The ‘go to hell’ Swapo party furore, a case of much ado about nothing
• By Martin Bazooka Nanyemba
As is characteristic of the Namibian political and media landscape where some entities thrive on the latest gossip, destructive innuendos and politics of division, it is little wonder that President Hage Geingob’s recent remarks at the Swapo Party Congress of October 2 2021, were misconstrued and presented to the public as an insult to Swapo Central Committee members and more outrageously, as an attack on the judiciary and the Electoral Commission of Namibia.
It baffles the mind that out of the entire meeting, this is what the media found to be newsworthy, so much so that they decided to dedicate entire front pages to nothing more than a storm in a teacup thereby shortchanging the people for the sake of gossip.
The actual footage of the event, and the subsequent positive manner in which the meeting took place and concluded productively in a spirit of unity and camaraderie, clearly illustrates that all the media hullabaloo generated outside of the real context, was indeed a case of much ado about nothing.
It is also an indictment on the quality of our journalism in our country. The fourth estate, upon who the people place trust to inform them of the happenings of the day, are expected to present news in an honest, impartial and transparent manner, instead of resorting to lazy, sensationalist and tabloid style reporting.
Evidently, the President’s words were deliberated misconstrued to the extent that various words said in reference to different issues at different times of the meeting were lumped together creating a false narrative claiming that the President said, and here I quote The Namibian’s Friday edition’s cartoon columnist, “SWAPO leaders have weak hearts, walk like they are dead and appear finished. They can go to hell”.
This media fabricated quote is overly stretching the truth, it is a blatantly contrived lie, of course meant to divisively drive a wedge between the party president, members of the central committee and the rank and file, for them to lose confidence in his leadership before the 2022 Extra Ordinary Elective Congress.
The President never insulted or denigrated any Swapo leader or central committee members.
Please watch the footage of the Swapo central committee meeting carefully, which is key in understanding the President’s statement at the congress. First from the clip it can be seen that the President is in a jovial mood, and is busy making tongue in cheek comments, together with the secretary general and joined by the party vice president: nothing serious or malicious, just good old simple joking among comrades sitting at the front table.
Secondly, the song being sang is not about the President as some media articles claimed. This was a fabricated lie that the President was unhappy with the “lackluster song praise given to him.” Thirdly, the comments of “being dead,”“not the same SWAPO” and “they can go to hell”, followed by robust laughing in reference to the lackluster singing are all part of the conversational tone and joke with the secretary general and the vice president in close proximity. These phrases never constituted a direct address to the central committee members!
Again context is of essence here, and it is one of a mood of conversational joviality as part of a fleeting small talk among senior comrades at the high table, before proceedings. No angry outburst of frustration as painted by some who are unjustifiably peddling the politics of division. To those who know little of the President’s character, he has a very robust almost macho bravura personality which can appear threatening at times to the uninitiated.
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When he is deadly serious about a matter there is no laughing, patience or beating around the bush. He will express his displeasure as straight as it comes. Clearly, that and the anger element was completely absent in the video clip. Instead, he is laughing and joking jovially, which illustrates that either some who reported an angry President, saw a different Geingob in the figment of their imaginations than the one at the meeting. Therefore, reporting “the go to hell” phrase as a factual statement was definitively incorrect since it is taken out of context. The only conclusion that any honest Namibian can reach is that some members of the media, in an attempt to perpetuate their negative narrative of Swapo, have resorted to what can be termed as drive-by reporting.
In the callous spirit of the notorious early 20th Century Chicago gangster Al Capone, who attained notoriety for conducting drive-by hits on his enemies by shooting indiscriminately from moving vehicles in their direction, hoping to hit as many of them as possible, some reporters have resorted to throwing out an array of negative stories, innuendos and unproven inferences, aimed at Swapo, with the hope that something may stick and taint the party’s image in the lead up to what stands to be a crucial period in our nation’s political history.
Regarding the reminder to all party members, the party President simply read the riot act to all rank and file members, by strongly discouraging them not to act in a defeatist manner. In fact, the President reinvigorated the comrades not to be cowed into submissive silence, by media and social media reports which are daily delegitimising them through untrue and generalised accusations of corruption.
In this regard, it is well-known that in parliament unfortunately, Swapo which used to be the most dominant force is today subjected to insults, intimidation and public shaming, by a small unruly thuggish styled coterie constituting PDM, LPM and others. The constant barrage of insults, threats and accusations of corruption does not engender confidence among party members. And since some Swapo MPs are not countering such intimidations and accusations in a robust manner, it does not help matters.
Hence, the rationale by President Geingob in the strongest terms to encourage Swapo MPs and other functionaries to proudly stand their ground and defend the name and reputation of their party. That is party speak and inspiration coming from a President who himself exudes qualities such as bravery, a never say die attitude, and an intense dislike of self-pity and defeatism regardless of the situation at hand.
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Personally, I have never come across a lion even a wounded or captive one which is wallowing in self-pity, defeatism and cowardice. Definitively, nothing wrong for the President to inspire party members to remember that they are lions in charge of the country and government, and should therefore not act tired, weak hearted and as dead chickens.
On the contrary, they should rather proudly start wearing their party attires, demonstrate more vigour, passion and revolutionary zeal in defence of Swapo. Essentially, the President was saying, we are in charge comrades, even in Parliament we are in a majority and in charge, let us stand up, proudly and do our part in executing the party constitution and manifesto without being apologetic about it.
Therefore, to construe the encouragement of President Geingob as an insult to the central committee and an attack (rather than freedom of expression stating a party view) on the Electoral Commission and the judiciary, is totally misplaced and missing the point.
Additionally, the President -being cognizant that the so-called Fishrot saga is being hanged as an albatross tag of corruption on Swapo’s neck to chain and destroy the party’s revolutionary reputation- reminded the party rank and file via the central committee, not to be held back by such a non-deserved label.
He premised this position on the evident fact that those SWAPO members who are said to have played a role in Fishrot, were relieved from their public sector posts and arraigned before court and are presently jailed. Not only has the Swapo government put into place institutions such as the Anti-Corruption Commission but also enacted laws including the Prevention of Organised Crime Act and generally promoted a transparent and account government administration.
In the context of this undeniable record fostering an open society in which corruption is not swept under the carpet but denounced and immediately punished, the President felt obliged to embolden party members not to feel ashamed of their party membership.
Based on the facts presented above we infer that some media houses have completely abandoned the cardinal and sacrosanct principle of objectivity by reporting the facts regardless of personal opinions and being the moral voice of truth in society, in favour of lies and political demagoguery, and sadly of spreading politics of division and negativity.
From the above logic we conclude that the Swapo President definitively did not insult or belittle any central committee member, except to inspire and embolden them and the party MPs, women, men, elders and the youth to help the party reclaim its rightful position as the vanguard revolutionary liberator of Namibia and its people.
Instead, the subsequent media generated uproar was manifestly a needless and fruitless exercise in the practice of much ado about nothing, a mere meddlesome, divisive, and trouble inciting gossip mongering with a lot of smoke and no fire. Genuine Swapo comrades should stand resolute behind their party and President without being hoodwinked into confusion and disunity by such a dubious non-story.