IN order to continue into the future as a force to be reckoned with, Namibia’s ruling party must redefine and reinvent itself within the modern day regional, continental and global political sphere.
The President of the Swapo Party, Dr. Hage Geingob officiated at the opening of a two-day long conference of the Swapo Party where cadres will participate in a finer analysis of the 2019 Presidential and National Assembly Elections of 2019 and said the meeting has two objectives.
“First, it is to identify and review the principal factors underlining the outcomes of the 2019 election results and analyze their effects on the SWAPO Party’s standing as the Party of choice for the Namibian masses. Secondly and most importantly, to agree on how to reorganize and gear the Party in order to effectively respond to changing political dynamics and the environment,” he said.
Dr. Geingob also addressed the perception of division within the ranks of the ruling party and said while leaders may not always see eye to eye they always understand that what binds them in unity is far greater than any difference they might have.
“The process of introspection demands that we not only look at the path traversed, but also plan for the journey ahead. Hence, we need to start planning for the next decades, during which we aim to steer the nation as the Party of choice towards the promise of shared prosperity,” Dr. Geingob said.
Dr. Geingob said that the ruling party is made up of many different generations and cadres will have to make space for one another.
“This will require patience from the youth as not all young people will make it into leadership positions. We also need the older generation to know when to call it quits, and to do so gracefully like our two former Presidents,” he said.
He added that the party has outlined the way ahead in its SWAPO Party 2019 Election Manifesto, and the ideological stance of adopting ‘socialism with Namibian characteristics’.
President Geingob’s full address reads as follows:
As many of you are aware, we have been losing a number of our veterans of late. In the last two weeks alone, we have mourned the tragic loss of
Colonel (rtd) Titus Nekwaya Hango, Colonel Werner Kaukungwa, Comrade Jason Angula, and the legendary Commander Lazarus Hamutele. Colonel Kaukungwa will be buried today at Omuthiya in the Oshikoto Region. We extend our condolences to their families and all comrades.
Our history is inextricably linked to our veterans and each time one of them bids us farewell, they take a piece of us with them. Go well comrades, we remember you. I would also like to send my condolences to the families and comrades of the late ANC Stalwart, Andrew Mlangeni, MPLA veteran and close friend of Namibia, Kundi Paihama and Former President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Mzee Benjamin Mkapa. These are men who fought for the freedom of their respective countries and actively supported SWAPO and the liberation of Namibia. Let us please rise and observe a moment of silence to pay respect to all our fallen comrades and fellow neighbours.
On April 19, 2020, we marked our 60th anniversary as a glorious political movement. Throughout the illustrious history of SWAPO, as a liberation movement, and as a political Party since 1990, we have distinguished ourselves as a Party of firsts.
We have led from the front, as an avant-garde, revolutionary political organization. Today, we are introducing another first as we host this historic SWAPO Party Postmortem Meeting, where we introspect and chart the way forward for the Party.
It is a sign of our times that we sit with masks and sanitizer as we protect ourselves, and others against an invisible enemy called Covid-19.
Namibian lives are precious and to save lives, we must exercise discipline in the wearing of masks, washing of our hands and following health guidelines.
In the SWAPO spirit of solidarity, freedom and justice, I welcome all of the cadres who are here to attend this consequential gathering.
You on July 25, 2020, the SWAPO Party embarked on a journey of organizational renewal which laid the foundation of a SWAPO Party equipped to thrive in a new global political dispensation. I sincerely thank you for your presence.
I am pleased to note that amongst this distinguished gathering, we have two icons, two leaders, two exemplary revolutionaries, in our First President of SWAPO and Founding Father of the Nation, Comrade Sam Shafiishuna Nujoma, and the Second President of SWAPO and the Republic of Namibia, Comrade Hifikepunye Lukas Pohamba.
We are honoured to have these decorated leaders, who are joined at this occasion, by other formidable Party stalwarts, namely comrades Libertine Amadhila, Ben Amadhila, Kanana Hishoono, Ngarikutuke Tjiriange, Helao Vinnia Ndadi, Retired General Martin Shali and Retired General Epaphras Denga Ndaitwah. These are among the many cadres who have dedicated their lives to the fulfilment of SWAPO Party objectives.
