The Villager editor Linekela Halwoodi spoke to Swapo secretary general Nangolo Mbumba about an array of issues and events in the ruling party today. This interview was part of the party’s 57th anniversary on 19 April. Mbumba, who has been at loggerheads with some of the youth leaders, says the youth are in a hurry.He also says the youth think that if they get higher positions the world will be a new world and they will begin new structures, new government.
Is Swapo in a healthy condition right now? Or the party is divided?
Swapo continues to be Swapo. It’s an organisation that embraced aspirations of all Namibians. It started with the workers fed up with suffering, especially those who were under the contract system. It mobilised the youth. It started forming the trade unions. It is one organisation in the history of Namibia that trained people militarily to fight for freedom of the motherland.
Those principles still inspire people to join Swapo to work for Swapo. We have former politicians, former soldiers, former police officers, and former civil servants still supporting the party. It is our freedom not to curtail each person to campaign to aspire to move up but then there are rules on how to do it not for the purpose of destroying the party but improving the party, to work hard to unite people, to help people, to develop Namibia. Those are the things we should be doing not just I want a position, okay?
The youth are in a hurry. They think if they get higher positions the world will be a new world and they will begin new structures, new government. The structures of the government in Namibia were already created by our constitution.
We will always lead according to our constitution. Within the party, we should always behave and conduct ourselves in line with the principles of the constitution. So in the end, we are telling them the future is on their side, time is on their side, but the time is only on their side if they behave properly. I have said look you will either inherit from us the whole of Swapo if you help inherit peace. They will inherit the whole of Namibia and ensure it remains united. We don’t want people to fight for one side of the country and not the other. This thing of demanding things for my people in my village, what about some of us who work at national level?
How should we now go back to the village and say I will only work for my village or my district or region. We must be careful, we either have one Namibia or we have nothing.
What is Swapo’s position on the issue of ancestral land?
Ancestral land is a difficult situation. We discussed that in 1991. The issue is not that we don’t want people to get land. We want all Namibians to get land. That’s what Dr Geingob even said. If we are to say certain people will occupy certain places exclusively for themselves because of the language they speak or the culture they have then we are to a certain extend not living up to the principle of one Namibia one nation.
If we take places like Okahandja or Omaruru for example and say only those who lived there before the Germans should now live there, is that practical at the moment? If you have to do it in a bigger way, it is up to the government to do so. It’s a questions of helping our citizens now not because it is my village. Let us deal with all our issues not on the basis of anger and frustration but reasonableness and willingness to help our people. Now you mobilise your people in your own region and you think others have no ability to organise the people in their villages too? Is that really nation building?I never want to join a group which claims something but excludes other Namibians.
There are a number of groupings formed by Swapo members. What does this mean for the party?
The party will continue to grow, but for those people who think they can play double games they can eat and have food in both cheeks at the same time we will find ways to say so far and no farther. We do not want people to be leaders in Swapo, card-carrying members in Swapo, who speak in the name of Swapo, elected by local authorities, regional councils, members of parliament, and then at their own convenience they create other institutions where they can talk about anything including against their own party and their government and their leaders including the president. Any disgrace, any attack on the president who represents us all is really a disgrace to us and that is not how we are brought up.
There have been calls by some of the people who have formed the groups to impeach or recall President Hage Geingob. Do you think there are grounds for this and is Swapo’s position on this?
There have been stories because of their own scheming the president should not be given a second term. Those things came from individuals and not from the party structures.
This means nothing because Geingob is the president we have. He was elected both within the party and within the nation. There have been talks that President Geingob is not THE Swapo PRESIDENT but is just acting. What is the position? Nobody has other rights to call me by any other name. I can have nicknames but this is my formal name so is your name so is another. We are governed by the constitution of Swapo which says he is the leader. First, you elect the president, vice president, the secretary general and deputy secretary general. Those are the most senior people within the party but there is another group of 84 people - the Central Committee that governs all aspects of the party, its programmes and activities within five years from congress to congress. Nobody has any power to change any decision taken by the Central Committee. Dr Pohamba was elected as the president of the party.
Dr Geingob was elected as vice president. When Dr Pohamba stepped down as the president of the Republic of Namibia, he decided that instead of there being a party president and a state president, the constitution allows the party to give mandate to the vice president of the party. Dr Pohamba went through all the steps and he came to tell us who were part of the top four that this is what he was planning to do. He went to the Politburo which endorsed the decision when it realised how serious he was.
We went to the Central Committee that took place at Ongwediva and a decision was made that Dr Geingob is Swapo’s leader. He chairs all Politburo meetings, all Central Committee meetings and he will chair the congress. In line with our constitution, the leader of our party is called the president and the decision was taken by the Central Committee. It was not taken by one person but by 84 members anyone whether it’s a newspaper or an individual within or outside the party who wants to call Dr Geingob any other thing except the president of the Swapo Party is doing that out of political naughtiness.
Are all positions in Swapo for leadership open or the party presidency will not be contested?
The term of office to be fair to everybody is five years.
The secretary general and the deputy secretary general and the vice president have to be re-elected while the other members of the Central Committee will have to stand for election. The principle has been the presidency of the party especially when the president is already the president of the country does not have to seek re-election. We already said President Pohamba did not want confusion between some people going to him and some people going to the president of the country, so he merged it. Now Dr Geingob is the president of the country. If we were to elect another person, which is not possible and not likely, then we are violating our own rules and principles. But it does not prevent anyone from standing but as principled members of the politburo and the central committee, we will endorse the leader to lead both the country and the party.
What can you say about the business people who are trying to influence the outcome of the forthcoming elective congress?
