Inner party democracy verses party discipline

By Nkrumah A. Mushelenga

THE Swapo Party Constitution is the only legitimate party supreme law governing inner party democracy and discipline. The objective of this article is to provide the party cadres and would-be party members with a general understanding of the concepts of democratic governance of the Swapo Party and create an understanding of the importance of aligning inner party democracy with the core values, principles and practices of democratic governance.

What is inner party democracy?

Inner means “internal” and here party means “Swapo”; democracy means a political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections; the active participation of citizens in politics and civic life; protection of the human rights of all citizens; and rule of law, in which the law and procedures apply to all citizens.

What is governance?

Governance means “exercising power and decision-making. In other words, the wellbeing of citizens depends on the choices made by those granted the power to govern, Members of Parliament. Key characteristics of good governance are accountability, transparency, efficiency, responsiveness; and participation – to mention a few.

What is discipline?

It is “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour, using punishment to correct disobedience”; self-control; self-restraint; will-power.

Dear comrade veterans of the liberation struggle, you and I and many martyrs of the liberation struggle have crossed many rivers of blood, tears and sweat to gain our national political and socio-economic independence.

Political independence was achieved on 21 March 1990 after a protracted war for independence. The socio-economic liberation struggle began when the President of Swapo Party and of the Republic Dr. Hage Geingob declared war against underdevelopment, poverty, illiteracy and disease throughout the country.

The economic struggle demands a united force. We fought for democracy guided by the principle of inner democracy and inner party discipline and vowed to defend and protect democratic governance in the interest of Swapo Party and those whose blood waters our freedom. We grow up in a system of inner party democracy and discipline.

There have been instances of character assassination and use of political jargon in propaganda messages, such as an alleged delay of the renewal of Swapo’s mandate in the regions; that some regions would not attend the party’s electoral college on 6 to 7 of September 2019; that ‘Swapo’s old men face onslaught’; the posting of secretary general Sophia Shaningwa’s photo in jubilation mood on a front page; questionable Swapo Party unity; negative relationship between party elders’ and the youth; the absence of active disciplinary committee. Messages saying people are “not going to vote” have been and continue to be disseminated in print media and other communication networks.

Comrades veterans of the liberation struggle, comrade heroes and heroines of the liberation struggle, the President of the SWAPO Party and of the Republic has declared war against underdevelopment, poverty, illiteracy and disease. This Presidential clarion call is for a dedicated united force to defeat underdevelopment, poverty, illiteracy and disease.

As part of his constitutional mandate, and to ensure that the provision of transparency and accountability is adhered to, and that the inner party democracy governance is closely monitored, the Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Force, Comrade Dr. Hage Geingob declared 2019 as a year of accountability.

Elections mean the renewal of mandate of those who were delegated by voters through elective conferences to act on behalf of the electorates. Swapo Party’s Manifesto for the 2014 Presidential and National Assembly Elections was and remains eloquent and inspirational.

Unite the people of Namibia, irrespective of race, religion, sex or ethnic origin, into a democratic, vibrant and peace loving nation; Defend and protect Namibian’s hard-won freedom and independence; Foster a sense of common purpose and collective destiny among the Namibian people; Combat retrogressive tendencies of tribalism, ethnicity, nepotism, racism, chauvinism, regionalism, personality cult and serve to achieve gender equality in all structures of the party; Instill in the Namibian people a spirit of patriotism and to develop in them the consciousness that they are the masters of their own destiny; Fight underdevelopment, poverty, illiteracy and disease; and Accelerate economic development just to mention a few.

Swapo’s vision is to further expand and spread opportunities for growth and prosperity to be enjoyed by all Namibians in all parts of the country, with specific focus on disadvantaged sections of the population.

For inner party democracy and inner party discipline to prevail, Article 27 of Namibia’s Constitution provides for the portfolio of a Head of State and Government, who in terms of paragraph ()1) (2)(3) shall be Head of State and of Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Force. The President has executive powers and in the service of his functions he is obliged to act in consultation with the Cabinet. In terms of Article 28 (a), the President is elected by direct, universal and equal suffrage.

The Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines “universal equal suffrage” to mean “collective”, meaning that the President of Namibia is elected by all Namibians, irrespective of political background.

Article 32 is about Functions, Power and Duties of the President. As Head of State, the President is constitutional obliged to uphold, protect and defend the Constitution as the supreme law; address Parliament on the state of the nation and future policies of the government; report on policies of the previous year; appoint a prime minister and deputy prime minister, ministers and their deputies, etc.

As an appointing authority, and indeed for transparency and accountability, constitutional obligatory Schedules 1, 2, and 3 about oaths and affirmation of judges, ministers, deputy ministers and Members of Parliament are enshrined in the Constitution.   

Why? To ensure that the oaths and affirmation under schedules (1)(2)(3) of the Constitution are honored, respected and fully complied with. According to the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, Oath is a noun means “promise”, especially that you will tell the truth in a law court’. Affirmation is a noun and means “we welcome the government’s affirmation of its attention to act”.

Article 44 of the Constitution is about legislative power. For comrades who aspire to be members of the National Assembly, you should always remember that you are delegated by the party members to represent the inner Swapo Party interests in the National Assembly and not private interests.

Remember also that you have vowed through Oath/Affirmation by swearing or solemnly affirming that you as individual will be faithful to the Republic of Namibia and hold your assignment with honour and dignity, uphold, protect and defend the Constitution.

You have voluntarily affirmed to faithfully obey, execute and administer the laws of the land and serve people to the best of your ability. Remember that you have vowed not to divulge directly or indirectly any matters brought before the Cabinet and entrusted to you under secrecy. You also affirmed to perform the duties of your office and the functions entrusted to you by the President meticulously and to the best of your ability.

Inner party discipline has been and continues to be part of the Swapo Party in-house political culture. My message to the pioneers, youth, women, elders: Ours is to promote social cohesion. Like it or not, we are heroes and heroines of the then protracted bitter liberation struggle. We have paid with blood, sweat and tears to bring about political independence.

Henceforth we are constitutionally obliged to put forward proposals and defend the …; vote at meetings on decisions…; elect and be elected to positions of authority in the party; act with dedication and commitment in the interests of the Party and the national interest of Namibia; be of exemplary conduct; and attend meetings of the party called by the organs to which we belong, just to mention a few.

The struggle for political independence was a generational leadership struggle. Henceforward, Swapo Party is defined as a “mass-based political party born and steeled in the crucible of a popular and heroic struggle for national independence. And that it is founded on the principles of democracy, solidarity, freedom, social justice and progress.”

Pioneers, youth, women and the elders’ wings of the party are the custodians of inner democracy and inner party discipline in Swapo Party. In line with Article IX (9) sub-article (T), of the party constitution, the secretary of the Elders’ Council is the spokesperson on issues affecting Namibia’s senior citizens and veterans of Namibia’s struggle for national liberation; the party’s policies and the political programme amongst Namibian elders, youth and pioneers; and encourages elders to play an active role in the running of the party by availing their experience, guidance and tried and tested wisdom.

It remains a fact, that there is no a political system characterised by absolute freedom, absolute rights and absolute democracy. Perfection of a system is determined by the will to listen, to learn from past mistakes and indeed the political will to respect and honour good governance.

For the November 2019 Presidential and National Assembly Elections, all Swapo Party wings have an obligation to be ever-vigilant against infiltration of the ranks of the party by persons not worth the honour of Swapo Party membership; oppose factionalism and defend the party; strive constantly to explain the aims and objectives, policies and the political direction of the party to the masses; be sincere and honest; protect the party’s secrets, and indeed mobilise the Namibian people to vote for the sole Swapo Party Presidential candidate, Dr. Hage Geingob and ensure Swapo Party has overwhelming National Assembly members.

Swapo is the people and the people are Swapo! Let all the wings apply door to door political mobilisation techniques.

Rt Commissioner for Refugees