Katuutire Kaura Vs McHenry Venaani
By Asser Ntinda
This is a year for Kaura and his "son," McHenry Venaani. Their fight over the DTA is impressive, and will certainly define the future of the DTA - the empty shell that it is, though. The possibility is there that the DTA, given its endless internal squabbles, will most likely not get a seat when the tenure of the current Parliament comes to an end in March next year.
With only eight months to go before Namibia holds its Presidential and National Assembly
elections, the manner in, and the ferocity with, which the two politicians are crossing swords on the
floor do not paint a picture of a political party serious about its future. Both Venaani and Kaura
must take their full share of the blame. Each, too, must be brave enough to swallow the apportioned
If there is one leader in the current DTA leadership who understands the genesis of the DTA, it
is Katuutire Kaura himself. He knows how the apartheid regime of South Africa cobbled together
puppets from various ethnic groups, mainly headmen and traditional chiefs, to form the Democratic
Turnhalle Alliance, DTA, in 1977. Ironically, that was also the year Venaani was born.
These puppets, of which Kaura was one, were used by the apartheid regime to fight, suppress
and destroy SWAPO's then fastest growing support base throughout the country. Although Kaura
claimed recently that he was not going anywhere because he "has DTA blood in his veins," he cut
his political teeth in the South West Africa National Union, SWANU, which he joined in the 1960s.
But in his heart of hearts, SWANU was not really his political home. In 1975, he joined the
National Unity Democratic Party, NUDO. The difference in choice was obvious. SWANU was
nationalistic in its approach, and Kaura was not made of such stuff. Being a proud Herero that he
is, Kaura opted for NUDO, which was, and still is predominantly tribalistic.
Kaura returned from his studies in the USA in 1978, only to find NUDO had joined the DTA.
Kaura did not ponder as to where to go. He followed suit, and became a leading player in apartheid
South Africa's chessboard, not as a king, but just a mere pawn.
Soon, the Boers saw some potential puppetry in Kaura, and made him one of the deputy ministers
in the so-called Transitional Government of National Unity, TGNU. He proved himself as a
useful stooge in such arrangements. No wonder he knows the role Nico Smit played at that time.
That is why when he was booted out of the DTA more than a week ago, he referred to Smit as
"that former police security officer." Why he is saying it now, he alone has the answer. But by 1989,
Kaura was a "proud" chairperson of NUDO and vice president of the DTA.
In the 1989 elections, they DTA got 21 seats in the National Assembly, making it the official
opposition in the House. This was an honorable status, if only they could use it wisely. But democracy
was not the game plan that brought the DTA into being. When those who were pulling the
strings left, the DTA's blood veins were cut.
When Namibia held its first elections after independence in 1994, the DTA's seats dropped from
21 to 15 and to seven seats in the elections that followed in 1999. Today, it only has two seats in the
Kaura took over the leadership of the DTA in 1998 when Mishake Muyongo was booted out of
the DTA for his secessionist adventure. Kaura has since been presiding over a dying political party.
He has led it into three humiliating consecutive electoral defeats - in 1999, 2004 and 2009.
During the 2004 regional and local authority elections, the DTA lost eight of the nine councils it
had controlled. The worst is to come. At least, Kaura understood why the DTA was spectacularly
losing elections. After losing the 2004 elections, Kaura quipped: "We have survived."
But the young turfs - the Venaanis - did not see electoral defeats as survival. They just could not
understand such failures. They thought the problem was Kaura and his leadership. In 2005,
Venaani took his first shot at the DTA leadership. But he lost to Kaura.
And since he did not stand as secretary general, that post, which he held until he contested the
presidency, went to Alois Gende. Fortunately, he did not lose his parliamentary seat, thanks to
Kaura, who did not call for political revenge, as Venaani is doing now. What Kaura did not do to
Venaani, Venaani is doing it to him. Politics, they say, is a dirty game. It really is, indeed.
True, the DTA under Kaura's leadership has been performing poorly. But that was not because
Kaura did not provide the necessary leadership qualities needed to make it strong. That is a
natural death predetermined by history and the changing political landscape following Namibia's
independence in 1990. There was virtually nothing Kaura could do to save the DTA.
The DTA is a political party whose sell-by-date has expired. Neither Kaura nor Venaani can
revitalize the DTA to function and sustain itself in a democracy. It was created by the then apartheid
colonial regime of South Africa to serve and advance its interests in a repressive and oppressive
apartheid system, with handpicked puppets on Pretoria's payroll and strings.
The Kauras and Moongos might have been black faces in the interim arrangements, but they
had no power. In 1989, the DTA received the biggest chunk of the N$100 million slush funds which
Pretoria pumped into the pockets of several internal "political parties" whose main objective was
to deny SWAPO Party victory in the 1989 UN supervised and controlled elections.
It had all the means at its disposal to influence the outcome of the elections. But Namibians were
not fools. They voted wisely, giving SWAPO Party an overwhelming mandate to form Namibia's
first legitimate government.
The reasons the DTA was created are no longer there. Therein lies the reason why it fails to pick
itself up and run. Puppets and the parties they lead survive only when the master is around to pull
the strings his way. Once the master is gone, things just fall apart. That is the fate the DTA has been
waiting for. The only success it can claim to have made in its history is that it has survived thus far.
True, Kaura's gravest mistake came in 2013 when he announced that come 2014, he would "call
it quits." Venaani's gravest mistake is to his efforts to rehabilitate a party created for other reasons
In 2013, Kaura told all and sundry that, come 2014, he would call it quits and do other things. "It
is time for me to do other things," he said then. "There is a time to come and a time to go. Everyone
has to analyze him or herself. For me, it is time to be a voter and let other people carry on."
These were brave words indeed and everybody thought Kaura meant what he said. Young turfs
in the DTA started canvassing for support. Venaani seized the opportunity and convinced himself
that his time to lead and eat has come. But to the surprise of all, some months later, Kaura turned
the table around and made it clear he would stand.
Venaani took him on. When the elective congress took place late last year, Kaura got the shock
of his life. He was defeated and humiliated. Point is that Kaura announced his change of heart too
But he did justice to one thing, though - he paid real homage and honour to the 1913 building in
down town Windhoek where the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance was conceived and born in 1977
- the Turnhalle or the Hall of Acrobatics.
Kaura's political acrobatics and his recent fall will certainly honour that Hall in many respects
- in acrobatics, the DTA was conceived and born. In acrobatics, too, the DTA will die. And that is
how Kaura's political career is being sealed. His fate plays full circle to the genesis of the party he
has led since 1998, only to lose both its leadership and membership in the evening of his life.
Surely, Kaura would have deftly opted out to spare him the embarrassment and humiliation of
being defeated and then expelled from the party he has led for so many years. The only consolation
for him now is that after the game, both the Pawn and the King go back in the same box. It is a
tragic, end indeed.