Fishrot is the albatross around Swapo's neck
09 October 2020 | Opinion
Swapo, once a glorious and feared political powerhouse, is imploding from within. It once lured impressive crowds to its table, even uninvited ones.
That is no longer the case today. Namibia was Africa's last colony. Before independence, Swapo leaders, many of them at least, lived for many years in African countries. They had seen first-hand how those countries were ruined by greed and corruption. I thought they had learned a lesson or two, never to make those same mistakes once Namibia was free. Sadly, they did not learn the lesson. If anything, they have only excelled excellently well on how to perfect such greed and corruption, scheming to loot with impunity, while the nation profusely bleeds in poverty. Unemployment, especially among the youth, is spiralling out of control.
Many youth have long abandoned the ship, never to return. Corruption cases have dwarfed whatever good deeds Swapo has done, dimming any hope that the party would one day return to its former self of yesteryears. Swapo is in tatters, sliced mainly by some of its own leaders, whose greed and lust for wealth defy all moral values. Former Swapo secretary general, the second most powerful and effective secretary general Swapo has ever had after the late Moses Garoeb, Pendukeni-Iivula Ithana, earlier this year said
“Swapo has been hijacked by money.” Former Prime Minister, Nahas Angula, too, did not mince his words when he said that “ Swapo cannot recognise its mirror image.” They were not mad to make such scathing but lucid remarks.
Once political pundits start writing about the ups and downs of Swapo, the Fishrot scandal meets all the ingredients to complete the proverbial last straw that broke the camel's back.
This scandal has paralyzed the Swapo leadership, forcing it to run the Party in panic mode. It has also shredded the hearts of many good people.
The message has sunk in - that we have some heartless and wicked leaders in our midst. The result is a myopic leadership that is unable to keep the flock together.
A shepherd who never cares about a sheep that goes missing from the flock is not worth celebrating. In future, Swapo's electoral victories will hang on fingernails. Unity has been the first casualty of this leadership crisis. Efforts to unite the Party will yield no results, given the arrogance of the leadership and its unwillingness to face its worst unity crisis in years.
The introspection meeting Swapo held last August to unite the party was amputated on the podium on day one by President Hage Geingob himself, when he told aggrieved Swapo members and leaders he did not even care to invite to the same meeting that “you must accept defeat, whether delegates were bribed or not.”
That is not how fractured relationships are retrieved. Geingob had a chance to extend a hand of reconciliation to heal the wounds he had inflicted on his senior comrades during the 2017 elective congress.
Sadly, he has squandered that opportunity. And clumsily at that. As if that was not a serious collateral damage enough, Swapo secretary-general Sophia Shaningwa showed unity the middle finger last month when she slapped two Swapo regional leaders, Mirjam Shituula and Selma Namboga, with disciplinary charges, for having taken Swapo to court, challenging the outcome of the 2017 elective congress.
Interestingly, proceeds from the Fishrot scandal allegedly helped midwife the current Swapo leadership from that congress.
In his last frantic efforts to cling on to power, Jacob Zuma, then ANC president, once requested the ANC conference to adopt a resolution threatening aggrieved ANC members to be expelled for taking the ANC to court. It was his last Conference as ANC president. The rest is history. Now, he is closer to jail for corruption than he is to the ANC for leadership.
Shaningwa seems to have hilariously taken a leaf from Zuma. Madly obsessed with power, Shaningwa has just shown us that she does not understand the constitution of Namibia. Political rights of Swapo members are protected by the constitution of the country under Chapter Three.
Such rights are neither offered to them nor withdrawn from them by Shaningwa as she pleases. Those are the rights Namibians sacrificed their lives for in the struggle for freedom. They are entrenched.
To such political rights, the power of Shaningwa is obnoxiously rubbish. For the sake of unity in the party, such charges must be withdrawn with the contempt they deserve, if the willingness to unite Swapo is still there. Under Shaningwa, Swapo no longer holds press conferences to celebrate achievements. Such conferences have become platforms to ward off corruption allegations. Like Zuma before them, they are not succeeding.
One day soon, Namibians will know how septic the Fishrot scandal has become.
And Swapo will wear the Fishrot scandal around its neck like an albatross for years to come. The oncoming avalanche is overwhelming. When that day dawns, the current Swapo leadership will go down in history as having stuffed up Swapo - a disgraceful signature on its glorious history. But all is not lost.
Policies and decisions can easily misfire, intentionally or unintentionally.
Harambee has given us a sour taste many of us are very uncomfortable with. But we should not give up in our efforts to save the small remaining pieces that will one day resemble Swapo.
When Mikhail Gorbachev landed in the Kremlin in 1985, two key words came to define the Communist Party of the USSR, (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) under his leadership as secretary-general.
These were glasnost (openness) and perestroika, (change). Russians were double-crossed along the way by Gorbachev. By the time he left office in 1991, the USSR was no more. Geingob ascended to power, with Harambee and slate politics as the hallmarks of his leadership. Intentionally or unintentionally, Swapo has become a casualty in the process, completely disfigured beyond recognition.
By the time Geingob leaves office, hopefully in 2025, Swapo will be a wreck of its former self.
Out of the ashes of the former USSR, emerged the Russian Federalation, much stronger and smarter, a mirror image of the once formidable USSR with Vladimir Putin in charge.
Out of the ashes of Swapo, too, will emerge a revitalised Swapo, much smarter and stronger, a mirror image of the once powerful Swapo we have known for decades. Our own Vladimir Putin will emerge.
And our former glory will be retrieved.
There is hope. The souls of those who have paid with their lives under the banner of Swapo for Namibia to be what it is today, still echo from their marked and unmarked graves, in forests near and far between. They will be vindicated someday soon.
* Asser Ntinda is a former editor of Namibia Today, the official publication Swapo Party. These are his personal views.