The all-out SWAPO Party attacks, along with the proxy or veiled chiding of the candidacy of Angelina Immanuel for the Ondangwa Urban Constituency, bespeaks the arrogance of the majority party in Namibia.
Their excessive political foot-stamping against this aspiring 27-year old candidate is a David vs Goliath scenario that has, in fact, granted a victory of a sort to Immanuel before the first vote in the by-election is cast.
For the well-oiled SWAPO electoral juggernaut to turn its considerable attention to not just defeating, but obliterating an independent candidate, is either a misdirected publicity stunt or it is a sign of fear of a political precedent emerging in its constituency base. We think the latter is the case.
Shame on the ‘mighty’ SWAPO party for using a Katyusha rocket launcher to defeat an unarmed opponent when probably, no reaction at all would have done the deed. Immanuel has stated repeatedly that she is not a SWAPO member and is not running as an ‘independent’ SWAPO candidate. She registered as an independent. The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) has rules and criteria about who can run and how such candidates can register. As long as she adheres to the same rules as anyone else, she has every right to present herself to the voting public.
We recall that Katjanaa Kaurivi (Otjombinde constituency) in the Omaheke region, also ran and won a seat on the regional council in 2015 as an independent. Where was the SWAPO killing-machine-for-independent-candidates then? Kaurivi is still in his seat as an independent with nary a word spoken against him with the same vitriol that has been unleashed on Immanuel.
The different treatment of this particular independent candidate may speak to ageism (anti-youth), sexism or an embarrassing error by the SWAPO party campaign advisors. We think the latter is the case based on the eyebrow-raising back-tracking now being done by Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila as she retreats from her unnamed but clearly directed barbs, ostensibly against Immanuel, made during her speech at a star campaign rally.
For SWAPO to directly (via speeches by party big wigs) or indirectly (via its on-line sycophants), deride, chastise and attempt to discredit Immanuel’s candidacy is a low blow.
Why is the party that garnered landslide majority votes in both the presidential and parliamentary polls in the 2014 elections, so nervous that it attacks a 27-year old untested political rival in Ondangwa? Could it be that this lady’s candidacy is opening a door for youthful participation, women empowerment and another voice that is different from that of the majority monopoly for that area?
Could it be that others around the country might see the example of Immanuel and do the same? We think the answer here is yes.
SWAPO’s lambasting of Immanuel is likely a sign of their nervousness about elections set for later this year. Some who think about running as an independent may see the lambasting of Immanuel and perhaps be frightened into silence. However, we think that the Pandora’s Box of independent candidacies is already open. This by-election can be a bell-weather for future independent candidacies around the country.
We believe that in some respects, Immanuel has already garnered a significant and symbolic victory. She has certainly captured more headlines than she would have otherwise. Every statement she makes is in the ears of her constituency and the nation, almost immediately.
Ironically, she was cleaning up a trashy site in Ondangwa, while ruling party, Mercedes-driving officials where alluding to her by calling her names, defending SWAPO rules (which have not been threatened) and extolling their listeners to toe the party line.
SWAPO’s flashy presentation of their retirement age candidate juxtaposed against Immanuel is not a good visual. Old vs young is now on the ballot, not the failing economy, the drought and what plans are in play to help the people survive, not corruption that is bleeding the economy dry – ‘out with the old and in with the new’ has become the ballot battle cry.
It doesn’t matter anymore what the SWAPO candidate, Leonard Negonga (60), says about anything. He could remain silent for the entire campaign and he will win or lose (and the percentage of his win or loss) based on the existence of Angelina Immanuel on the ballot.
The Prime Minister (PM) should have behind-the-scenes issues with those who briefed her before she made her speeches in the Ondangwa constituency last weekend. The seeming reality that Immanuel has not campaigned with SWAPO colours, has not called herself a SWAPO candidate and has not used SWAPO symbols makes those accusations from the Prime Minister, appear inaccurate. This is not a credible and strong look for a sitting PM.
Rather than being unduly alarmed by Immanuel’s candidacy, SWAPO should make tasty lemonade from political lemons and look hard at presenting fresh voices and faces for election who can speak directly to the people.
The arrogance of the majority can cause complacency. The proud majority must get off their laurels, leave their comfort zones and hear what the people on the ground are actually demanding. Otherwise, more independent ‘Immanuels’ will step up and they will chip away at the majority.