IF one looks at recent news reports, for example, concerning the decision of the Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL), there appears to be an ongoing no-holds-barred feud between the SPYL Secretary, Elijah Ngurare, and the Minister of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture, firebrand Kazenambo Kazenambo. Quite what it’s about is anyone’s guess, but they’ve called each other some choice names, and the fight is escalating as the process for the election of candidates for Presidency heats up within the ranks of the ruling party.
For Swapo the days in which it was frowned upon to ‘wash dirty linen in public’ are clearly over, as the two have aptly demonstrated.
The SPYL have cast their lot with the Minister of Regional and Local Government, Jerry Ekandjo, for reasons that have not been very clearly articulated.
Most recently Ngurare issued a ‘stern warning’ to those holding senior government positions on a SPYL ticket to deliver or be recalled, a statement which according to media reports, did not go down with Kazenambo, who in turn did not attend the SPYL congress, alleging that he hadn’t been invited.
And as is the case with politics in general in the country, others are taking sides based purely on their likes or dislikes for a particular individual, rather than what their preferred person stands for.
Politics is known to be a dirty game, but at least somewhere in the mix should be considerations for what individuals stand for and what their policy differences might be, if at all. At least then it would give the electorate or the supporters of that particular party, food for thought and rational articulation of why they prefer one over the other. But the electorate is learning nothing in this process except to establish which one can be more insulting than the other.
Some of the fight can perhaps be attributed to the fact that both appear to favour different presidential candidates. Those already nominated are Trade and Industry Minister Hage Geingob and Justice Minister and Swapo Secretary General Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana. That SPYL threw a new candidate into the mix, in the person of Minister Ekandjo, seems also to be a bone of contention. SPYL however denies that there is any division in their ranks over this issue.
Kazenambo is said to be supporting Geingob, while Ngurare justified the SPYL nomination of Ekandjo on the grounds that Iivula-Ithana (always perceived as being close to the Youth League) had already been nominated. It’s not clear if this is in fact the case or if there’s more to the background of this than meets the eye, although SPYL was at pains to mention in a statement this week that they had ‘congratulated’ Iivula-Ithana on her nomination, indicating there is no bad blood. It would, however, probably not be untrue to say it would not have been untoward for SPYL to simply confirm their support of either of the two existing candidates without feeling they had to inject a third name into the contest.
Nevertheless, the point I am trying to make is that the ‘candidate controversies’, would be better served (and so too would the electorate) if the discussions were lively around any possible policy differences or emphases among them. We accept they are all in the Swapo stable, but still there are bound to be priority issues more important to some than others. And it would elevate the debate if if was these that were the subject rather than emotional and character-based antipathies that none but themselves really understand.
Namibian politics in general has failed to reach a level of true maturity, and unfortunately this has both negative effect on the political candidates themselves, as well as the electorate who are following their bad example.
I am not a supporter of the ‘present a united front at all costs’ school of thought, because that implies closed ranks and secrecy, but neither am I an advocate of name calling and politics of the gutter. There needs to be much more informed debate of issues and priorities, and we have plenty of them, that can promote good governance both at party-political as well as national level. It is up to political leadership of all stripes to set the example and raise their tone and overall standards.
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