Ruling party manifesto is MIA

11 October 2019
Telling those who are heading to the polls what you intend to do when elected is not an optional activity. The words in a manifesto detail what a party will do; what that party believes is important; and how that party intends to lead if elected. In effect, it is like a job application to the voters. How can one expect to win the job when submitting an incomplete application?
We are concerned about the incomplete status of the SWAPO Party elections 2019 manifesto. The party’s regional coordinators do not feel they had enough time to make inputs. Some complain that the document was submitted for approval only at the 11th hour to the Central Committee (CC).  And yet, the CC is supposed to serve as the wider voice of the party rank and file.  It should have been given ample time to carefully consider the full document properly.
To make matters worse, the manifesto launched by Party President Hage Geingob has been called a ‘draft.’ It has not been circulated to voters because some of the points within it may change. There are party leaders that have insisted on editing some parts of the document.
What a mess.
A manifesto is a public declaration of policy and aims of a political party. This document presents the party to the voters.  Has the ruling party become so sure of political dominance that an election manifesto isn’t necessary? Or, is this an example of a lackadaisical approach to preparing one of the most important party documents? Where is an apology, at least to SWAPO members, for appearing so administratively flustered before national elections?
In Namibia’s system, the ruling party democratically wins the right to run the government.  The party winning the elections guides the nation’s laws, budget priorities and international political positions.
In effect, that party wields power over the well-being, safety/security, careers, business prospects and the financial/educational future of Namibians whether they are party members or not. The responsibility to say what the majority party stands for is a valuable cog in the wheel of the democratic electoral process.
Over the last three decades, production of the SWAPO Party election manifesto was taken extremely seriously. We recall past times when consultants were hired to help in the drafting/editing process. In the past, members' suggestions were passed up the representational chain to the manifesto drafting committee.
Comrades in education were encouraged to write down their informed vision for the party in that field. Likewise, comrades in tourism, construction, business, banking, medicine and other areas were called on for expert inputs.
In the past, those producing the document created not only a manifesto but a presentation of the commitment of the party to build a stronger Namibia.
Whenever anyone wanted to know why SWAPO was pursuing a particular legislative agenda, budgetary focus or diplomatic priority, the answer was found in the manifesto.
Finalized production of the manifesto on time is the remit of SWAPO Party Secretary-General Sophia Shaningwa. We are anxious to hear what went wrong.
The need for a 2019 manifesto certainly wasn’t a surprise. It could not have been an assignment that came out of nowhere. That the president has been exposed and embarrassed in public by ‘launching’ an incomplete document does not bode well.  Geingob is known for his ardent demand for administrative efficiency. We can imagine his angry remonstrations reverberating off the walls of State House when this manifesto came up short.
Now is not the time for the party that will probably win the elections, to have no blueprint for how they will get the country back on its feet. People are under pressure and frustrated, they need to believe that their leaders are working to help them.
The president is seeking a second term in office during which he will turn 80 years old. The country is in economic crisis. Services to the people are failing. Schools have no water. Government offices have no electricity. Police stations have no vehicles. General unemployment is over 30 percent; youth unemployment is over 40 percent. Graduates are sitting at home or working at cash registers in grocery stores.
Soldiers are patrolling criminal hotspots but shooting and beating unarmed citizens at the same time. Namibia is losing ground in international financial ratings.  Also, Hep E rages, people die in queues at clinics, violent rape of children and murder of women are everyday occurrences…this horrific list could go on even longer.
Where is the manifesto explaining to the country how the party in power intends to fix this mess? Where is the SWAPO Party government taking Namibia for 2020-2025?
The other political parties have no chance of defeating the majority party. And yet, their manifestos, for better or worse, are in the public domain, complete and clear.
Let those responsible for this gaff take responsibility, apologise and get things moving.  A ruling party with a manifesto that is MIA does not build credibility.


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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