Geingob instructs MPs – can they comply?

After reading the Swapo Party President’s speech to the class of MPs sitting in the current Parliament, we see a glimmer of something that has been dimmed for so long. In his well-written speech before Swapo MPs this week, Hage Geingob delivered brass tacks, internal political strategizing guidelines. His message was clear and on-point.

The president’s insightful words included tactical strategies, marching orders for diligence, demands that MPs read and be informed and orders to stand together as an active party.

He challenged opposition tactics and called for an end to the lackadaisical lethargy borne of 30 years of a Swapo supermajority in Parliament.

He spoke convincingly using blunt language that narrows the usual ‘disconnect’ between those in power and the suffering man-in-the-street. He told the MPs of the ruling party to focus on poverty, hunger, disease, poor housing, corruption, and unemployment as the enemy. Spats and fights that do not advance the needs of the people must cease. These are instructions that were long overdue.

But, can the MPs comply?

The speech would have been more introspective if Geingob had also acknowledged the fall in Swapo support at the polls instead of glossing over it. Stating how a successful legislative agenda could attract lost voters back to the party fold, would have made the speech stronger.

Nevertheless, the Swapo party president’s speech was solid.

Geingob’s admonition that Swapo members must engage in lively debate in Parliament is most welcome. However, it probably made many listening to it, shiver. We shall wait to see honourable members who have never spoken a single word in years, speak loud, intelligently and clear during debates.

Perhals the party could mobilize the ceremonial Swapo Party Think Tank into a fast-action research center for MPs. They could assist in preparing fact-filled, short statements in rebuttal to opposition comments or political hot-topics.

Geingob stated the fact that the vociferous opposition parties have four or two or even one seat compared to Swapo’s 63. Using an analogy, the minority opposition is a ‘mouse’ in terms of facing off with the ‘big cat’ of the majority Swapo party. But, mice carry fleas that can spread a plague if they are unchecked. Mice are tenacious when pursuing food. They use their teeth and claws to make a small crack in a solid wall into a hole large enough to squeeze through. Even with cats nearby, they target the food and proceed with abandon. They multiply prodigiously when they are well fed.

Geingob’s speech captured the point of this analogy. He cautioned about the ‘in-your-face’ strategy of the emboldened opposition. Holding to the mouse metaphor, Geingob’s point is that the smart, intrepid and determined mice are holding the sleepy cats at bay in Parliament and that must stop.

Indeed, opposition MPs have controlled the political narrative in Namibia since the Parliament re-opened. Geingob’s speech blew a loud whistle for both the cats and the mice.

There are challenges to what Geingob is demanding. Swapo MPs were on the list from the ‘pot’ via the last Party Congress. In general, they were not selected by their peers for their oratory skills, intellect, superior sector knowledge, professional achievements, or comprehension of national politics. They received votes because they are popular in voting blocks of the party or with the leadership.

Being submissive and ready to take orders as a disciplined comrade, has always been valued in Swapo. During the struggle and in the early nation-building years, this was an important strength. The worse accusation has always been, “he/she talks too much.”

Now, 30 years on, the value of silent acquiescence, unfortunately, remains. The climate has bred party members who are the masters of group-think. They have risen to the top by saying as little as possible and never being innovative or spontaneous.

Some members stay silent lest they anger someone at the top. Others fear being blamed for something. Some remain silent because they do not understand the fast-paced discussions swirling around them. Now, in the new normal, Geingob has called for change.

Perhaps there should be a training session for the ‘silent’ Parliamentarians and the newer MPs as noted by Geingob in his speech. Reading material and briefing sheets about all relevant issues should be regularly available. Snappy, witty responses and political banter should be practiced.

Geingob’s on-point speech acknowledges the new normal. This is a step forward for Swapo if the MPs are able to take it.

The commentary made by newspaper editorial teams is never personal. It is not our duty and responsibility to cheer or berate any individual. We do not write to please or displease any person or group. Events are analysed, researched and discussed. Anyone differing with the Windhoek Observer is most welcome to submit their views. Signed letters may be published, unedited. Join the debate and send in your views. – Ed

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