Swapo Party Secretary-General Sophia Shaningwa was quoted as saying that the resignation of Affirmative Repositioning (AR) leaders and members from the party on Heroes’ Day was a relief. She said they never supported Swapo anyway. The details around that entire chapter are extensive. But, a glaring issue that remains on the table is that members of the party who disagree with the leadership are a burden to be joyfully shed. There is no internal Swapo platform to work through differences; there is only the exit door.
Nowhere in the world does everyone agree with everything. That standard cannot be reached. Therefore, the relief at the resignation of discordant members seems to be a statement of commitment to party homogeneity.
People who are members of a political party ostensibly support the platform of that party. If you cannot change the platform, then yes, you need to reconsider whether that party suits your aspirations. In most cases, there will be a trade-off – things are never 100 percent great or 100 percent terrible. The question is whether most of what this group does is in accord with what you believe. It is a personal choice.
When any group requires lock-step deference in order to be a member, one wonders whether the ideas espoused are disseminated top down or collectively agreed from the bottom up.
This is no longer the days of the liberation struggle where a united effort and message were a must. The enemy revelled at any dissention. They used that as a wedge to denigrate Swapo; they wanted to downplay the antiapartheid message. Those days are gone. The party of the future, must manage discord, not say ‘good riddance’ when those challenging ideas are in conflict.
Parents who beat their kids have shown their lack of imagination. If there is no other idea or no other solution than to hit the child to get compliance with a rule, then the parent has failed. The entire household is under stress. Likewise, expulsion or demonization to force people to fall in line with any group could signal the failure of the institution. People may not want to work hard to find consensus (which is very difficult to find) or a manageable co-existence that still moves the group forward.
The spectre of corruption has attached itself to Swapo. However, it is patently unfair to claim that ONLY Swapo has members lining their pockets with government funds illegally obtained.
The corruption that AR stands against has a huge feeding trough. It includes the previously advantaged who are rich right now because of the corruption of white privilege during apartheid and colonialism. The trough extended to the political elite after independence who took advantage during the nation-building period. It now includes those from all over Namibia who have continued to take advantages over the last 30 years, legal or not.
Was there no way for the party to embrace that unbridled, youthful exuberance and fuel a revitalized, energized Swapo?
What about loyal, faithful party members with real opposition to particular party positions? Is Swapo an all-or-nothing party? What if you support 80 percent of what the party says and does? Is that ok? What about 60 percent? Is it 100 percent or get out?
The best response by the SG in this situation could have been a statement that any person has the right to be a part of any party they choose. Our constitution and the freedom that Swapo fought for applies to AR and anyone else.
Then, nothing more needed to be said.
Openly relieved comments about the matter could have been avoided. Arguably, it sounded a bit sophomoric. It tended to heighten the divisive air surrounding the party these days and was not helpful to projecting a strong, united image in these uncertain times.