The Swapo Party decision to demand disciplinary action against Mirjam Shituula and Selma Namboga is a mistake. This was the perfect platform to act on the meeting just held to introspect. The golden opportunity to face the new normal and be an inclusive party has gone down the drain. The thing to do in the case of these two members who acted on their rights to challenge the outcome of the 2017 election, is nothing.

We do not support dumping this bad decision on Swapo Party Secretary-General Sophia Shaningwa. It is her job to be the messenger of the decisions taken. The smell from this poorly timed and short-sighted decision must rest with the Central Committee. They directed the party leadership in Oshana Region to take disciplinary action against the two.

Is the Swapo Party out of touch with the frustrated sentiments of the rank and file? Many are tired of court cases, witch-hunts and punishments. They want to modernize the party and improve service delivery and investment in their areas. There are many who would otherwise be party members but look at situations like this one and think twice. Such actions can push people into the political arms of independent candidates. Why would a party exact more punishment on people who are already defeated?

Imagine a child that feels aggrieved and starts a fist fight at school. They get beaten up badly for their efforts. Then, the learner is expelled by the school for the rest of the year. And worse, when they come home, their parents kick them out of the house. There was no damage done to those who were attacked in the original fight. The word ‘over-kill’ comes to mind. There must always be a balance between the action and the reaction. We must make room for healing and redemption or else punishment is just vengeance.

Former mayor of Oshakati, Katrina Shimbulu also dragged the party to court. She challenged her removal from the city council (she won her case). And yet, she faces no disciplinary measures. This seeming double standard makes the action against Shituula and Namboga murkier.

In any organization, when you close the door to internal disagreement, a window will open for hidden division. You cannot hold back the tide of differing opinions by putting up your hand and shouting ‘stop!’ You must manage the tide and mitigate its impact.

In any group, there will be those who agree or disagree with everything and anything, whether they say so or not. The key is to encourage differing opinions to rise to the surface. Leaders then must find any nugget of gold in the opposition points. Then the hard work of consensus building can start without fear of repercussions, blacklisting or witch-hunts. Invite those with different ideas to do their homework and present well-researched alternatives.

These two women made a choice and took up their constitutional rights to challenge a Swapo elections outcome in the courts. There were those who supported them in this action. Their side lost. The enormous legal bill they now must pay will likely ruin them in many ways for the rest of their lives. Is it necessary to kick them further while they are already down?

We would have loved to see the ruling party step up and take a proactive leadership-focused position. Use the affirmation by the courts to reiterate the sound procedures of Swapo voting at congress and internal decision-making processes. No further action is required to make Swapo’s point.

We can only hope (in vain) that the Oshana Regional leadership acts independently. They should decline to take any further action against the two members. If the Central Committee wants disciplinary action taken, let them take it in their own name. Why should the Oshana Region take public relations hit?

The landmine of disciplinary actions against these two women will uncork the bottle of public accusations and factions (people will take sides) that has only just been tamped down. This is the time to let things go and let the party and the region move on.