Separating pretenders from contenders

The proverbial bloodied noses are expected when contenders in tomorrow's elections pull on their gloves.

24 November 2020 | Politics

TOIVO NDJEBELA

WINDHOEK



After weeks of political chest-thumping, air-punching, horse-riding, streetwalking and flashing V-signs, tomorrow Namibians will throng voting booths to decide the course of the country for the next five years. In previous elections, history has always been the strongest tool to guide thoughts and predictions, but Wednesday's election intends to distinguish itself from past forecasts. A sum of 493 contenders – 93 of them independent candidates - are scrambling for 121 positions as regional councillors.





No one will dare say this, but a bunch of these candidates, independent and affiliated, are looking to the sky for a miracle.

Those who have a bloated sense of self-importance, even an imaginary one, might seek heart treatment when victory evades them.

From exhausted old guards suffering from the chronic disease of entitlement to newbies seeking a shortcut to the throne of power, the turf of this battle is the largest the country has seen.

The 18 registered political parties and 13 associations contesting this election, and whose tongues have historically bragged ownership of the political space, have work on their hands. This election is no bed of roses for anyone. The ruling party Swapo did not use the past 12 months to patch together the cracks of divisions that emerged in 2012 and widened in 2017.



Factions

With internal unity evasive and allegations of corruption soaring by the hour, the party faces a contest it has not endured in decades.

But the secretary-general of the ruling party, Sophia Shaningwa, speaking last weekend at Oshakati amid 'Fishrot' chants from her own audience, believes factionalism in Swapo is dead and buried.

“We had Team Harambee and Team Swapo. It almost destroyed the party. After our introspection, we have decided enough is enough,” she said on Saturday.

“We then sat and discussed what is causing problems in Swapo. No more factions. We are all one,” she said.

There are only two theories to deduce from Shaningwa's claims of unity, ahead of tomorrow's electoral battle. She was either playing public relations politics, which is necessary in an election build-up, or she is delusional about the trouble brewing underneath the former liberation struggle movement's feet.

But the opposition, typically, have done little to exploit Swapo's divisions to their own advantage.

Instead of patching up their egos and working on a collective strategy for an election where the winner takes all, they exchanged salvos among themselves. Swapo must have laughed its head off seeing the Landless People's Movement accusing the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) of stealing its swag in parliament, or Walvis Bay Urban councillor Knowledge Ipinge accusing his one-time comrade-in-arms Panduleni Itula of hypocrisy for banning independent candidates in his Independent Patriots for Change (IPC) party.



Independents

Nothing would be more orgasmic to Swapo than winning this election convincingly, dividing the opposition and re-capturing the likes of Walvis Bay from its adversaries.

But in IPC, Swapo has a problematic new kid on the block.

IPC is unproven, electoral-wise, but writing off Itula's party would be at the doer's own peril.

The patron saint of the independent candidature phenomenon dusted himself off after last November's defeat to Swapo's Hage Geingob to form IPC, which seems to have drilled itself into the hearts of a sizeable number of voters.

“IPC is confident to be able to win 10 out of the 14 regions, if not 11,” Itula said last weekend, perhaps too ambitiously.

“We are confident to win most of the regions and we will therefore be the majority party in the National Council, so Uncle Hage has to deal with IPC up in the top there. There will be no Fishrot laws coming to us; we will send them back. There will be no corrupt processes in the chamber; we will send them back,” The Namibian quoted him. One thing is for sure; Namibia will still be here after tomorrow's bloodied-noses affair.

But whether the country will exist in a shape reminiscent of the dreams and aspirations Namibians commonly shared at independence relies solely on who they task with this duty at the ballot box tomorrow.

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