A slap in the face

26 July 2019 | Columns

Political contestation is the lifeblood of democracy. It presents an opportunity for voters to have a smorgasbord of choices of who to cast their votes for. In the case of intra-party contests, especially ruling party ones, where a room full of delegates get to choose the president and other top political leaders in society, contestation leads to a battle of ideas and characters that parties either get behind or reject. The death of this process is slates, where captains punt their chosen few candidates for top positions, as President Hage Geingob did with his Harambee faction during the 2017 ruling party elective congress. The fallout of this is still oozing today. With that said, Armas Amukwiyu, who ‘dared’ challenge Geingob’s candidate for Swapo SG, Sophia Shaningwa, ate some rather humble pie this week, when it emerged that he had apologised for standing against “Geingob”. This, and the fact that Geingob had referred to Amukwiyu, whose Chinese-headed tobacco project the head of state’s administration recently gave the green light for, has become the source of much debate. Firstly, the word ‘boy’ is a harkening back to the apartheid era, where grown black men and women were called boys and girls by racists. Secondly, although it may be understandable that Amukwiyu does not want to bite the hand of the one who has clearly fed him and his Chinese investors, his ‘apology’ cannot go unaddressed. It is in fact an insult to democracy and should not be allowed to go unchallenged. He may be okay with being called a “small boy” or cow-towing to the powers that be, but the rest of us should take umbrage. To apologise on a public platform for standing as a nominated candidate at a party congress is a slap in the face of the basic tenets of democratic contestation and should not augur well for Amukwiyu’s future political ambitions. Geingob himself has, over the years, contested in these same processes, without apologising to anyone.

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