You may recall that soon after the 2019 Presidential and National Assembly Elections, we held a Central Committee Meeting on December 16, 2019, where I emphasized the need for us to undertake a sober introspection, soul searching and postmortem of the 2019 elections for the purpose of identifying the possible reasons as to why we did not perform optimally and therefore ended up losing ground to opposition parties.
In this regard, I sought and obtained concurrence from the Central Committee and Politburo, to institute a post-mortem on the factors that caused the election outcomes for the SWAPO Party. I wish to re-iterate my words at that time when I said, “We heard you.” Today, I say to you comrades, we are listening, we are responding and we are evolving.
The objectives of this election post-mortem are two: First, it is to identify and review the principal factors underlining the outcomes of the 2019 election results and analyze their effects on the SWAPO Party’s standing as the Party of choice for the Namibian masses. Second, and most importantly, to agree how to reorganize and gear the Party in order to effectively respond to changing political dynamics and environment.
Thus, we are here today, to commence with the important task of engaging each other as comrades, brothers and sisters, united in the quest to introspect and engage in frank honest debate and mend fractured relationships for the benefit of the future of the SWAPO Party, the only Party we know and the only Party we love.
In the wake of the elections, as well as the emergence of new role players on the Namibian political landscape, it is pertinent that as SWAPO cadres, we enhance our ability to understand each other, our motivations and revisit our core values.
This process will assist us to bring our focus back where it belongs, here in SWAPO and on the principles that have made SWAPO a dominant political force.
The process of introspection should not be seen in a negative light. There are many detractors who will claim that this meeting is a sign that SWAPO is losing its dominance in the political arena. Let me assure you, they couldn’t be further from the truth.
On the contrary, the opportunity to introspect, must always be seen as a silver lining, for a wise person once said, “Wisdom can only come through honest introspection.” We must however be reminded that there are media houses, and opposition parties, who are encouraging and enjoying the spectacle of Party members attacking one another, and the SWAPO Party in the public domain. They know that they can never destroy a united SWAPO. They know that the only way to undermine our dominance is to undermine our unity.
We all know that united we stand, divided we fall! Let us raise our concerns and challenges through Party channels, like this meeting, so that we are able to restore, maintain and strengthen our sense of common purpose. In this context, I have requested the Secretariat to read out the written comments of our Former Prime Minister and SWAPO Presidential candidate, Comrade Nahas Angula, so that we may start a fresh page of engaging each other on Party platforms and not through the media. I would like to agree with Comrade Nahas that SWAPO is our collective “heritage, our culture and identity.” As we deliberate today, let us do so from the common understanding that we all love this Party. Let us agree that we all want SWAPO to succeed. The SWAPO Party is bigger than each of us and we must unite to ensure that the Party outlives all of us.
In this context, our process of honest introspection can be seen as cathartic and healing. It is an excellent opportunity for us to re-examine our
Party’s core values, ideology, and purpose, which will give us clarity and enable us to focus on our long-term success. Our time and energy must be dedicated to serving the masses and not fighting one another.
As we begin to inwardly reflect, I would like to address an issue that has lingered over the past several years, namely that of certain cadres claiming that the SWAPO of today is not the SWAPO of yesteryear. They argue wrongly, that the Party has lost focus. I am glad that we are joined by our two foremost leaders today because this is a matter I want to explain in a forthright manner.
The DNA of SWAPO has remained unchanged and it will be insincere for anyone to argue that SWAPO has changed. Although many personalities have come and gone, our core values have remained the same. However, there is one thing that we all must understand when we look at the historic timeline of the SWAPO Party, since 1960. SWAPO, like all other organizations, is a living entity that responds, reacts and evolves in relation to the external and internal environment that surrounds it.
As a result, the SWAPO that I joined in 1962 was not the same SWAPO that established itself as an international petitioner against Apartheid illegal occupation of Namibia, which in turn was not the same as the SWAPO that took up the armed struggle, firing the first bullets at Ongulumbashe on August 26, 1966 and culminating in military victory at Cuito Cuanavale. This too, was not the same SWAPO that spearheaded the 1989 elections, after having disarmed and disengaged from the battlefield. Furthermore, this was not the same SWAPO that assumed the mammoth responsibility of leading an independent Namibia. At each stage in history, SWAPO has responded, reacted and evolved in relation to the external and internal environment that surrounded it. In essence, the SWAPO Party’s DNA is that of a vanguard Liberation Movement, born out of the collective desire of the oppressed Namibian masses to restore their human dignity, firstly, by obtaining political freedom and independence, and secondly to secure economic freedom by creating the conditions in which every Namibian can achieve his or her aspirations.
