Jackie Wilson Asheeke
I read the recent comments from PDM Leader McHenry Venaani in reaction to preliminary results from this week’s local and regional elections. To read his statements about making opposition coalitions (as if it is a new concept) with some of the other parties so that they could unite to unseat Swapo made me shake my head completely. Many have been calling for the wannabe kings of each of the smaller opposition parties to unite. And yet, they misread the entire political landscape and remained as kings of their tiny territories rather than influencers of the national political debate.
It has been known for years that it was necessary for the ‘other’ parties to climb down from their tiny thrones and share their constituencies with an eye towards upsetting the status quo of the ruling party. Venaani, stating the obvious at the conclusion of the elections is a day late and a dollar short.
After 30+ years, the PDM leader, who is assumed to be more a seasoned politician, states what everyone else has been saying for decades. A united coalition opposition would offer a more potent ballot box competition to the ruling party with its overwhelming majority.
His statement makes the point that the opposition missed the fact that the emergence of independent candidates would take votes from Swapo, but also from them!
Now he sees what many have anticipated since the emergence of the first national independent candidate to run for the presidency in the last election. The door was opened to political expression on a wider scale. Swapo leaders like Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah want the easy path of just shutting the door to diverse points of view and political aspirants. She claimed that Namibia is too small for multiple political parties – as if Namibians are mindless drones to led by one political party.
McHenry Venaani is finally publicly stating the obvious. Uniting political tiny parties and individuals into a stronger national party can bring dividends for the nation. However, many times the smaller parties with ethnic or specific constituencies want only to feather their own nests, claim their party’s money from the government, get their paychecks from seats in Parliament and make speeches. A viable opposition must be a ruling party in waiting. They must have policies, research, and members ready and with the skills to implement.
Venaani has tried before to unite the smaller parties, but of course, the wannabe African Big Men who have no identity or income generating platform except in their role as the head of a tiny party, refused. Associations and individual candidates have exploded onto the scene in these local elections. Swapo seems to have lost serious ground, but the PDM also lost seats. They lost ground they could ill-afford to cede. PDM has likely been weakened by the wide expression of democracy by so many divergent Namibians. Only now, after the fact, has Venaani recognized the double-edged sword of the rise of the independent candidacy.
He is correct (if the tallies are confirmed) that the united opposition won most of the votes in various constituencies. Swapo could have been completely unseated in areas where they have traditionally held sway.
Regardless of that statistically correct fact, they wannabe little kings of various small pockets will never united with the PDM as they do not want to lose the little ‘leverage’ they think they have to Venaani. Swapo, regardless of giving ground on all levels, should not worry too much. The opposition will never unite to make a national impact. All of them, Venaani included, are more concerned with personalities, not policies.
However, the regional elections finalize, hats must be taken off to the Namibian opposition, led by Venaani for not crying in the sandbox about their defeat. These days, large powerful countries are sending the message that democracy as expressed at the ballot box is a joke. Namibia must ignore those who have always claimed righteousness in the area of elective democracy and yet failed to follow their own anthem. We must hold on a Namibian truth that voting is the right thing. Those that do not win the election today must re-organize and take the stage on another day. The constitution and love of country must always trump everything else.