Bernadus Swartbooi, head of the Landless People’s Movement (LPM) is loud and emotive. he has a dedicated constituency that is growing and as an MP, he has a legitimate platform. He has tolled the bell for new politics in Namibia; he is a game-changer.
Recently, Swartbooi gave his reactions to comments made at a Swapo Party media conference. Doubling down on his critics, he labeled Former Swapo Prime Minister Nahas Angula and former Minister of Justice (and Swapo Secretary-General) Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana embittered opportunists. His words raise the stakes. He said that no Swapo leaders or senior members, either in current or past public office positions are free of corruption.
Swartbooi addressed the issue of credibility. Over the decades, the continuous reports of accusations, corruption trials, and scandalous disappearances of hundreds of millions stick to the ruling party. , The endless schemes, abuses of travel and S&Ts and other state-money-siphoning actions, are all linked to ‘connected’ individuals or serving politicians of the ruling party. People are hurting financially. The finger of blame is seeking a target. Swartbooi is standing behind the Swapo chair and waving his arms frantically.
The murmurs of discontent from the masses of the people are directed at those in power. Descriptions of our leaders are always connected to comments that they divert state funds, tenders, projects, drought aid, food bank baskets and other benefits to themselves, their families, and their supporters. This is a real sentiment in the society and Swartbooi is riding it.
There is a major question of credibility when discussing the 30 years of Swapo political domination in Namibia. The massive, economy-crushing corruption of Fishrot is the last nail in the credibility coffin for those in power. Swartbooi and opposition politicians as a whole are riding the wave of that credibility gap and slowly gaining momentum.
The under-the-table movers and shakers are living large on the tax payer’s dollar. People who are barely holding on to a human existence in their poverty and destitution are reaching the end of their rope. They have begun to question the ruling party’s sincerity. Swartbooi is standing on their frustration and making speeches.
He and other opposition parties have a mandate larger than those who voted for them. Swartbooi’s support is growing. The silent majority has begun to question those they voted into power. Swartbooi’s passion, even if it is too much at times, is admired in many quarters, beyond just the LPM, and he knows it. He has, for now, changed the game.
The people most in need of jobs, quality education, decent housing, and better healthcare are being told “there is no money.” And yet, there is Fishrot and SME bank directors seemingly pocketing millions. The list of missing hundreds of millions from other schemes is well known. And yet, school children still do not have enough books, some areas still do not have proper sanitation, electricity, and graded roads.
The economic recession, job losses, and now, the pandemic are slowly changing the perspectives of many. They are watching Swartbooi. Anger has been simmering for years; Swartbooi is an anger bubble. The official opposition, over the years, has been the lone voice of fury and was soundly laughed away as insignificant.
As soon as the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) stops its unseemly infighting (which also destroyed the COD and the RDP), McHenry Venaani will raise his game. He will become more vocally indignant as well. He too will find an anger bubble to ride.
Independent candidacy is a game changer. There is now a vehicle to show discontent. Instead of foolishly staying at home and not voting (as if that is a protest when it is a surrender), discontented citizens can vote to show their opposition to the status quo.
There will be more independent candidates and they will be game-changers alongeside Swartbooi.
And yet, no one should write-off Swapo. That would be a mistake. It sees what is to come and knows that it must get into the changed game. But, how can it be done when there is a credibility gap and aging decision-makers? They will find a way. Being angry can only take a leader so far. Substance, programs and consistency rule the day. Can Swartbooi deliver after the anger bubble pops?
It is good to shake things up today hoping for a better tomorrow. But, to shake things up just to sow discontent or settle personal vendettas, is not changing the game. That is destruction with nothing better to put in place.