Swapo celebrates its 57th anniversary on 19 April at the back of discontent bah what they will say on the contrary. There is so much unhappiness among the youth and other sectors of the society.
This is not Swapo’s predicament alone but one facing many other revolutionary movements that became ruling parties in Africa. The ANC is currently undergoing one of its most trying times, while Zanu-PF has been sailing on unruly seas for quite some time now.
This begs the question whether the revolutionary parties are limping to their end after years of dominating the political scene for decades on end. While the truth is that dislodging a revolutionary movement has not been that easy, the spirited efforts to do so in recent times has left them shaken. Maybe they have survived simply because most of the attacks were from outside forces. It is not a secret that when an outside force threatens any revolutionary party, the comrades come together to face that enemy.
This has seen even some of the strongest and most promising opposition parties failing to dislodge revolutionary parties. There has been inside attacks in the past and this has created splinter political groupings that have failed to mount any meaningful challenges to the revolutionary parties. Until now, most of the cadres who felt aggrieved with the goings on in some of the revolutionary parties did not waste time to move out and form their own parties.
So what has gone wrong with the revolutionary parties after delivering the people from bondage? Why are the same people who were delivered from bondage now unhappy with their saviours? Part of the answer could lie in what the late Tajudin Abdul-Raheem - one of the last Pan Africanists, who was also the deputy director Africa for the UN millennium campaign said in one of his writings. Abdul-Raheem died in a car crash in Nairobi on 25 May 2009. In this particular piece of writing, Abdul-Raheem takes a look at the present crop of African governors for life and of death.
This is what he says: One: They come as liberators but the longer they stay in power the more they become oppressors, intolerant of dissension or even discussions within their own political and military formations.
Two: The vanguard of the masses slowly become the vanguard of the ruling party or a clique and soon degenerates into the vanguard of the leader.
Three: They usually come with big dreams and enormous commitment to the masses, but the paraphernalia of power, the glitz, the pomp and pageantry and all the trappings take over.
Add to that the institutionalised culture of sycophancy: jungle fatigues soon give way to the best of Saville Row suits, Gucci shoes, Rolex watches etc. The ‘comrade’ has now ‘arrived’ and will be in no hurry to vacate the State House which he ridiculed not so long ago. Four: A ruling group that had been held together for many years by shared ideology and perspectives are more and more built around the personality of the leader, his family, in-laws, freelance opportunists and other cronies. Five: The interests of the party, the government and the people become indistinguishable from the whims and the caprices of the Leader… To oppose him is to oppose the people.
Six: The progressive changes they have brought about in the country become ‘gifts’ from a benevolent leader to his hapless citizens. Seven: Most of them were revolutionaries who began their political careers and rebel lives as ﬁ rebrand anti-imperialists but soon became converts to the free market and are now new best friends with the imperialist countries, especially the USA and other Western powers.
Eight: These former revolutionaries who espoused Pan Africanism now resign themselves to ‘better managing’ the neo-colonial state and are soon engrossed in competition rather than cooperation with their former comrades… Liberators become looters and occupiers.
Nine and Ten: The twin evils of these leaders becoming both victims of their militaristic means of getting and retaining power, and wallowing in external validation by the same Western powers who not that long ago praised our erstwhile dictators as ‘moderate’. Is this not what we see these days and is this not why the youth and the majority are disgruntled with the new rulers who have not made it a secret to forget their constituencies? Is this not what they are ﬁ ghting in the ANC of South Africa?
Even secretly in Swapo where landmines are being laid just in a bid to get as close to the table as possible? And in Zanu-PF where vultures are circling over Robert Mugabe’s carcass? It reminds me of what Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, the Kenyan writer said about Africa’s problems today. Writing in his book, In the Name of the Mother: Reﬂ ections on Writers and Empire, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o says: ““Being is one thing; becoming aware of it is a point of arrival by an awakened consciousness and this involves a journey.”
What this means is that most countries have been independent but are they aware of the problems that still bedevil the nations? So when Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o talks about an awakened consciousness, he is saying that until countries become aware of what they are what they are, they would not have arrived. Many revolutionary movements are still on this long journey to self-realisation. Swapo is one those that are still trying to ﬁ nd their way home. What then is holding back the revolutionary movement from delivering on their promises years after they became ruling parties?
Here is what Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o says about this in his book Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature : “The present predicaments of Africa are often not a matter of personal choice: they arise from a historical situation. Their solutions are not so much a matter of personal decision as that of a fundamental social transformation of the structures of our societies starting with a real break with imperialism and its internal ruling allies. Imperialism and its comprador alliances in Africa can never develop the continent.” What Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o says supports Abdul-Raheem’s observation about the wrong transformation that takes place in some of the leaders. In other words revolutionary movements have in most cases betrayed the people by not transforming for the better of the majority but just for beneﬁ t of a few. This is why there is so much anger and disgruntlement in South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe. The revolutionary parties have not been radical enough to claim for the people what they promised they would do.
There is no industrialisation and the resources are still being carted away while the people are left with nothing but poverty and hunger. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o in his other book Wizard of the Crow asks: “How did we arrive at this, that the best leader is the one that knows how to beg for a share of what he has already given away at the price of a broken tool? Where is the future of Africa?”