When is a ‘win’ not a win?

08 November 2019
There is little doubt that the Mighty Swapo Party that lead this country to independence 30 years ago will prevail in the parliamentary and presidential elections later this month. The president said that a win was a win. Indeed, he is correct in terms of seat allocations in parliament and who occupies State House. But, for Namibia, whether “a win is a win,” may not be so cut-and-dried.
The election results are predictable because the sentiments of the majority casting votes are predictable. Because of this, we have serious concerns about the depth of thought most Namibian voters invest in their choice before casting their ballots. With no intention to give offence, we observe that a significant number of Namibian voters (of all classes, cultures and colours) love their country, but are politically ignorant.
A critical mass of voters is oblivious to the need to evaluate all candidates in the running. They have no desire to listen to other opinions and ideas before they act on Election Day. In Swapo strongholds, some run away from rallies of other candidates from a juvenile fear of hearing something ‘different.’ There is a ‘sheep’ mentality that herds people into polling places where they blindly vote for whatever they already believe. They do this with no query about the cause of their poverty or declining lifestyles.
Ironically, those same people speak critically when those with power are not listening. They have a fistful of complaints about their deteriorating living conditions. They will tell you about the harsh challenges they face and ask why the government is not helping them. And yet, in the secrecy of that polling booth, they will not hold the government accountable. The ruling party knows this. They count on it. A vocal and informed constituency that demands equal access to the nation’s wealth would be the Swapo Party’s worst nightmare.
In our view, the Swapo facing the electorate now is not the same Swapo of those heady days in 1989 when the people proudly and with tears in their eyes, lined up to cast a vote for Sam Nujoma, Swapo and liberation.
Now, many votes cast for the ruling party will be based on memories. Others, will vote for whichever rally they attended where bröchens, boerewors and cool drinks were served. Those too beaten down, eating from garbage dumps, unemployed for years, frustrated and marginalized, never registered.
People in Namibia are not ‘deciding’ on November 27th, they will only be voting on that day. There is a difference.

After the Swapo win, the landless will still be that way. Plots will still not be serviced. Fuel prices and rates/taxes will go up after the ruling party win. The missing multi-millions due to various corrupt practices, cons, and poor decision-making, will still be gone. Jobs and appointments will still go to comrades first. PSEMAS will still be a pariah amongst private medical practitioners. Grade 10 and 12 test failures will still happen in record numbers.
All of those qualifying for tertiary education will still not get money from NSFAF. Leaders well past their prime will still be in their offices, making major decisions that affect our future. The rich will remain rich and smile as they know they are protected. Those who are potential victims of rape, domestic abuse, and Hep E will remain that way. The insufficient performance of Harambee, Agribusdev, Green Schemes, Food Banks or other well-intentioned poverty alleviation and national development programs, will continue. Who really wins on November 27th?
We see the Zimbabwe ZANU-PF example taking root in Namibia. The ruling party will have a strong and unassailable voting base in rural areas, particularly in the North. And, its support in the cities and towns and in sparsely populated regions will continue to shrivel. The ruling party will not enjoy a cross-regional, multi-ethnic group and diverse socio-economic base. In the next couple of years, the government in power may end up being the most significant divisive factor in the country.
The rate-paying, urban middle-class demand services and accountability from government. When they don’t get it, they will not be sheepish about it. They will organize, demonstrate and agitate. We see Affirmative Repositioning and the Landless People’s Movement as the tip of the iceberg in this regard. Other voices of frustration and discontent will arise.
The upcoming Swapo ‘win’ could be a harbinger of increased dissension. Those who lose at the polls are not going to disappear. They will loudly continue their efforts to expose the failures of the system. It is no longer the case that Swapo is Namibia and Namibia is Swapo. That liberation movement chant was perfect during the struggle, but incorrect now.
The military ‘incursions’ into specific areas where the people live is more than an attack on rampant crime. The politically ignorant are being groomed to accept a visible military presence. It could well be that the next target for the heavy-handed military patrols might not be a gang selling drugs, but a political opponent gaining support in Swapo enclaves.
The brain-drain in Namibia is already underway. A growing number of talented, educated young professionals choose to leave the Land of the Brave for greener pastures. They want a system that works instead of one slanted only for those who are ‘connected.’ This could be an outcome after the upcoming Swapo win.
There can be debates about whether the ruling party will maintain their super majority in Parliament. Everyone can speculate on whether the president will repeat his 87 percent landslide mandate of 2014. Some grouse about a significantly low voter turnout. Regardless of any of that, the dire economic conditions and individual suffering in this country that exist now, will probably remain in place long after the election 2019. Will Namibia win on November 27th?


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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