Credit to country ...shame on media

29 November 2012

Finally, the mother of all Swapo congresses has arrived and by Sunday, we should all know the composition of the new top leadership of Swapo.


We will know whom the party has elected to the position of vice-president of Swapo and therefore the likely successor to President Hifikepunye Pohamba as president of the country.

Many of us will be mightily glad when this long-running political circus is finally over.

It will bring back certainty to our lives, and perhaps allow the Government to focus on the many burning issues facing the people of this country.

Those who impatiently called for the party to allow open campaigning by the candidates much earlier have perhaps sobered up now and grown wiser.

Having seen the mudslinging, vicious smear tactics and dirty tricks employed by the different camps during the period of open campaigning it is clear that a protracted election campaign might have proved disastrous.

Swapo as a party, and Namibia as country, can look back at some very positive aspects of this exercise.

The decision by Swapo to limit the period of open campaigning has once again demonstrated the wisdom and sound judgement of Swapo as a political party.

Whatever negative aspects marked the campaign, there is one important thing that no one can take away from us.

There is virtually no other country in Africa where the party in Government allows such an open, transparent and democratic process to determine leadership succession.

It took place without any bloodshed in the streets and without the military casting a dark shadow over it.

The fear that the towering figure of Founding President Dr. Sam Nujoma would loom large over the succession race and exercise undue influence has so far proved largely unfounded.

While the democratic culture might not have taken root in all quarters of our society, the Swapo succession race shows that we have come a long way when it comes to internalising democracy.

There might have been a few niggles along the way, but overall the process reflects well on the Namibian people, Swapo, our civilian institutions of Government and our security establishment.

Even most of our opposition parties that like to cast themselves as the champions of democracy, rarely display such high levels of internal democracy.

The Swapo congress that started on Thursday this week really is the mother of all congresses.

In many ways, this is perhaps the most important and defining congress Swapo has held since Namibia became independent.

The 2004 Extraordinary Congress, although important in its own way, did not show either Swapo or Namibia at its best – particularly its aftermath.

What makes this congress so important is that, as a country, it allows us to redefine who and what we want to become.

The outcome of the elections at the congress will show what values we hold dear.

It will tell the world whether we value stable, competent democratic leadership and prudent economic management over empty slogans, demagoguery and appeals to primitive ethnic sentiments.

The three candidates for the vice-presidency have generally conducted themselves well, although one cannot say the same about all of their supporters.

Regrettably, the media is the one pillar of society that did not exactly cover itself in glory during the whole process.

The media could have played a constructive role during the process.

It could have articulated to the public who the various candidates are, their track record in Government and their competencies.

Instead, trivial issues have dominated the reporting in the media. Rather than reporting factually and fairly the media became an inexhaustible fount of unreliable information and wild speculation.

The media wasted an incredible amount of time and column centimetres to reporting the views of the Swapo Party Youth League.

This reporting was hugely disproportionate to the actual importance of the SPYL within the Swapo party.

It dealt extensively with nonsensical issues like alleged assassination attempts, what candidate is supposedly a capitalist as opposed to a man of the people, who is a family man, the hiring of Lear jets and party membership cards.

In the meantime, it failed to define clearly, what makes one candidate more of a capitalist than the other. The media failed miserably in its role of informing and educating.

Others tried to influence the campaign by invoking the name of Founding President Dr Nujoma to give credibility to their own wishful thinking.

Some media houses repeatedly engaged in highly reprehensible scaremongering about the Lubango dungeons and some candidates supposedly posing a threat to Founding President Nujoma.

The press lost its head, while the ordinary people of the country for the most part kept their composure and retained their common sense.

The media made itself a willing tool of the disinformation spread by the SPYL and its Secretary Dr. Elijah Ngurare.

Most of this merely served as a smokescreen to disguise what really irked some editors and journalists – the ethnicity of one candidate.

Whatever the outcome of the vice presidential race, the SPYL will emerge with its image badly dented.

The SPYL all along appeared to have taken a principled stand to support the candidacy of Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana.

When it started suspecting her chances of winning might be slim, principles flew out the window and it unceremoniously dumped her in favour of Jerry Ekandjo.

That is political opportunism of the highest order!

She is unlikely to forget and forgive that anytime soon and neither is the rest of the country.

Politics is usually the last place where one would look for examples of high ethical conduct.

Nevertheless, politics does have its own standards of conduct and red lines as far as what people consider acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.

The cardinal rule is that you should conduct politics in a reasonably civilised manner.

You should also not insult your party colleagues to the extent that it becomes impossible for you to continue working with them in the future.

By these standards, the SPYL and Elijah Ngurare have crossed every red line in the book!

We have every reason to hope that as mature political leaders Hage Geingob, Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana and Jerry Ekandjo will be able to continue working amicably with each other after congress.

However, where this leaves the SPYL and Ngurare is anyone’s guess.



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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