SWAPO: From liberators to ruling party
It has been a fact and it remains a fact that SWAPO shall never be defeated by first the then colonial regime and its Western mentors, and neither shall we be defeated by all forces of tribalism, regionalism, corruption, hunger, poverty and diseases.
However, we are aware that the struggle for economic liberation which is inclusive of the bread and butter issues, shall be “longer and bitter” than that of political Independence.
Together, the first, second and third generations of SWAPO leadership, shall – to the best of our ability – defend the hard-won political Independence, the values of democracy, and the gradually, protracted sustainable struggle for economic emancipation.
SWAPO was formed on April 19, 1960 by the excessively exploited workers, mainly those who were working on contract labour in the mines, railway and cattle posts with two distinctive principles.
These were to liberate Namibia from foreign occupation, exploitation; and to establish a government based on scientific socialism founded on the will and participation of the Namibian people.
Some of the founders and the pillars of the SWAPO Party are; comrades Sam Nujoma, Andimba Toivo Ya Toivo, Kahumba Kandola, Lucus Pohamba, Theo-Ben Gurirab, David Meroro, Moses Garoeb, Nathaniel Mahwilili, Hage Geingob, Mzee Kaukungwa, Putuse, Libertina Appolus Amathila and Hendrik Witbooi just to mention a few.
The first generation of the SWAPO leadership had two distinctive short and long-term strategic objectives focusing on national and international perspectives: The first being to establish SWAPO national structures inside the country, and the second to establish external structures.
As a result, the SWAPO national leadership was able to provide a unity inside and outside the country.
Comrade Andimba Toivo Ya Toivo at one point told us that, “The struggle will be longer and bitter”, while the Founding Father of the Namibian Nation and the Commander-in-Chief of the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (SWAPO’s military wing) Commandant Sam Nujoma, kept inspiring us with words like: “A people united remains always victorious”.
We were aware that the liberation effort would be long and bitter, and that only through hard work, commitment and unity of purpose would we be victorious in our genuine struggle against colonialism, racism and apartheid.
The SWAPO national leadership inside and outside the country decided to establish two supplemental liberation struggle fronts, namely the political-diplomatic and the political-armed liberation fronts.
The purpose of the political-diplomatic front was to articulate internally and externally the aims and objectives of SWAPO and to ensure the international community understood we had decided to confront the enemy.
Hence, our liberation struggle received overwhelming diplomatic and military international solidarity.
Thanks to Comrade Theo-Ben Gurirab for his efforts in this regard for this great nation.
Our leadership learnt well from the Father of the Chinese Revolution, Commandant Mao Zedong, who once said “politics is war without bloodshed”; a means of solving conflict without recourse to violence.
Considering the excesses of the colonial regime, its brutality, exploitation, racism, imprisonment of SWAPO members, destruction of properties including our people’s agricultural fields, the first national leadership had no alternative but to launch the armed struggle.
As such, the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) was formed.
The purpose of establishing PLAN was to ensure that while Comrade Theo-Ben Gurirab spoke in a diplomatic language, combatants under the leadership of commandants John Nankudhu, Tobias Hainyeko, and later Peter Nanyemba Ndilimani, spoke with the staccato of our liberating guns.
Our eternal gratitude to the late commandants Nankudhu, Hainyeko and Nanyemba: their blood waters our freedom.
In order to ensure harmony between structures inside and outside the country, an administrative standard was established in preparation to take over governing Namibia.
The standard was premised on democratic values and full participation of the Namibian people.
As such, SWAPO established the following departments: Foreign Affairs, Defence, Education, Health, Finance, Information, Transport and Labour just to mention a few.
Furthermore, a large number of comrades were sent to study in various fields covering politics, the military, education, economics, health, labour administration, engineering, constructions, law and journalism among others.
That is why we had competent people like Comrade Nahas Angula spearheading education and Dr Hage Geingob at the United Nations Institute for Namibia in Lusaka, Zambia, who both formed part of the first government in Namibia.
The selection of cadres for study abroad was done on the basis of the country’s needs and not on the basis of tribalism or nepotism.
We were colour blind and did not look at tribe or ethnic groups.
We called each other comrades and we really meant it. We were guided by the principles of constructive criticism, solidarity, freedom and justice for all.
We were all answerable to our national leaders and were disciplined so that we could act in unison for the good of our land and people.
The National Reconciliation Policy can be defined as a set of basic principles, guidelines and rationale upon which land legislation, together with the strategies and structures for implementation can be developed. (Sue Mbaya, 2000)
A comprehensive national reconciliation policy gives reasonable clarity, consistency and the certainty necessary to provide the confidence for promotion of peace and stability, which are key to economic and social development.
The policy of willing-buyer, willing-seller on land was one compromise aimed at confidence-building between the landless majority and the self-imposed land owners.
Honouring and respecting the values of democracy, as enshrined in Chapter 3 of our Constitution has been and will remain our core priority.
There have been Presidential and Parliamentary elections after every five years since Independence as provided for in Chapter 5 Article 28 of the Constitution of Namibia.
On the conomic front, the SWAPO government has performed extraordinarily well considering the ill-health of the global economy and the challenges brought by climate change.
The government has sustainably kept increasing or adjusting social benefits for elderly and disabled persons, including orphaned children.
The implementation of free education from grade one to grade seven, and the cash grants and project support for veterans of the liberations struggle and their dependents, are some of the social programmes designed to eradicate poverty.
Challenges After 1990
Progress can only be meaningful, if there is a compromise constitution.
Thanks to the competency of our SWAPO national leaders for having applied the theory of fairness during the drafting of the supreme law of this country.
Consolidation of the democratic values was a challenge given that we inherited two distinctive governance systems; the authoritarian apartheid system and the socialist-oriented system that was at the core of SWAPO’s beliefs.
Other challenges were: rehabilitation, resettlement and re-integration of war veterans; land redistribution (land is the answer to eradication of hunger and poverty); corruption; human security; climate change; inclusive national policies to give reasonable clarity, consistency and certainty necessary for economic development (Munro-Faure, 1997); and individual discipline at the personal and professional levels.
Party members need to be more robust on issues of disciplining themselves. If Mushelenga does not comply with the party’s disciplinary measures, the party has the mandaten to call Mushelenga to order.
The SWAPO Party Constitution has provision for “constructive criticism”.
All efforts are being made to ensure that the above-mentioned challenges are addressed so that we all work together to build a greater Namibia.
May God bless the Land of the Brave!
*Nkrumah Mushelenga is the Namibian Commissioner for Refugees. He writes here in his personal capacity as a Namibian and a member of SWAPO.