We watched with grave concern as people primarily from the southern part of the country burned the SWAPO flag, paraphernalia and their party membership cards.
These actions are a flaming red card of failure for the Acting President of SWAPO and the rest of the leadership as it is precisely their mandate to expand and strengthen the stalwart party, and not preside over its slow implosion.
It is time to demonstrate that SWAPO really is the inheritor of the old Ovamboland People’s Organisation (OPO). The whole point of SWAPO’s naissance in April 1960 was to expand OPO’s reach to include all ethnic and traditional groupings in Namibia.
The leaders of various smaller, ethnic-based groups at the time joined together with OPO on the commitment that they would be part and parcel of the broader based SWAPO. With that agreement, the successful national liberation organisation was born and accepted internally and globally as being inclusive.
The tumult epitomised by the recall of Swartbooi and his subsequent resignation from the party, has apparently led to a particular group disassociating itself from SWAPO. This is antithetical to the institution’s founding principles.
Is Geingob rolling up his sleeves to fulfil his acting role’s primary responsibility and hold the party together, even when it is difficult, emotional, confrontational or challenging? Or is he daring anyone to even ask a question about his actions in this regard?
It is not enough to call in leaders from various communities once or twice or offer marginal posts to people from varying regions and then declare yourself as having done enough; sincere coalition building demands more.
SWAPO must represent all of the people in Namibia, not just in speeches or random appearances at cultural festivals. The fact that one group forms the majority of the ruling party has never held back previous leaders from openly trying to hold hands with other groups and gaining members in all corners of the country.
The ruling party that is setting the policy for the nation has been overwhelmingly elected to serve, but to do so, it must incorporate as many views as practicable without losing focus.
The Government must obtain buy-in to the platform that drives its policies. If certain groups feel unrepresented, is SWAPO fulfilling its mandate to guide a strong unitary state?
We are concerned that the Acting President of SWAPO may see the situation surrounding former MP, Bernadus Swartbooi, as a personal victory over a particular individual, without seeing the wider picture of the perception of divisiveness the entire episode represents.
(Former) party members dancing while burning SWAPO cards and colours, is a powerful message, has it been received?
Hage Geingob should be party defender #1 and yet, a part of the edifice of that mighty and liberating institution has crumbled away. Whose job was it to hold that together and why was that not achieved?
We have been persuaded to believe that right now, nothing matters more to the party’s leaders than to be elected to the posts of their choice at the congress in November. In our view, this is parasitic and unhealthy for the party going forward.
A parasite latches on to a healthy body and sucks out its fill of nutrients. Then, having sated itself, it drops off, leaving its previous host to its own devices.
It is never reinforcing to use up those who support you at one phase and then shun them, drop off and run to others at another phase, repeating the process over and over in the pursuit of power. Party unity demands more than that.
SWAPO is facing the challenges of the 21st century with an aged leadership that struggles to represent the aspirations of an ever-younger base of support. The party must not be sucked dry by leaders focused solely on climbing to new heights.
SWAPO is bigger than Geingob, Swartbooi or anyone else. It has deep, historical roots across the nation. Those who would lead the party must not alienate different ethnic groups and remember the reason OPO became SWAPO. Otherwise, the beginning of the end of SWAPO presiding over a unitary state may have just started.