Swapo risks hastened dispatch to the political cemetery

AS Swapo navigates a tricky post-election conundrum which has seen its support dwindle, its leadership needs to wake up to the fact that the party is not only in trouble because of the emerging minority parties but serious systemic weaknesses are corroding Swapo’s core and unless these are addressed, the party risks a hastened dispatch to the political cemetery.

The myriad of challenges confronting Namibia – unemployment, poverty, material inequality, failing education and health systems, and a sluggish economy – compel cadres of the ruling party to provide the kind of inclusive and cohesive leadership urgently required to solve these challenges through their choices before, during and after at the forthcoming elective congress.

Recently, Confidente reported on the contentious clauses within the Swapo constitution popularly known as the ‘Helmut amendments’ that have divided the ruling party with some calling for their immediate removal before the 2022 elective congress to widen the pool for potential top four leaders. These clauses are believed to be blocking the youth cohort from participating in positions of significance leaving a small pool of cadres eligible for the top four positions.

Telling comments by Swapo stalwart Nahas Angula who this week said the current Swapo is guided by “stomach politics” and those of former Minister of Home Affairs Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana who said the current party leadership has made things “tasteless, difficult, and very confusing” may be instructive of where the ruling party is and what it may need to do to become the party of choice even for its long serving cadres.

A key part of the problem facing Swapo appears to be that its top figures have failed to rise above their personal ambition for senior leadership positions. Swapo should consider a system where members compete for positions in a transparent manner guided by a clear set of rules. This would enable delegates to select leaders based on their performance in the party and in government.

At this stage and with urgency,  it is crucial that the Swapo leadership leads the way in transforming the organisation into a modern political party that deploys people based on merit, skill and commitment to serving the country, rather than their allegiance to certain organisational factions.

The next few months and those that will follow after the elective congress will be crucial. There is much to do to fight the elements that were key in the party’s subdued electoral performance in 2019. These include addressing factionalism and corruption and ensuring accountability for those entrusted with public institutions. Swapo also has to get public institutions functioning in a way that delivers basic services to the people.

If it fails to do any of this, Swapo may well suffer losses akin to the previous local government elections at a national level and further reduce its electoral dominance of Namibia’s political landscape when it goes again to the polls in two years. Indeed, the key lesson from the most recent elections was that people are no longer buying promises with their vote.