Differing perspectives within a party are a must

The Founding President declared during this weekend’s Swapo introspection meeting that he didn’t want to hear about Team Swapo and Team Harambee anymore. He feels it has become divisive. He is right. There is only one ruling Swapo party. But, that doesn’t mean there should be only one Swapo idea or thought pattern.

New ideas that reflect the Swapo of tomorrow can only take root if people with different points of view, openly advocate for their ideas. The final goal should be agreed by the majority with opposing points inculcated where practicable. The need to walk lock-step on all things at all times is overrated and unachievable. There are many ways to approach the same end.

Swapo must face the obvious generational shift in Namibia. The majority of Namibians are below 40. What these generations value is not the same as what the older generations valued. People of these generations will have other ways of reaching the unified goal. They see the world differently. If the party survives in the 21st century, it must reflect the values of those who will be members tomorrow, not those who were members yesterday.

Every Namibian must remember those who gave everything for this country on national days like Heroes’ Day, March 21st, Africa Day or Cassinga Day. But, the future of political development in Namibia cannot be charted by remembrances. Namibia needs a forward-looking ruling party whose members are primarily concerned with the welfare of the Namibian people FIRST, the party second. The goal is the success of this nation and its’ people. The way to obtain it is an inclusive Swapo party manifesto.

Swapo must introspect and develop a new tactical plan in the war for economic liberation using ALL the tools possible. That means entertaining new and different (sometimes clashing) ideas. It means there may be different schools of thought within one party. And, that is healthy – if it is managed.

The problem comes when those divergent points of view and political perspectives and factions and sub-groups forget what the main goal is. Personality clashes, ambition, and power grabbing is human nature. The key is for the ruling party to have one united main goal. But, there is no reason to have only one way to get there.

Swapo must introspect and consider that having different points of view does not necessarily weaken the whole. Those with other ideas are not ‘the enemy from within.’ Leaders must not be insecure in their positions and power and recognize the imperative to mould coalitions and relationships. There are different skills needed to give orders and expect them to be followed than those required to talk to reach out to those with different points of view and give a united position based on inclusion, negotiation and consensus. The Namibia of 2020 requires the latter skills set.

There must be other viewpoints welcomed, investigated, and promoted. If there are ‘camps’ for these differing viewpoints, so be it. It is quite human that like minds come together within a group. The party is a microcosm of the real world. Managing discord is the hardest challenge for decision-makers. Squashing it is easier; but that will not work in today’s world.

The attitude of “Do it this way or get out” weakens the party. Rather, an attitude of “lay out your arguments, bring your research about your points, and in good faith, search for consensus,” must prevail.

Swapo is the ruling party by democratic vote and has an obligation to all Namibians not just its members. Let us never have a Swapo that is a cult. No political party is the way, the truth and the light. There are other ways, different truths and many lights in politics. The challenge for parties to remain relevant is to ceaselessly move forward by investigating as many ways as possible to serve the people and build the nation.

Rather than Swapo members darning party colours, why not wear flag colours as well? A new direction is needed lest the party fall further in credibility. Different schools of thought, well-managed within one main group that shares a united goal can make the party even stronger.

The majority of the younger people ‘out there’ in the country are the cadres of tomorrow. They have different ideas and values. Swapo must come to them or they will not come to Swapo.

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