Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah said that she believes democracy exercised by any who choose to participate, causes instability in Namibia. As a higher-performing government official for the last three decades, her comments are a concern.
First, we must fact check the Honourable. She is quoted as saying that the “USA is the oldest democracy in the world but they only have two political parties.”
The USA could claim to be the largest, oldest CONTINUOUS democracy (recall that only white male landowners could vote at first – no blacks, no women). But, it is widely known that Greece (particularly Athens) was the birthplace of democracy over two thousand years ago. Viking societies of Iceland had democratic voting systems in place in over a thousand years ago. Certain First Nations communities in North America also have been electing their leaders (if that is the measure of democracy we are using) for centuries.
We would also refer the Honourable to www.votesmart.org/political-parties. There are dozens of registered political parties in the USA. They are all listed on the above website. Indeed, there are two main political parties (though the Independent Party has large followings in certain pockets) in the USA. It is incorrect to say there are only two political parties in the USA. Also, there are ‘write-in’ candidates with no party who run and sometimes win in their specific, local areas.
As for the comparison statement the Deputy PM made about the one political party in China, we are aghast. She speaks as if one political party for over a billion people is a good thing; it is not. China is NOT a democracy; repression of free political speech and expression is its calling card. Woe to those who want to challenge the Chinese Communist Party in a significant way.
President Hage Geingob quite firmly stated on many occasions that those in the party who disagreed with Swapo decisions must “resign”. Logically speaking, after they “resign”, where would those politically ‘woke’ former members go?
Swapo has been suspending, recalling and expelling members left, right and centre. Arguably, one reason for new parties and so many independent candidates can be attributed to the call to “resign”. People are being slapped down unless they fall in line. The world has changed. Forcing political opponents to be silent does not suppress diversity, it encourages it.
Those with the desire to be in politics took that advice and organized their own way forward. Nandi-Ndaitwah cannot now complain that people are doing what they were told to do and making their own way.
Due to an independent candidate for president and failure to meet some expectations of some members, Swapo lost a significant bloc of voters in the last national elections. The usual low-turn-out local elections might reveal further erosion. Change is in the winds and people feel it. Those with different points of view and skills see opportunities; they are choosing to take them. There is nothing wrong with that.
Democracy means that those with other perspectives have the right to seek political power. They can implement their plans if they can win at the ballot box. In any event, winning votes is a higher bar than having one’s name on the ballot. Voters are not as easily ‘confused’ as the Deputy PM assumes.
There is no such thing in a democracy as a country being ‘too small’ for freedom.
Since there is a rising number of independent candidates. The established parties must ask themselves why their platform and their structures offer no common ground to so many. The answer might be uncomfortable, but it is the first step to being more inclusive.
It is HARD to run a democracy. But, our great constitution is the statement of who we are as a nation. Its’ freedoms must never be limited. Any attempt to restrict the number of political parties or the limit the ability for people to stand as independent candidates is flirting with dictatorship.
It is an act of political maturity for ordinary people to start thinking about how things are run, who makes the decisions and why. Among those new voices that are not finding what they need within traditional political parties, are the leaders of tomorrow. We must never silence them lest we lose their skills, ideas, and energy forever. Let the political parties who lament the rising number of independent candidates look at themselves first.
Democracy takes work; there are no short cuts.