You may recall that our independence coincided with the seismic geopolitical change that took place on the Global front with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the discontinuation of the Warsaw Pact, all as a consequence of the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s. Thus, the geopolitical and economic arena of 2020, in which we find ourselves, 30 years after our independence, is significantly different from the Cold War era and the immediate Post-Cold War era of the mid-1990s.
It is obvious that SWAPO must redefine and reinvent itself within the modern day regional, continental and global political sphere.
Contrary to the insinuations of certain doom mongers, SWAPO is not facing an existential crisis.
If we are to take an introspective look at the journey of SWAPO, can we honestly deny that SWAPO has not faced many crises in its history? Of course we have faced several crises. However, because of our solid DNA, we have always prevailed. We had the Shipanga Rebellion, Muyongo and spy crises in exile. But because of unity among SWAPO cadres, our movement survived.
After independence, we had the Ben Ulenga crisis, leading to the formation of the Congress of Democrats (CoD). We also lost Honourable Ignatius Shixwameni, SWAPOs Youth leader, who formed the All People’s Party (APP). We all remember the fallout following the 2004 SWAPO Party Elective Congress, where Comrade Hifikepunye Pohamba, Comrade Nahas Angula and the late Comrade Hidipo Hamutenya (may his soul rest in peace), all vied for the SWAPO Party Presidency. During these elections, there were factions, with comrades lined up behind each of the respective candidates. In the first round, there was no clear-cut winner. This resulted in the candidate with the lowest votes dropping out, therefore leading to a run-off between the two remaining candidates, Comrade Pohamba and Comrade Hamutenya. What made the difference is that the losers in this case, Comrade Nahas and Comrade Hamutenya, appeared to have accepted the outcome. There is a difference when a defeated person accepts the outcome.
In the aftermath, Comrade Hamutenya, who had dedicated a big part of his life to SWAPO, regrettably went on to form the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP).
In other words, political crises are not new and unique to SWAPO. SWAPO is a composition of human beings who share similar values and ideologies. We must understand, that like all political parties, we have to factor in the element of human emotions, misunderstandings and differences of opinions. Therefore, disagreements and differences of opinion did not emerge as a result of the so-called Team Harambee or Team SWAPO. At the end of the day, the important thing within the democratic process of contestation, as I always insist, “let us play the ball and not the person. When the game is over, we kick the ball away, hug and congratulate the winner.”
I shall not forget that Comrade Peter Illonga, one of our revolutionary cadres (may his soul rest in peace) maybe in his good wisdom, foresaw some of the challenges we would face and therefore argued against contestation at elective congresses, as it would divide the Party. He was in favour of guided democracy. However, those who advocated for contested elections prevailed.
What I have always advocated is that we all support intra-Party democracy where there is healthy, robust competition. I have encouraged comrades never to forget that we aren’t enemies and that we remember we remain brothers and sisters who still need to respect one another after the elections. What I have never advocated is the demonization, insults, rumour mongering and under-handed tactics which make it difficult to look one another in the eye and sit at the same table after contestation. As I say repeatedly, “play the ball, not the person so that after the game, we can kick the ball away and hug one another.” If you will recall, I never used my platforms to bad-mouth my opponents during SWAPO internal electoral campaigns or the National and Presidential Elections.
Unfortunately, when we refuse to abide by these rules and fail to accept defeat within a democratic process, problems will inevitably arise. It is disappointing that those who refuse to accept defeat, resort to insulting the intelligence of comrades, claiming people who were flocking to the rallies and that delegates who voted with their conscience were bought.
As for claims that proceeds from the current Fishing Sector corruption case was used to buy votes during the 6th Elective Congress, it is not true. As a Party, we have made our position crystal clear at the recent press conference where we set the record straight and announced serious internal Party reforms on Party donations and campaign financing. As the Politburo is seized with this matter and will undertake an internal investigation on Party donations since 2004, I will not dwell on that specific matter. What I would like to dwell on is the Party’s demonstrated commitment towards fighting and eradicating corruption. The clumsy attempts to falsely paint SWAPO as a Party of corrupt elites is a talking point of those who seek to destroy our Party from within and from outside.
