Namibia, after the Elections: Nearly One Million People Voted in Namibia's Last Presidential and Parliamentary Elections. as Expected, SWAPO Won Again with a Landside. Vuyiswa Joy Looks at What Is Likely to Happen after the Elections

By Joy, Vuyiswa | New African, January 2010 | Go to article overview

Namibia, after the Elections: Nearly One Million People Voted in Namibia's Last Presidential and Parliamentary Elections. as Expected, SWAPO Won Again with a Landside. Vuyiswa Joy Looks at What Is Likely to Happen after the Elections


Joy, Vuyiswa, New African


MARCH 2010 WILL MARK exactly 20 years since Namibia gained independence. As one of Africa's youngest sovereign nations, Namibia's spectacular natural attractions and the discovery of diamonds in colonial times have made it a key country within the Southern African region. Large but sparsely populated, Namibia has enjoyed stability since independence, which came after a long struggle against colonisers and occupying forces.

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In the 27 November elections, approximately one million registered voters cast their ballots. According to the Electoral Commission of Namibia, SWAPO won again with a landslide over its major opponent, the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP). But many disputed the results, following dissatisfaction with SWAPO's handling of a spate of corruption scandals, including one allegedly involving the son of the Chinese president.

Two years ago, SWAPO, the once revered liberation movement, now the ruling party, experienced a schism which led to the birth of the RDP. Thus, even though it was a foregone conclusion that SWAPO would win, the turnout was low. As has become a tradition in African elections in recent years, the RDP claimed to have faced intimidation and violence during the campaign. Its leader, Hidipo Hammutenya, a former SWAPO stalwart, made rallying calls for voters to "throw off the yolk of fear, to stand up and be courageous and vote according to their conscience".

Just two years old, the RDP celebrated its birth during the election campaign, priding itself as the defender of the hard-won fruits of liberation. But having been in power since independence in 1990, SWAPO was not going to be beaten by a two-year-old party. The political lines are drawn over key aspects of Namibian life, like the influential media. The 15 parties that contested the elections appear to be rooted in ethnic grievances, but it is difficult to say how many of the grievances are in fact true. Even the dominance of SWAPO is seen as a "culture of exclusion" by some.

Alfred Tjiurimo Hengari, a columnist for The Namibian newspaper, highlighted this issue in an opinion piece published just before the elections: "Why are our politics so tribally and racially polarised almost two decades after independence? Can we further the republican ideals as they are articulated in the Constitution? I don't believe we can. In that instance, much of the blame will have to be put squarely on the doorstep of the government, in particular the ruling party," he wrote.

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In essence, it seems that national reconciliation will take a lot longer to achieve. Next door in South Africa, there are lessons in this process that seem to have bypassed the Namibian government. South Africa, through the ANC, seems to have faced the spectre of race head on with the inclusion of white Afrikaners in its politburo and Central Committee. The festering bitterness of the whites in Namibia is represented by, amongst others, the Republican Party which is defined by its articulation of "white issues". Of course a "white issue" is a euphemism for the preservation of the previously privileged colonial status quo.

The issue of racial segregation is not surprising considering Namibia's colonial legacy, but what is worrisome is a seeming culture of silence. A fear of facing the elephant sitting in the living room, despite having to take many wide berths to manoeuvre around it.

It appears Namibians lack the courage to engage with these issues. But just how much of a block is SWAPO's seemingly entrenched ethnic-based rule? Why can't ex-President Sam Nujoma just relax in retirement instead of accepting appeals from people not happy with aspects of their opportunities to climb the social ladder?

It is obvious that some kind of constructive national dialogue is needed. …

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Namibia, after the Elections: Nearly One Million People Voted in Namibia's Last Presidential and Parliamentary Elections. as Expected, SWAPO Won Again with a Landside. Vuyiswa Joy Looks at What Is Likely to Happen after the Elections
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