The Windhoek Observer News Editor, Nyasha Francis Nyaungwa (NN), recently sat down with the SWAPO Party Executive Director, Austin Samupwa (AS), to find out what he has been up to since his appointment in March last year. Samupwa spoke at length about his mandate and how he intends to modernise the ruling party and instil a culture of discipline. Below is an excerpt from that interview:
NN: What have you been up to since your appointment last year as the first-ever SWAPO Executive Director and what exactly is your role?
AS: My main role is to ensure that the office of the secretary general, including that of the party president, is served in a professional manner.
I’m also expected to work with all departments here at the party headquarters. We have many different departments like transport, finance, agriculture and education - we have about 14 of them plus the different wings of the party and staff members.
In addition to that I am expected to report to the top four of the party including the presidency, but I mostly interact with the secretary general because I am seated in her office.
NN: What is it that you do on a day-to-day basis?
AS: I address many issues. One is to administer the party to ensure that systems and processes are functioning well. I have a job description that has 28 specific things that are I am expected to do.
For example, I am mandated to ensure that the party has a strategic plan which were are hoping to launch by April this year. The party has over the years operated without a strategic plan, but now we want to be strategic in the way we do things.
One of my mandates is to ensure that all congress resolutions are implemented. As you know, we had our fifth congress in 2012 and it had its own resolutions which were translated into the party manifesto in preparation for the 2014 National Assembly and Presidential elections.
When SWAPO won the elections, the manifesto became a government document adopted by cabinet and given to all ministries and agencies as well as other officers associated with government.
So we are going to make sure that the 2012 resolutions plus that of 2017 become part of the manifesto for this year and that they are implemented at the government level, meaning that I have to work with all offices, ministries and agencies of the government to ensure that what the SWAPO Party promised the Namibian population through its manifesto is implemented.
I am also expected to see to it that when the party has challenges I work behind the scenes to ensure that these issues are attended to unlike in the past, where every small thing had to go to the secretary general.
I also draw up a budget a proposal or the party and liaise with regional offices to ensure that whatever resources we have given to them are utilised in a sustainable manner.
Right now, one of the issues we are dealing with, through the department of information, is cleaning up our data base. Part of my job here is to ensure that we have a proper data base of party members in place. We are busy with that now and we are working very hard to ensure that this system is up and running.
NN: What do you hope to achieve through the strategic plan?
AS: A strategic plan is a systematic way of doing things. What will mainly be in the strategic plan are things that I have already talked about like making sure that we implement congress resolutions.
We want to make it easier to monitor and evaluate the promises that we make to members during congress. We want to engage everybody starting from the president of the party to the last person and all those who are associated with the government.
Since my appointment, we have already drafted four policies which were presented by the secretary to the party’s think tank recently for review. We have drafted a human resource policy and others on recruitment, procurement and a grievance procedure.
NN: What necessitated all this?
AS: We want to improve our administrative practices because you cannot, for example, procure goods and services when you don’t have a procurement policy that guides you how to do it.
The same thing with selection and recruitment of staff, we don’t have a policy on that at the moment, yet we have staff members that are being appointed. So that vacuum we need to fill and that was one of the things that necessitated the appointment of someone at this level to lead this process of making sure that we have policies that will guide the party.
NN: What else is part of your mandate?
AS: Maintaining discipline among party cadres. As you know where there are human beings there is a possibility of behavioural problems. I am mandated to ensure that there is discipline among members.
NN: How do you maintain discipline?
AS: Firstly, through educating our members on what is acceptable behaviour when they join the party and secondly, by ensuring that we all adhere to the party’s code of conduct. We should adhere to the code of conduct in all the things that we do.
We have procedures that we follow when one of our members does not adhere to the party’s code of conduct. We try to counsel the person so that they can come back to the right way of doing things, but if after counselling a member continues doing the wrong things contrary to what the SWAPO constitution and applicable documents are saying, then we are going to haul that person before a disciplinary committee which will hear his or her case and then decide what to do with that specific member, so that is a very important aspect of my job.
NN: But we have seen a number of your members publicly disrespecting the party and its leadership particularly on social media and it appears that no substantive action has been taken in response. I can give the example of members from the AR movement who are also your party members and various local officials who did not follow party dictates when given. What is being done to ensure that such members are brought to book?
AS: On social media we should appreciate that Namibia has freedom of expression and members are allowed to express themselves. We only take action when the discussions become a threat to the discipline within the party.
With regards to AR members who are still SWAPO Party members, we are handling that issue now at a higher level. I don’t want to go into detail at the moment because we are still working on it.