The Consolidation of Power in Namibia: Lessons for the Opposition

Alpha Uzera

Politics is premised on three main features: The struggle for power, the consolidation of power and the exercise of power.
Efforts to consolidate state power is not often spoken of in Namibian politics.

At times the political scene is perceived as uninspiring as no opposition party comes close to demonstrating real contention for state power.

Let’s look at the recent history of Namibia in the context of the consolidation of political power.

The dawn of independence brought about joy and jubilation following a long and bitter struggle for freedom.

Swapo emerged victorious in the 1989 elections, cognisant of the fact that it was a consolidated effort by people who shared the same vision: Freedom from colonial oppression.

Namibia’s independence wasn’t achieved in isolation. Many factors contributed to it – including international and social forces.

For this reason, social cohesion among interest groups formed the basis of galvanising support.

THE CHURCH

The church, as a social construct, plays a huge role in a nation and communities said to be predominantly Christian.

Although Namibia is a secular state, we cannot deny the impact religious groups have on our society. This is also true for politics.

Many religious leaders speak out on the type of society they want.

One example in present-day Namibia would be same-sex marriages. Equally so abortion.

Churches playing a role in wanting to shape society is not new.

During the colonial era, the church helped petition the United Nations and called for its intervention in calling for free and fair elections.

At that time, many churches had a vision for Namibia which was not alien to the political parties of the day.

It was a shared struggle and a conscious or unconscious alliance was inevitable.

The opposition should strengthen its support base with religious formations in pursuing state power.

TRADE UNIONS

Trade unions are non-governmental organisations that aim to represent and protect the interests of their members.

They enjoy the support of many ordinary citizens as they are seen as their representatives on labour and human rights issues.

Although they generally operate independently of political parties, this line sometimes becomes blurred.

One example is the NUNW, which serves as an affiliate of Swapo.

Viewed through a political lens, trade unions can easily tap support from its members to an affiliate.

This signifies the importance of trade unions in assisting political parties in aspiring to state power.

It is prudent for political parties to have a strategy with trade unions.

YOUTH BASES

Student movements and youth formations were popular in the fight for liberation.

The Sharpeville and Soweto massacres come to mind.

Many of the young men and women who fought against the oppressive South African regime believed that to change the status quo, some sort of radical confrontation was needed.

These youths would inevitably become the base of youth formations such as the ANCYL, Sasco and other student movements that worked with the ANC.

It also happened here in Namibia.

The appointment of four or so youth leaders from the Namibia National Students Organisation (Nanso) to the legislature and executive by Swapo over the last decade highlights the importance of youth base consolidation.

Although one can applaud the opposition appointing a few young members to leadership positions, more needs to be done to attract support from the youth.

INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT

Relations between liberation movements in southern Africa has existed since the late 1950s and early 1960s.

They were united through a shared struggle against colonial oppression.

Many of the former liberation movements of southern Africa (FLMSA) have maintained cordial relations up until today.

To this end, a regional body responsible for maintaining peace and stability in the region is comprised of these liberation movements to ensure a seemingly ancient bond of patronage.

A recent example is last year’s election in Zimbabwe. While the election is said to have been flawed, liberation movements like Swapo and the ANC applauded the results.

The opposition in Namibia should work with other political parties in the region to fight against despotic and oppressive regimes.
These types of relationships are important in contending for state power.

As parliamentarian Inna Hengari posits, “after all, organisations are built by individuals but sustained by the ideas and relations developed to keep alive a vision”.

  • * Alpha Uzera is a student of political science

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