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Other Articles from The Villager

Campaign groups under a microscope

27/10/2017
by Chris-Paul
Columns

All successful campaigns have three simple goals: To win, you must project the image you want to define you; deflect efforts by your rivals to define you on their terms and define your rivals on your terms. These three goals are what and will carry the winning team all the way to the finish line come the end of November.

All these teams play a critical role in all democratic systems of government. The basic definition of a group like Team Hage or Team Jerry is a group of individuals organised to seek influence to propel their preferred candidate to success within a ruling party. At this point, the campaign is at a sage where these groups attempt to influence the Swapo Party elective congress actors or delegates slated for November.

If we look carefully now at the two main groups that are Team Hage and Team Jerry, we see that they vary considerably in every imaginable way; in size, sophistication, resources, tactics, focus and perhaps a bit of ideological orientation. Some groups focus on only a single issue, while others focus on broader areas of public policy. Over time we have seen that some teams are born and disappear over the period of a single campaign, while others have a long tradition of influencing elections and public policy choices.

And the epitome of this is Team Hage. While Team Jerry is focusing only on trying to achieve success at congress in November with no apparent plan beyond that, Team Hage looks on persuading the public or other non-governmental organisations to support their objectives. In our country, we have a representative government that is designed to encourage the representation of competing interests while moderating the conflict that inevitably accompanies group competition. In the classic formulation of representative government known as pluralism, competing interests balance each other by bringing resources and arguments to bear on different sides of important political opinions. Swapo as a political party is designed to accommodate the inevitability of diverse and competing interests of these groups, as well as the need to prevent any one group, either a numerical majority or minority, from becoming powerful enough to undermine the rights of others. The groups are competing on a more or less level playing field created by the ruling party. As a result, multiple competing interests are believed to create a stable political environment that allows those interests to be represented before the government once their preferred candidate wins.

The pluralist vision of politics is an ideal vision of campaign group politics. In practice both these two groups are enjoying uniform capabilities or effectiveness, despite having equal rights to attempt to influence the outcome at the congress. Inevitably, not all party members are represented equally effectively because groups bring different levels of resources and intensity to bear on their efforts.

Campaign groups do not seem much different from the political party that they have emanated from. They are both organisations of individuals sharing some common attitudes and opinions, and they both seek to influence elections, government officials and public policy choices. Campaign groups, much like political parties, do explicitly sponsor their members as candidates for elected public office and often seek to put their members into appointed public office. Campaign groups do embrace explicit party labels that voters use as cues to identify their political orientation. Also, in recent times we have witnessed an increasing number of ideologically driven and public interest groups (Landless People’s Movement and Affirmative Repositioning) whose orientation is either explicitly spelt out or otherwise widely known. However, there are differences between campaign and interest groups, whereby interest groups such as Landless People’s Movement and Affirmative Repositioning should narrowly focus on their said and specified interests and should downplay or avoid ideological labels. Interest groups should tend to be much more narrowly focused on a specific area of public policy or social concern than campaign groups. Interest groups form around specific concerns like the land, free speech, school funding and labour standards, to name a few. Meanwhile, political parties tend to bring together campaign groups under one "big tent."

What we see at the moment are campaign groups or factions competing fiercely within a political party. There is a major internal power struggle within the ruling party right now. The campaign for the top four positions in the Swapo Party is underway right now, and something worth noting is the unprecedented use of political technology campaigns. Technology has changed the nature of how political campaigns are done these days. From the mundane to the dramatic, changes in technology have forced campaign groups to update the tools they use to organise their adherents, to influence other political actors, and to compete with their rivals. Technological advancements in printing, telephone communications, television, and computing, have exerted a powerful influence on the organisational capacity of campaign groups. Because of technology in the modern world, campaign groups can reach out to their audiences in ways that they scarcely could have imagined in 2012 leading up to congress. It has also created new burdens for groups who must find means to pay for the expertise and equipment the newest technology usually requires. Technological change forces organisations to integrate new tools and techniques or lose ground to competing interests. As we are seeing, both Team Hage and Team Jerry are taking advantage of the contemporary explosion in information and communication technology. Things such as social media have made political activity less labour intensive and more capital intensive. Labor intensive activities, such as holding meetings or engaging in other kinds of face-to-face contact with potential supporters, rely primarily on mobilising human labour. On the other hand, a candidate could just be sitting in the comfort of his home yet able to mobilize hundreds of potential supporters. Politics have become more dependent on technologies as varied as cell phones, personal computers, data management software, and, of course, television. Campaign groups’ activities have become ever more capital intensive.

