Swapo must deliver on manifesto promises

LAUNCHING the governing Swapo 2019 general election manifesto in Outapi this past weekend, President Hage Geingob pleaded with the electorate to give the party another chance.

In so doing, new promises of a prosperous Namibia were outlined and the intent by the ruling party to progress our ailing economy was unleashed. But the same golden promises have been made before. They may not have the same shine any more given that we are at a precarious point in our 29th year of democracy. Our country faces massive socio-economic and socio-political challenges. Unemployment remains stubbornly high, particularly among young people. Economic growth is tepid and corruption seems to be an animal refusing to be tamed.

More worrying is that Namibians are increasingly becoming disillusioned with democracy because of the government’s anorexic delivery on the promise of a better life for all. While Swapo continues to make this promise, its delivery remains elusive.

We have all come to know that elections are a sort of commitment games, where voters opt for the candidates and parties whose policies and promises are most appealing. In essence, the manifesto is a form of contract that cannot be enforced as it is made to millions of voters. It is merely a published verbal declaration of the intentions, motives or views of the issuer. While it may not constitute a legal agreement, we must be fully aware that it is a moral contract and for this, it is time that Swapo upholds most of its manifesto promises.

The electorate deserves as much for investing their faith in the party for close to three decades of democracy.

Political parties, like individuals generally, should never promise something they cannot be sure they will be in a position to deliver. The problem here is that for many decades political parties have tended to elide the important distinction between policies and promises, and have, usually by omission rather than commission, encouraged the electorate to believe that they are identical.

The answer to this problem requires an outbreak of political honesty by all the parties. This involves making it clear to the electorate, as never before, that what their manifestoes offer are policies, not promises, and that every manifesto has to be considered in the context, not of some imaginary financial cornucopia or vote bonanza, but of what Prof Brigid Laffan memorably described as “the politics of restricted choice”.

There are similar themes of addressing economic growth for job creation, of increasing education and skills development, addressing unemployment, inequality and poverty, and working to create a better life for all in the Swapo’s latest manifesto.

But the party will need to take decisive action on corruption as well as facilitate the necessary conditions for economic growth and job creation to restore some semblance of trust in its governing ability.

The next few months will be crucial. There are a few caveats that may undermine its electoral performance in 2014. These include addressing factionalism and corruption and ensuring accountability for those involved in state tenders. Swapo also has to get public institutions functioning in a way that delivers basic services to the people.