It appears they believe that repeating this lie as often as possible will make it true. What is true is that SWAPO has no reason to protect individuals who betray the trust of the Party and engage in self-enrichment as that is a betrayal of the sacred trust bestowed on us by the masses. The Party has always supported due process to take its course when a member has been accused of wrongdoing and we have not diverted from that position. To the extent that the Party needs to make some recommendations on how we can strengthen our anti-corruption measures and sanctions, we will do so.
I am pleased that today, we will candidly discuss some of these issues, in-house, as cadres, in order to take stock, identify our successes, see where we went wrong and mend relationships. When I say I welcome each of you, I mean it. We may not have always see eye to eye, but we understand that what binds us is far greater than any difference that divides us.
The process of introspection demands that we not only look at the path traversed, but also plan for the journey ahead. Hence, we need to start planning for the next decades, during which we aim to steer the nation as the Party of choice towards the promise of shared prosperity.
We have outlined the way ahead through our SWAPO Party 2019 Election Manifesto, and its’ ideological stance of adopting “socialism with Namibian characteristics.”
Whether we talk of the Second Phase of the Struggle for Economic Emancipation or Socialism with Namibian Characteristics, one thing is certain. These should not be mere slogans. These should be progressive concepts which are explicitly defined in a manner that will guide the work and values of the Party in terms of achieving Namibia’s developmental objectives.
We can take a leaf out of the book of the People’s Republic of China, from where we have “borrowed” this concept, which in their case is referred to as, Socialism with Chinese Characteristics. It is an integration of the basic principles of socialism with the socio-economic realities of today.
We must understand where we came from while intimately understanding where we are in this moment of history. Thus, as we plan for the future, we will do so in a manner that we can adapt to an ever-changing world while retaining our core values and principles. We will not allow our detractors and dark forces to decide for us who we are. We know who we are. We will decide for ourselves.
As the leader of the Cuban Revolution Comandante Fidel Castro once said, “Every country must be absolutely free to adopt the type of economic, political and social system that it considers convenient.” Therefore, let us exercise our freedom, the freedom that SWAPO fought for, to pursue the type of economic system that is beneficial to all Namibians.
This is what we need to do, to define an economic system suited for Namibia, her realities and her people. In the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation emerged to forge a new system, adapted to new realities. Similarly, China and Vietnam did the same thing. We need to operate within the boundaries of reality and pursue, with absolute determination, the promotion and realization of a more inclusive, fair, and just economy that is people-centered and narrows the wealth gap resulting in inequality.
The countries I have mentioned were known as socialist or communist countries, but have adapted their economies to suit their economic and geopolitical aspirations. In Russia, China and Vietnam there has been a transition from centrally planned economic systems to more market-oriented economic systems, albeit to varying degrees. Even the Republic of Cuba and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are implementing and pursuing certain changes that are beneficial to their interests. This is why we witnessed the rapprochement between the USA and Cuba during the Barack Obama Administration as well as the meetings between the leaders of the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in recent years.
This is the geo-political and geo-economic sphere in which we operate. It is incumbent on us to adapt and evolve in order to remain relevant and effective as a major political organization, not just nationally, but regionally and continentally.
It is in the process of analyzing the current milieu that I have developed the theory of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. If we are to view the concept of Capitalism as the thesis, then Communism is the antithesis, therefore what we are pursuing is a synthesis, which in our case will be Socialism with Namibian Characteristics in the sense that the constitution already enjoins us to have a mixed economy. As an example, Vietnam and Russia, due to the socialist systems, already had strong social safety nets in place. It is in this context of synthesis whereby America, which adheres to capitalist ideology, has seen a push to transition to strong social safety nets.
It is within this context of synthesis that we must pursue socialism with Namibian characteristics.
The task of identifying the building blocks of this concept is assigned to the Think Tank and scholars.
Our meeting comes at a time when the Former Liberation movements of Southern Africa are faced with numerous challenges and where those who have sought to pre-empt our downfall are intensifying their efforts through various tactics of destabilization. In this regard, it is not a coincidence that prior to our national elections of 2019, Al-Jazeera released a documentary with the intent to influence the outcome of our elections.
Similarly, as we approach another election later this year, Al-Jazeera is resurfacing with more socalled exposés. In the world of politics, these are not coincidences. Let us open our eyes and start to recognize the machinations that seek to undermine our progress as a Party.
