Tears of joy and sorrow are bound to roll over the weekend, post the much awaited two day 7th Congress beginning tomorrow.
Hundreds of delegates are biting off their nails as they eye a seat on Swapo’s top decision making body, the Central Committee (CC). Political commentator, Henning Melber, says the build up to the Congress displayed some remarkable new trends. Pointing to the abstention of the Party and State president, to recommendation; the outreach of candidates to regional delegations and the degree of competition, as some of the notable developments. “More importantly, the pool of office bearers to be elected has shifted from the first struggle generation to the second one. The last of the old hands/veterans still standing will retire. As of now, Swapo will bear the handwriting of the second struggle generation, those with a history since the 1970s and 1980s,” says Melber.
“Note that this does not necessarily bring fundamental changes in the concept of power and policy, but it does modify the composition of leadership. Shared experiences will be less of the same, and bonds are not as much rooted in the pre-Independence past,” he adds.
But the new campaign dimension which is sought to create a new atmosphere at the Swapo Congress remains to be seen. Melber is sceptic that some old features seem to remain alive, such as the efforts to influence if not to manipulate the composition of delegates for factional interests.
Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) ‘s Sioni Ikela, is of the same opinion, saying what Shaningwa and Nandi-Ndaitwah are doing is individualising politics using the available instruments which defeats the purpose of democracy. “They are already replacing delegates with alternative ones without even their knowledge. And most of the delegates being removed are those who are not supporting them,” stresses Ikela.
He is adamant that, despite the political cookery perceived to be done by their competitor, his slate that include Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, Amukwiyu, Nawases-Taeyele will still remain victorious. “Congress is a game of numbers and that is what my candidates has managed to master, and these are young and dynamic leaders,” he adds.
“It is also revealing that strategies of vote buying seem to remain alive, if reports are true. And not least the rumours remain a classic feature of policy the Namibian style. At the end, results will have to be tested with regard to the degree of acceptance or dispute. Until then it remains to be seen if Swapo gains new strength by being more united or continues to be hampered by in-fights,” stresses Melber. He adds that, with a decline in the electoral support in the last two elections, Swapo faces the challenge to regain credibility and trust. The deliberations and elections at the Congress could play a role in how the party is perceived.
Political analyst, Rui Tyitende, is of the view that, “If the current campaign climate is anything to go by, I have serious concerns of what will transpire before and during the Congress. Serious allegations of malfeasance and vote buying have been raised by the various camps. That does not augur well for a party that already has an image problem.” Further reasoning that, for the position of VP, “I think Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah will win as she is the only candidate that does not have a perceived dodgy character and history. She is perceived as the ‘clean’and integrity candidate and could rid the party of corruption and transform a party that is immensely divided and unpopular.”
As he laid bare the outlook of the candidate, Tyitende, says, Shifeta is the weakest link of them all. “If public utterances pertaining to his plan to transform society are anything to go by. He doesn’t inspire any confidence, and has no charisma. He further suggests that the campaign should have been more open to the general electorate in such a way that candidates articulate the vision they have for the country. What kind of development plan do they have that will arrest the various problems that are affecting our economy and the most vulnerable in society. “My hunch is that Witbooi was a decoy to bolster the chances of Uahekua Herunga who is alleged to be in the Nandi-Ndaitwah camp,” he states.
As of yesterday late afternoon delegates were still queuing up at the Safari Court to register and have their names verified, while setting up was also still being done.
These last minute things, according to Ikela are the doing of Shaningwa who he says “does not listen when members question, instead she goes rogue.” “Had she listened to the concerns that were being raised at the CC meeting where she stormed out, we were not going to be having these problems. It is really a shame for an individual to hold the party hostage for self gratification. Now the party is about to drown,” he adds.
On the flip-side, Ikela appeals for peace among the party members and the would-be leadership to be elected, saying Swapo reigns supreme above individualism. He hopes to see people’s handshake and talk after the congress and not turn into enemies. “Congress is a platform where we discuss party reforms and policies, and how we can make Swapo united and stronger again. It is an opportunity to create socio-economic policies to set a clear foundation of growing this country and what is to be done. After Sunday I do not want to hear of any breakaways and people not seeing eye-to-eye.”
“Swapo is above us, so that is the main factor. So we should really guard against turning into enemies, because it leaves room for a downfall. Whoever wins in our leader, hence the leadership should not allow itself to be influenced by the members to take revenge on those who were not on their side, instead let’s build going forward.”
The question is, who will it be?