looking to the past. Similarly, one wonders how come only those who seem to have grudges are the ones seen around certain candidates.

Indeed, there is a dictum in Oshiwambo language that says Pombili ihapa potwa, meaning one should not stir the calm waters to cause unnecessary trouble where there is none. That is why I don't buy the latest political posturing and public stunts.

Prime Minister Angula was spot on when he said the ethnic criterion is the most unfortunate issue placed in this race. I also recall the Namibian newspaper's edition of Friday 17 February this year when Ms Gwen Lister in her Political Perspective was asking for consistency and even-handedness against the unconstitutional "tribalistic and discriminatory sentiments" raised by some. Ms Lister's views echoed those of the reporter Mr. Jan Poolman who said that the person's ethnic origin is irrelevant since the Namibian constitution in its Preamble says "we the Namibian people" and does not make reference to our ethnic, tribal and racial origin.

Contrary to these views, on his part, Alfredo Hengari lashed at what he termed 'the dominant ethnic group' who 'feel more entitled to power, wealth and responsibility and consider others as ungrateful turkeys...'

Mind you, these are the same people parading themselves as "inclusive" and "democrats" and yet they show no any sign that they have the foggiest notion of what it is to be inclusive or democratic as there is nothing inclusive and democratic in enshrining errors and setting a wrong precedent of electing people contrary to the provisions of the party's and the country's constitutions, including creating ethnic mythologies and ethnogenesis.

Honourable Utoni Nujoma's assessment is correct when he said we don't need leaders who promote tribal divisions but leaders who will unite the nation. Indeed, positions should not be for sale, and people should not be forced to take an oath to pledge their support because that will be tantamount to betraying the revolution.

Our interest should be upheld at all times and should never be handed over to an altar of sacrifice nor be given up for expedience's sake. In this regard, Retired Lieutenant-General Martin Shalli reminded us that "the freedom we enjoy today did not come on a silver platter; it came through the supreme sacrifices made by our people on the field of battle and their bodies turn in their graves owing to the lack of unity and one-nationhood that we unfortunately subject ourselves to. In their honour, let us rededicate ourselves to the cause of nation building."

Peoples such as Isaac Ndeshitiwa Jason Pondoleni Shikongo and other PLAN Combatants and Commanders such as Dimo Hamambo, Peter Nanyemba, Matias Ndakolo Mbulunganga, Hamutenya Zulu, Aron Shongambele, Elia Haulondjaba, Wilbard Tashiya Nakada, among many others made those sacrifices following in the footsteps of our forbearers whose heroism should still hold and bind us together.

This is the journey we must continue, this is the task we must carry on and this is the legacy we must preserve. So we too, let it be said that when we were tested by circumstances, we refused to surrender; we carried forth the torch of freedom and unity and delivered it safely to future generations. I thus urge the delegates to the congress not to vote based on promises of money as if the country is on sale to the highest bidder but use their conscious and not succumb to pressure.

Let wisdom prevail and let us vote for leaders who will unite all Namibians, irrespective of their tribal or ethnic origin. Let us vote for leaders with the interest of the nation at heart and who will follow in the footsteps of our forebears such as Kaptain Hendrik Witbooi, Chief Samuel Maharero, Chief Nehale lyaMpingana, Chief Mandume ya Ndemufayo, Chief Iipumbu yaTshilongo, among many others, and to preserve and consolidate the strong foundations laid down by our Founding President and Father of the Namibian Nation, H.E. Dr Sam Nujoma, in order to take the country to greater heights and Vision 2030.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of my employer and this newspaper and are not in any way connected to my position but merely reflect my personal opinion as a citizen.


SWAPO Headquarters Mandume Strt
Windhoek, Katutura