Tell us what you are ‘for’

03 November 2017
It is easy to be against something; it is harder to say what you are for. 
When mulling over the comments made at the media conference held by the candidates for offices within the structures of the ruling party at the SWAPO Party headquarters last week, we feel that more emphasis needs to be on what each candidate is ‘for’ within the party to help make it stronger. 
Party members campaigning for office should focus on what they will do once elected, not just what Geingob is or is not doing in the country as State president or in the party as acting president.  This comment applies to Geingob and his three candidates as well as those who properly presented themselves at the SWAPO Party Headquarters.
Electors preparing for the congress at the end of the month need to hear specifics on what each person will bring to the particular office they are seeking.  So far, the local conversations, media reports, social media commentary and speeches are light on these important points.
The lack of substance in comments from many of the declared candidates, leads one to consider if these candidates seek a title for political reasons, but may not be prepared to work for SWAPO while holding those offices.  This is disconcerting. 
The party needs to be strengthened and kept relevant with such programmes like revitalised outreach for new members, activating passive members, raising party revenues and other substantive, tangible ideas. 
The party’s political platform needs to be responsive to the people’s needs, not only reactive to the people’s complaints.  Having a Papier Mâché leadership list only to back up whomever is elected as party president does a disservice to all SWAPO members.
Lots of personal politicking seems to be going on in regions and in one-on-one interactions with local decision-makers.  This is as it should be.  But, the worry is whether congress members will choose candidates based on endorsement announcements and personality cults rather than electing someone they believe can actually do the job.
Those voting for the party offices owe the SWAPO legacy a vote based on what is good for the party first and foremost. 
SWAPO is no longer only about its glorious liberation movement history, but now, it must also be about bringing in new generations of members and consistent implementation of the party platform.
The party has the grandmothers and grandfathers as its base members today, but relatively few of the grandsons and granddaughters to be active base members tomorrow.  If the party is to live on, united in its rule of the country, it must prioritise issues shared by those below the age of 40 as much as it does those cadres above 60.
The majority of the candidates have held Government posts before, including those on the acting president’s preferred list. All who have served or are serving in Government at any level should be questioned by party members about their role in the challenges presented by today’s status quo within the party and the country.
Why not initiate a public debate on the two centres of power issue rather than base a candidacy on what is ‘wrong’ in Namibia or with Geingob.  There are heavy positives in having a separate party president and State president.  The State president, directly elected by all of the people must work for all Namibians, not just one party.
The SWAPO Party president, unfettered by a constitutional obligation (and heavy work load) to be the president for all, can focus on pushing the party’s identity and agenda and ideology.  Others might argue the centre of power issue in another way.  These substantive issues should be a part of the campaigns of the party candidates.
Those running for the office of party secretary general should show the voting members their management and administrative skills.  The SWAPO Party secretary general is like a CEO and the deputy should second those talents.  The candidates for those two posts should have a professional level of business acumen, organising strategies, personal leadership qualities, and communications, negotiation and people skills.  Where is the open discussion on this? 
Voting party members need to know, for example, how someone who is deputy prime minister, minister of international relations and cooperation (an extremely heavy, travel-laden portfolio) and a member of Parliament can also be vice president of the ruling party and do what is required to build up the membership and incorporate party priorities into the national legislative agenda?  How many hats can one person really wear and get anything done specifically for the party and country? 
We believe that voting members gearing up for the congress should consider that no one should be elected to any party office only because they are preferred or endorsed by anyone else.  They must have the skills set, health/stamina, capacity, time available, personal commitment and new vision to lead the party and do the work that their office requires.
Let the campaigning continue; it is healthy to express political opinions openly and debate the issues. But, we’d like to hear more substance than silence from the acting president and his anointed three, and more issue-based points from the others. 
Tell us what you are for, not just what you are against.


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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