As the campaign is in full swing, it is imperative as a member of the ruling party to understand the interests of these two main campaign groups; Hage Team and Jerry Team. Understanding interests of these two groups require assessing what these groups are trying to do and what factors will affect their success or failure. While through their presidential candidate for the party, the Hage Team has pretty much let the values that it stands for. President Hage seeks to make this country a lot more inclusive, those who have authority over us to be more transparent and accountable. It is about eradicating poverty through rooting out corruption and entitlement, transcending the undermining spirit of selfishness driven by nit-picking notions.

While on the other hand, we haven’t heard much of Team Jerry’s ideas, what is obvious however is that they want power and they want it badly. If you study it carefully, they failed, dismally so, to give a comprehensive reason why Dr.Hage shouldn’t become the party president. All they do is try to claim that they want to save the party constitution, save it from what and who?

They have to rely on propaganda and lie machines to try to bring their point across as to why they so badly want to assume two-centres of power. One key notable thing is the fact that the Affirmative Repositioning movement, of which leadership is comprised of people who actively campaigned for Jerry Ekandjo in 2012, has not officially pronounced itself on its preferred candidate. This already shows that though they would never support President Hage, it Is clear that they do not have confidence in Jerry Ekandjo and Nahas Angula. It’s also worthwhile noting that some elements that are trying to support those that are trying to prevent President Hage from getting a second term are doing so not because that they genuinely believe that the two other candidates are better qualified and suited to lead this country. They just want the sitting President to suffer the humiliation of being denied a second term, something that has not happened before in the ruling party. These are the agents of destruction that are trying to see this country succumb to chaos. There is no genuine reason why Dr. Hage shouldn’t be allowed to be party president except they know that the looting taps will be closed. These divisive forces must not be allowed to manifest. Someone is enjoying this; someone is secretly supporting those who are trying to make this country ungovernable. You have those who are craving for power yet they don’t want to come out publicly. As a result, they are doing whatever they can to work with forces that are against the President and sabotage his efforts. I'm sick and tired of endless lies about Pres Hage, the character attacks, the distortions of his agenda, the knobby misrepresentation portrayed in some newspapers. Anyone can see that it is precisely the intention: Taint him through innuendo, throw enough dirt at him, so the masses develop an instant negative association with his name. We are witnessing an era where movements are strategically stacked against the sitting president like never before.

Inordinate sums have been spent in an attempt to paint a malignant picture of Dr Hage, using propagandists with sophisticated techniques to try to undermine his work. Sadly, some people blindly imbibe and regurgitate these fabricated narratives, joined by operatives of close pigsties called newsrooms with personal vendettas, whose biases are so vivid even to a kindergartner.

Right now they are pretty much two camps, those who want President Hage to get a second term and those who are opposing to that. If we look all around us, everyone and everybody seems to have an opinion with regards to what I just said. How many of us do our best to understand both sides of an argument? How many of us make an effort to listen and understand before we speak? How many of us expose ourselves to viewpoints that we differ with? How many of us put caring before criticising? How many of us realise that we all have blind spots that hinder our objectivity? How many of us even take time to think before we open our mouths and start criticising others over humanly mistakes?

Often things are not so vividly in black and white, and usually, there is truth and error on both sides. But if we completely shut out opposing views, if we refuse even to hear what others have to say, how can we be so sure that we're objective? I’m an unashamed, unapologetic, Hage supporter, and I would gladly die on the hill of my core principle convictions. At the same time, I can tell you what my ideological opponents believe and why they believe it. And I can present their arguments in such a way that they would say, “You understand our position.” Yes, I understand it, and I reject it because you have failed to give ample reason as to why President Hage cannot get a second term. They have tried to cite the current economic challenges to which the Minister of Economic Planning and National Planning Commission Director General Tom Alweendo rightly said; “ The current economic challenges are real (and) not caused by the President. These are economic cycles that affect all economies. Overall, Namibia is in a better position than it was this time last year, it is now time to selectively invest in the economy, even if we have to borrow to do so- despite the rating agencies’ positions. President Hage instead of shying away and being defensive, as per his democratic values has invited competition with relish because the competition is healthy.

In all truth, the current administration is the best Namibia has ever seen. We are in danger of losing our political and economic covenant should we allow these forces take centre stage in the party. Through the current administration, we have a great opportunity that will see Namibia regain its healthy GDP, equity shares, diversity and socio-economy. We have seen a lot of forces trying to de-campaign President Hage from the onset; now it is their opportunity to come out in full swing again. In my ‘Final Thoughts’, I just want to urge members of Team Hage to focus on the things that will boost their effectiveness as the most progressive collective to ensure a resounding and deserved victory at the congress in November. Do not waver from your core ideals, objectives, values and principles. Power-hungriness should have no place in our country, healthy lives and let alone our vocabulary. Your key purpose is and should remain One Centre of Power under the leadership of President Hage Geingob.