New party or same story

The Independent Patriots for Change (IPC), helmed by former Independent Political candidate Panduleni Itula has been launched. The formulation of another anti-Swapo party can signal a mature change in the Namibian political scene. Or, it can be yet another party formed on the basis of what they are against, rather than what they are for.

There is no doubt that Itula is a force to be reckoned with in Namibian politics, at least for now. Having a party to allow his constituency to have a base from which to grow is an important step.

We note that the overwhelming majority of the newly elected leaders of the ITC are men. It would seem that in and of itself, makes a statement. The days of the ‘old boys club’ with a token woman in the board room are dead and buried; perhaps the ITC didn’t get the memo. “Women hold up half the sky,” says Mao. All political parties claiming to speak ‘for the people’ must reflect who the people are.

It remains to be seen whether the party is a personality cult based on one leader’s name recognition, or a consultative political effort. Will they have solid, simply articulated plans (not just rhetoric) on how to build a better Namibia?

Will they take the template of the Swapo constitution and rules and put their name on it? Or, will they formulate new structures and innovative ways of running things?

If the people identified as the leaders of the IPC are in place because they have gripes with Swapo or Geingob for some personal or ancient reason, the party is already weak. A strong effort would include detailed, researched plans about how the changes would be done. That plan would ideally have backing from a wide-ranging local constituency. Their plan would be fuelled by the voices of the public, not themselves.

Initial statements by Itula seem to focus on being a party that educates the public about their political rights and obligations. Fair enough. In time their party, presumably, will lay out their blueprint on how/when this is to be done. They will explain who is going to do it and where the money will come from to make things move.

There are major controversial issues to be handled. Will ITC express itself on reproductive rights or genocide reparations? Will they pronounce themselves on decreasing the size of Parliament, cutting 25 percent of all civil service jobs or eliminating the office of the Vice President? What is their plan to tighten sanctions on those arrested/charged in corruption cases? Will they cut the salaries of all SOE management or privatise commercial SOEs? How will they grapple with these kinds of poltiical hot potatoes?

It remains to be seen if the ITC will go the way of COD and RDP. Will there be power fights, court cases over internal elections, factions within a tiny party, and then, political impotence? It remains to be seen if the ITC will attract disgruntled supporters of the ruling party in significant numbers. Will this new party win over grass roots constituents in the North or will it only suck members from the fledgling LPM and the newly revived PDM?

A ‘united’ opposition is still a myth in Namibia. Each kingly leader of the tiny parties wants their own throne. Even combined, the opposition seats in Parliament relative to the Swapo Party is not an immediate prescription for substantive change in Namibia. We wait to see what the new ITC can throw into the mix that isn’t already there.

The message that Swapo is slipping in support has been sent and received by Itula. But, will that slippage continue? The upcoming regional elections will offer an answer to that question. Will the ITC contest the local and regional elections? That seems to be a regulatory question.

Will people come out to vote? That is the main question that matters. Will voter apathy and poverty, social ills, fear of the pandemic, frustration and political ignorance keep people angry, but at home on Election Day? That is a major question that all parties must be very worried about. People angry with their lives tend to vote for change.

People do not personally donate to political parties in Namibia; that level of local public fundraising is not typical. Most of the smaller political parties survive based on their allocation of seats won in the Parliament. That is usually their largest income stream. ITC does not have this income avenue. How will they self-fund? Who will consistently pay for their organizing and administrative requirements?

Time will tell if Itula’s efforts bear fruit. Will ITC be yet another wannabe political powerhouse spouting crowd-pleasing clichés? Or, will they be a real vehicle for people who feel underrepresented to have a voice.

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