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
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
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
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-
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
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.