Despite the concerted efforts of these forces, both internal and external, to unseat Former Liberation Movements from power, I am certain that if we use the opportunity provided by this meeting, to craft and define our way towards economic liberation, we will be able to reverse the negative trends we witnessed during the 2019 elections.
One thing is for sure. If we plan to move forward as a stronger than ever SWAPO Party, then we will have to deal with the elephant in the room and that is the ugly spectre of tribalism.
Article III B (4) of the SWAPO Party Constitution declares the SWAPO Party’s aim and objective to combat the retrogressive tendencies of tribalism, ethnicity, nepotism, racism, sexism, chauvinism, regionalism and personality cult. SWAPO should therefore, never embroil itself in factional politics and the aforementioned destructive vices. In this regard, a tribalist can never be a revolutionary.
Just like a true Pan-Africanist cannot promote the discrimination or oppression of fellow Africans. A revolutionary should not subscribe to “isms” and retrogressive tendencies.
It is with this understanding in mind that one of Africa’s long-serving sons, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia said, “Above all, we must avoid the pitfalls of tribalism. If we are divided among ourselves on tribal lines, we open our doors to foreign intervention and its potentially harmful consequences.” Let us therefore avoid the pitfall of tribalism and avoid becoming divided along regional or tribal lines.
To safeguard our SWAPO Party, it is pertinent that our young people are well informed about our history as this will guard against the dangers of tribalism and factionalism. After all, it is our youth who will take over from where many of us leave.
Finding the delicate balance of inter-generational representation is critical. I was a young cadre when I was given responsibilities in the liberation movement. We must guard against the type of careerism that blinds us from the imperative to engage succession in a disciplined and fair manner, where no generation is ignored, leapfrogged or demonised.
Within SWAPO, we have many different generations and we have to make space for one another. This will require patience from the youth as not all young people will make it into leadership positions. We also need the older generation to know when to call it quits, and to do so gracefully like our two former Presidents. I will follow in their example and, like them, you will not find me, during my retirement, attacking the Party I love, or its new leadership. There is a point where the old must transition out to allow the new to grow as we have been doing in SWAPO. Let us manage our succession in a disciplined and orderly manner. We must also be cognizant that our challenge is not just ensuring the inclusion of youth leadership.
Inclusivity means ensuring everyone is represented and that nobody is left behind. Namibia’s diversity is woven into the fabric of SWAPO and we must ensure it remains the case.
SWAPO is a Party that espouses the principles of democracy and inclusivity. It is the Party that toiled and prevailed through tumultuous times to introduce the principles of democracy and established the country on the pillars of Unity, Reconciliation, Peace, Progress, and Stability.
We should never compromise on these principles.
To do so will be tantamount to betraying the people of Namibia and those who sacrificed their lives to liberate this country. Therefore, as we introspect and deliberate on the way forward over the next two days, let us view this as an opportunity for the SWAPO Party to enhance its focus on delivering on its mandate.
As asserted by the former President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, “Unity will not make us rich, but it can make it difficult for Africa and the African people to be disregarded and be humiliated.”
This generation of SWAPO cadres must recognize and embrace the task of unity. In so doing, we will make it difficult for SWAPO to be divided or humiliated. Through unity, we will be able to focus our attention entirely on the second phase of the struggle – that of economic emancipation.
Let us commit to emerge from this weekend’s deliberations, as dedicated SWAPO cadres, united in purpose, resolute in commitment and steadfast in the belief of our SWAPO Party and its ideology.
We may not dare betray those who made immeasurable sacrifices for us to enjoy the fruits of our freedom.
As the Director of Elections in 1989, I drove to every corner of this country and I saw the love and commitment of the people towards SWAPO. As a SWAPO Presidential candidate in 2019, I saw that same love and commitment. There was also a cry for unity and a valid expectation that we accelerate service delivery to improve the livelihoods of the masses. Our people need us. There are areas where we failed our people. We need to do better in the areas of housing, education, health and shared prosperity.
From the sections, to the branches, districts to the regions, we need engaged and committed footsoldiers, competent and involved leaders and most importantly, we need to return the love and commitment shown to the Party by taking care of the masses. That is our DNA. That is what our people want. That is who we are. SWAPO is the People and the People Are SWAPO.