AR shows ailing opposition the way - analysts
Analysts say it will be extremely difficult for former official opposition parties to regain their former glory in the eye of the electorate, as they have failed to become issue-based.
The analysts also argued that the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) and the Congress of Democrats (CoD), still carry the baggage of being breakaways from the ruling SWAPO Party.
They pointed to the Affirmative Repositioning (AR) movement as an example of what issue-based politics is all about, saying that opposition parties should emulate the Job Amupanda-led grouping.
University of Namibia senior political lecturer, Hoze Riruako, said the biggest problem with the RDP and CoD is that they were not formed with a clear ideology, or standpoint, which set them apart from SWAPO.
“They did not come out with a specific agenda, but were formed because of something which they saw as shortcomings in SWAPO,” explained Riruako.
“They were disillusioned and disgruntled with their fellow leaders within SWAPO, because of certain things they couldn’t swallow.”
CoD was established in 1999, prior to that year’s general elections, and started off with a number of notable politicians who left the ruling SWAPO Party.
The party became the country’s official opposition during the 1999 general elections, when it won just shy of 10 percent of the vote and seven seats in the National Assembly, but since then it has been in habitual decline, failing to win even a single seat in the 2014 national vote.
In the case of the RDP, it was established on November 17 2007 under the leadership of Hidipo Hamutenya and Jesaya Nyamu, who at the time were former leading members of the ruling SWAPO Party and Cabinet ministers.
During the 2009 elections, the RDP won 11 percent of the vote and 8 seats in the National Assembly, establishing itself as the official opposition, before declining to only 3,5 percent of the national vote in 2014, when it was overtaken by the DTA, the current official opposition in the country.
Riruako stressed that both parties had failed to be issue-based, as opposed to only existing because of the supposed ‘shortcomings’ in SWAPO.
“We need a revamped, focused, orientated and issue-based RDP and CoD, if they are to make a difference, be felt and to be a formidable force against SWAPO.
“They must show the electorate what they will do different this time around. They must give their parties new impetus, programmes, a new outlook and be a real alternative to SWAPO,” Riruako said.
By drawing a comparison to the AR movement, Riruako maintained that opposition parties need to be inspired by the movement’s approach, in order to gain popularity.
“It is important for these parties to use issues as a launch pad for their influence, just like the AR championed the land issue.
“We do not see this among Namibian political parties. In most cases they end up being seen as people who are upset because their cake is spoiled.
“The majority of the parties have been relegated to rhetoric and beautiful speeches,” Riruako said.
The political commentator stressed that the overriding factor is the manner in which ruling parties in Africa and in the third world, generally, treat opposition parties.
“They are not accorded the same democratic rights as many opposition parties in the developed nations.
“They are at the mercy of the ruling party; they are starved to order. Their leaders, members and supporters are not given decent jobs and opportunities of repute, the same as those in the ruling parties.”
Riruako believes that the DTA is the only opposition party trying its best to make a difference on the Namibian political scene, despite the party only garnering 4,8 percent of the national vote in the 2014 general elections, compared to SWAPO’s 80 percent.
Another political commentator, Phanuel Kaapama, is convinced that there is hope for the CoD and RDP, given that the DTA managed to regain its former title of official opposition during the 2014 general elections.
“There was a time we thought the DTA was gone, after it came down from 21 (in 1989) seats to two (in 2009) in the National Assembly, but they were able to rise again,” explained Kaapama.
“This was, however, through a rejuvenated leadership, agenda, mobilisation, and so on, but there were also parties, such as the National Patriotic Front (NPF) of the late Moses Katjiuongua, which went that route and never recovered.
“It all depends on the comeback strategy of each party, which all have their own dynamics.”
RDP spokesperson Nghiningilwandubo Kashume said the party’s plan for its revival was not for public consumption.
“A plan for any political party is not for public consumption. How do you put your plan to revive the party out there for others to see?” questioned Kashume.
“We are on course, and earlier this year we issued our first statement, talking about education. Some of the media did not reflect on the statement and we are surprised.”
Kashume indicated that the media had “prophetically covered” the party’s formation, but they were not receiving coverage at this stage.
He said the RDP will not disappear, as it is still relevant to the masses of Namibia.
Asked what led to the decline of the RDP, Kashume said, “We are placed in this current position because of the EVMs (electronic voting machines) and the election fraud, and nothing else.”
CoD founding member, Tsudao Gurirab, said the party is set to have a strategic meeting at Grootfontein next month, in a bid to pave the way for a comeback.
CoD is currently in the political wilderness, following the retirement of former leader Ben Ulenga in 2015.
However, Gurirab, said they are reviving the party, which has been dormant for some time now.
“The meeting will be attended by members of the national executive committee and some of us, who are invited,” Gurirab said.
Current party vice president, Vaino Amuthenu, is acting in Ulenga’s position, but the upcoming meeting is expected to bring finality to the current state of flux.