Well, we should not just say business people, maybe there are other people too. Any people trying to influence the business of the party if they are members they should do it according to the rules and principles of the party. If, however, it is to create havoc for the party and havoc for the country then that is not a welcomed for development. We should work according to the rules. Undue inﬂuence in politics by moneyed people is never a good thing. It’s still the principle of one man one vote; one person one vote; one citizen one vote.
As the secretary general, you have been at the receiving end of criticism especially from Job Amupanda and Elijah Ngurare. How do you feel about this?
Personally, you see the issue is the misinterpretation.
The SG of the Swapo party is the administrator. He is the head of the secretariat, all records, reports, and letters are the responsibility and goes out with the signature of the SG. The mistake they are making is thinking that because the letter comes from me, I am the one and they know too but they want too rather play politics. Personally, I don’t feel anything because it is part of my duty, but there are people who feel pity for me, who feel bad when they hear bad things being said about me but I have been able to live with it. I have some months to go and then that’s that.
In your honest opinion, is this time the party’s worst in its history?
No, a long time ago we used to have the president of the party, the vice president of the party, the national chairperson of the party and the secretary general of the party. This was in the late 60s to 70s. Dr Nujoma was always the president of the party. We had someone called Louis Nelengani as the VP, Mburumba Kerina was the national chairperson, and Jacob Kuhangua was the secretary general. All four of them thought their position was the highest. Until the situation was resolved by saying Dr Nujoma was elected by the people.
It’s not just a title. He is the leader. That was a terrible time. There was a time around 1975-1976 after the Portuguese territory became independent or was moving towards independence and many people came into exile. Those of us who were in exile in the 60s were few and they came with the idea that we should carry on the struggle in a different way. It was a crisis, a military crisis for that matter so for this one, we have no crisis whatsoever. This is not a crisis. I can be in ofﬁce and I am here not guarded by armed people but the jockeying will always be there. It is competition amongst politicians, so hopefully the more active one or the more dynamic one or the hard working one will be elected by the public.
What do you think is the issue with the youth both in and outside the party?
The youth have issues. For the ﬁrst time, we are producing a lot of graduates. For the ﬁrst time in the history of Namibia, in Swapo we used to celebrate when one member or one Namibian graduates from the university anywhere even just getting a BA but all of us can now.
Now we have a medical school and an engineering school. We are moving up in terms of the level of education. So now a person with a Grade 10, 12, or even three years of university education is still struggling to get a job. That is understood by the government but youth unemployment is a challenge both within the party and within the country as well and we should as a society try to come together and create opportunities in whatever ﬁeld so that people have jobs to take care of themselves. I am a teacher and its one of the professions I love very much.
I want people to be educated, trained and to have a lot of skills. The youth want to move on, and they want to move on quickly so we gave the likes of Tate Pohamba a hard time when they were our leaders and like my kids (struggle kids) here are giving me a hard time. They are calling me their leader so I must listen to them even when whatever they are saying might not be correct. That is the challenge.
Then there is the general issue of gender equality among the youth. Young ladies also want to move into leadership, not only men. That is a challenge. Then there is a challenge that people are not as well ﬁxed into their traditional families. We are behaving in a way that our parents will not appreciate. We have the ability to insult other people through SMSes, the media, social media but insulting other people will not create a job for you. It will not give you a leadership position.
It is just proof that either you are not properly brought up or your head is not exactly functioning well. We must learn not just to ask what others should do, we should really ask what we individually or as a group of youth can do for our own country. Too many people are demanding, the veterans are demanding from the government, children of the liberation struggle are demanding from the government, the youth are demanding from the government.
I have seen people digging trenches for pipes for water to come to their villagers. People have created their own places to raise chicken, ﬁsh and you people have the ability to use computers to create things that we are not able to create so let us be creative. Let us be dynamic and work together to solve problems. Creating a war thinking that you will be a winner and you will end up being a president what is the use of being the president of a broken country? That will not help in anyway.
What is your take on tribalism?
Tribalism is totally outlawed by our national constitution and our party constitution. If I have to receive people who only speak my mother tongue or even just those who speak English in the ofﬁce of Swapo, how would you feel? What type of party would that be? That is not fair. When we are elected within the structures of Swapo, it is to serve everybody. When we are elected to parliament to make law, it’s for all Namibians. We do not make laws for the northerners or the southerners or the easterners or the westerners. When you are arrested by a policeman you are not arrested by a policeman who speaks Afrikaans, or Oshiwambo or Otjiherero.
You are arrested by an ofﬁcer of law. So tribalism is a disease in Africa. The minute you start practicing it, you think your people should be in all the positions and then the government, police or the army and when the problem starts it is facing you alone. It is good to have a balance. Jobs must be done by all Namibians. The beneﬁts of the products that come out of our labour must go to all Namibians. Jobs must be distributed fairly.
What is the way forward for the struggle kids?
It is a struggle, but the government is putting up mechanisms for them. They must go for training. The ﬁrst two months is civics training which means physical training. After physical training they must do four months of technical or professional training.
This is when they are trained for trades they can apply and after that the government will facilitate for them to get jobs. We do not want this programme to continue; we want it resolved once and for all. They also have issues of trust. Their background is tough. They consider themselves as children of those who liberated Namibia or contributed or spilled their blood for the sake of freedom. That is correct but they must understand that they are citizens like any other citizen. The government is there to help all of us, irrespective of other things.
I am hopeful that one day the struggle kids will realise that they should never refuse to be trained and when they get jobs they must prove that they can do the job. Prove that you can deliver whatever is assigned to you. Prove that you have the temperament to deal with other people. If you come to work and you are already angry, who would want to work with somebody like that? Civil means being good to one another, and if you work for the government you are working for a company, be civil so that everyone appreciate you.