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One Namibia, One Nation
By Asser Ntinda

The alarm bells sounded by the SWAPO Party Secretary General and Minister of Justice, Cde Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, and Cde Richard Kamwi, leader of the national leaders assigned to Otjozondjupa Region, and who is also the Minister of Health and Social Services, should be taken seriously by all those who care about saving SWAPO Party from being suffocated from within. What is obtaining in Otjozondjupa Region is worrisome. Its consequences are ghastly to contemplate.

SWAPO Party has been able to unite and bring all Namibians together, irrespective of their tribes, ethnic origins or social status. That clarion call was and still is anchored on the Party's sacred principles of solidarity, freedom and justice. In those principles, we saw ourselves as Namibians.

The apartheid regime knew the strength of unity and devised ways to keep us apart, emphasizing our tribal differences with monotonous regularity. The Odendaal Commission, which balkanized Namibia along tribal and ethnic groupings, came into being to ensure that Namibians remained divided along tribal lines.

SWAPO Party rose to the occasion and said no. Namibians were one. Its slogan of "One Namibia, One Nation" became a vocal rallying point that brought all Namibians together to face the apartheid regime as one nation. SWAPO Party did so successfully.

Independence came and a new nation was born on 21st March 1990. We celebrated victory as Namibians, and proclaimed to the world that never again should Namibia become a colony. Never again, too, should we look at ourselves as this tribesman or that tribeswoman. To all those who sacrificed their precious lives in the struggle, we solemnly sing "Their blood waters our freedom." That blood belongs to someone's son, sister, brother or friend. From that solemn song, we were to mould a nation that should see no tribe or ethnic group. After independence, we should only see Namibians, just as we only saw Namibians during the struggle for Namibia's independence.

What if we allocated tribal quarters to the battlefields? Was this foolish exercise going to work? Of course, not. We looked at ourselves as Namibians only. There was no need for tribal quarter allocations. We had a dream of a united Namibia. We brought about a united Namibia at independence.

That dream of a united Namibia was knocked off balance when some amongst us started seeing themselves as "this tribesman or that tribeswoman." That was the time when things started falling apart. The antics about the next president being "non-Oshiwambo" suddenly became more vocalized and pronounced.

Never in the history of SWAPO Party have I ever heard such vocalized pronouncements going officially unchallenged. We allowed the seeds to germinate and the branches to spread. Trimming them now is a knee-jerk reaction to what could have been immediately dealt with on the spot. The deadly cancer has spread. Nowhere is this deadly tribal cancer more pronounced than in Otjozondjupa Region. That is the reason Cde Kamwi is very bitter, pointedly saying that SWAPO Party is getting loose on discipline at an alarming rate.

Some people, and even some leaders, see themselves tribesmen and tribeswomen first, and the SWAPO Party Constitution second. SWAPO Party Secretary General, Cde Iivula-Ithana, aptly put it in this week's interview that "tribes do not implement what SWAPO Party decides." She is absolutely right. But in Otjozondjupa Region, we have allowed people to pronounce themselves along tribal lines. That is what has made Cde Kamwi very angry.

A legitimate Okahandja SWAPO Party District Leadership under Cde Marten Benhard was unceremoniously chucked out. A regional leader had the audacity to Cde Marten and his team that the time for you "Vambos is over!" Some national leaders saw nothing wrong with members of the opposition parties participating and voting at SWAPO Party branch and district conferences.

The "anti-Oshiwambo" antics have ghastly set communities in Otjozondjupa Region, particularly in Grootfontein, Otjiwarongo and Okahandja apart. Emotions are being whipped up there deliberately. Cde Kamwi's recommendation that the top leaders should start addressing rallies there to calm down emotions and promote unity should not be taken lightly. Anger amongst various communities in Okahandja communities which once lived peacefully together has reached boiling points. People were being chucked out of Party structures just because they were so-called "Vambos."

Cde Marten, former Okahandja District Coordinator, found himself being sidelined because he was a "Vambo." He was informed via an "sms" that he was "no longer a district coordinator" and was being "replaced" by Cde Steve Biko Booys, Okahandja Constituency Councilor. And, unfortunate enough, the national leaders who presided over that mess saw nothing wrong with such tribal arrangements. This, too, is what has annoyed Cde Iivula- Ithana.

They still question the reasons which led to the nullification of the first illegal district conference which brought some questionable SWAPO and none SWAPO members together "just to fix this Vambo," Cde Marten. They still wanted to do the same when the second round was organized. But Cde Kamwi prevailed and insisted that the Constitution should be the guiding principle. Why have the constitution, if you cannot respect and obey it? He proudly said it was not him who won, it was the SWAPO Party Constitution which won. And rightly so.

I am not against anybody vying for the high office. But I am against anyone getting there with a tribal tag around his or her neck. Nobody should get there because he or she is this or that tribe. They should get there as Party cadres. After all, neither the Constitution of SWAPO Party, nor that of Namibia looks at people through their tribes. Why should entry into public offices bear tribal tags? Will the loyalty of that person be to the tribe or to the country? SWAPO Party has tested cadres, not tested tribesmen or tribeswomen. Cadres' entry into public offices should therefore purely be anchored on them being Party cadres. The Party leadership should seriously consider following up on Cde Kamwi's recommendation. The Party needs to set confidence-building measures in motion to heal the gaping wounds in Grootfontein, Otjiwarongo and Okahandja. We should summon our courage and take corrective measures. The sooner we do so, the better for SWAPO Party.

We also all know that SWAPO Party does not have enough money to pay good salaries for its employees around the country. Party cadres understand that. But when you allow them to be laughed at as "penniless idiots," it leaves a sour taste in their mouths. Again, this calls for discipline. We should always remember that a poor peace is better than a good quarrel. Again, as Secretary General, Cde Iivula-Ithana says, tribes do not implement SWAPO Party's resolutions. Party cadres do.





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