The more things change, the more they remain the same. At least this seems to be what things are in Swapo where events keep on taking the people back to the beginning. If one looks at the current scenario in the Swapo Party, one can see elements of what happened in 1976 in Zambia when some youth marched to Lusaka protesting what they called rampant corruption that involved the abuse of donor funds.
This came to be known as the Shipanga Rebellion after the man who was accused of organizing the youth to march on the Swapo Party headquarters in Lusaka. For those who do not know what it was that became known as the Shipanga Rebellion of 1976, here is a brief lowdown.
The man behind the rebellion was called Andreas Zack Shipanga. At the time of the rebellion, Shipanga was the secretary for information and publicity. He was also one of the founder members of the Owambo People’s Organisation. At one time, he was the organisation’s president.
Although the march was later triggered by corruption claims, at the centre of the disgruntlement was the demand for a congress that was supposed to have been held in 1974. The delay of the congress led to Shipanga writing a memo to the party’s national executive committee, the central committee and those based in foreign Swapo offices to come to Lusaka for the congress he said would be held on 20 December 1975.
The same demand was being made by those who had just arrived in Lusaka, Zambia as well as the exiled Namibians. This did not happen and the claims of corruption came up to spur more than 1 000 youth to march as part of the rebellion to Lusaka in 1976. They were, however, intercepted by the Zambian army and some were detained at Baroma Concentration Camp in the Kamwe District while others were taken to Keko and Ukonga in Tanzania.
Before his death, Shipanga said the rebellion was a Swapo Youth League rebellion led by people who felt that they could not stay in an organisation that was riddled with corruption. While there are no detentions happening today, the situation has the colour and look of the events that happened in 1976 in Lusaka. One similarity is that the youth were involved in the march demanding that the elders should be transparent. This is also happening today where some youth are making almost the same demands.
The other similarity is that just like in 1976 when the youth were arrested and then jailed; today the party is desperately trying to push down some of the youth who claim that the party has lost its head. One wonders then whether all the efforts and time being invested in following and sitting around planning to charge and censure some of these youth is worth it at all.
One also wonders whether this is not the time the party should focus more on things that speak louder to the whole nation than focus on a few individuals. Just what is it about the party and this infatuation with a few individuals such that the efforts to work and better the welfare of the general public have been pushed to the fringes?
Are there no better things to do than run after a few individuals who are going about their businesses as members of a party that is sworn to democratic principles? Is this not the time that some of the leaders in the party should put aside their personal feelings towards a few individuals and focus more on what can make Swapo live up to its promises?
While some leaders might think that by keeping on dragging these few individuals before committees and slapping with charges is a good, they seem not to realise that they are making the youth more popular. It is even worse that somehow, the youth are well organised and know how to counter the challenges the elders are throwing at them.
The lost court case that left the party smitten should be a good example of how Swapo should go about the business of punishing its children. Having said all this, one wonders then why the party today appears to have no unifying force that can calm down tempers and be the voice of reason. The uncertainty caused by the infighting within Swapo has to an extent permeated through to most spheres of life in the country.
A weak Swapo will not command a strong economy or a stable country. Swapo needs a voice of reason to rise above the mixed cacophony of voices echoing across the country today. Everybody who has a problem or a grievance has found a way of standing up and making demands on the government. While there is nothing wrong with citizens making demands, if the situation is left unattended, there is a possibility that there might be chaos in the country.
At least, that is if what is already going on today cannot be described as chaos caused by a weak Swapo that appears to trying hard to tear itself apart. This is where those voices of reason must rise above all these other discordant voices from the tribes and the disgruntled youths. It does not look good when elders are embarrassed at every stage by the children. This is the time.