New entrant to the political scene, the Landless People’s Movement, no longer has the advantage to ride on public sympathy following the dramatic exit from Swapo and government of its founder, Bernadus Swartbooi, and will need to pull up their socks to land parliamentary seats, analysts have said.
Swartbooi garnered public sympathy following his fall out with his then senior, Lands Minister Utoni Nujoma, whom he accused of parceling out Namas/Damaras’ ancestral land to northerners and his being fired by President Hage Geingob.
The firebrand politician appeared heroic for standing up against authority and daringly putting his head on the chopping block in the land storm, much to the appreciation of the landless of Namibia.
However, whether LPM will still play on this sympathy to win its ticket into government is now too late as events and time have overtaken that episode, analyst Ndumbah Kamwanyah has cautioned.
“I think time has lapsed. That sympathy that was there at the beginning when he was fired I think has subsided. It’s almost a year and it’s not fresh in the memories of the people. So I do not really see that playing a key role in whether they will vote for his party or not,” he opines.
Kamwanyah says the key aspect that is going to determine whether the electorate will vote for LPM is the land issue which is still very sensitive for people in the south, particularly.
“They are not happy in terms of how things have been done in terms of the allocation of land and the farms. I can see that component as helping them,” he says.
But to what extent will the southern population constitute a decisive number to catapult LPM into government and with what impact will their message resonate to the rest of Namibia?
Says analyst Andrew Niikondo, “Without having support from every corner of the country, people will see it comfortable to go back to Swapo.”
The analyst rules out prospects of a coalition as unlikely for a party that is faced with the task of building on its singular brand while he doubts there will be any party that would be willing to unite with LPM.
“I do not think that these people are really going to work with others properly. The moment you come in and you have your own agenda and you find the other political party has its own agenda and both your agendas are not tallying and consistent, then you’re in trouble. That relationship is not going to last and that’s what I see in most of the political parties in this country,” he adds.
The only way towards a certain victory for LPM would be a vigorous political campaign pressing the right buttons and addressing pertinent issues, Niikondo advises.
“His removal from party and government does not necessarily mean that that is going to really give him some advantage but what is important now is the campaign. A vigorous campaign to tell people what actually he is going to do for them.”
“Especially in this current political situation whereby the Swapo party is more national and inclusive in nature, comprising of almost every one when it comes to Namibia’s population, in such an environment it is very difficult for someone who is coming into the playing ground,” says Niikondo.
On the other end, political scientist and columnist, Vitalio Angula does not concur.
“Yes I think they can capitalise (on sympathy) but again his (Swartbooi) strategy seems to be blurred because he was the landless people’s forum and now (it’s) a political party. The political party itself is formed out of anger. They have not yet communicated even their vision and mission. All we know is that this guy is angry with the president and also his frustration with the Swapo party itself,” says the analyst.
While LPM has got support, Angula says the decisive factor is whether they have the numbers.
“At the end of the day, people who come to your press conferences, some times come to listen because they are curious. That should not be translated into saying that Oh you have support. He also has to gauge who are his support bases. I think in the last election for a seat in parliament you needed about 3 to 4 000 votes, I am not sure. And if he can get at least maybe 20 000 people, that would be now in the whole country, they might be able to get into the national assembly and also the national council,” he submits.
Angula says Swartbooi’s incessant attacks on Swapo has already alienated most of the Ovambo people from LPM, some of whom are also in need of land.
“Already is he tries to attack the Ovambo people, they will say Oh you already insulted us and now you want our support. So his support base might be from the south and a few in the urban areas, depending now on their strategy of how to win people,”he says.
While LPM might snatch votes from other parties, Angula says it would be a swim against the tide to penetrate into Swapo strongholds.
“He is an articulate person, he is sharp, he is educated, he is a politician but is he a political tactician? By sowing seeds of division can he really make it?” Angula queries.
Kamwanyah says although LPM may not constitute a direct threat to Swapo, it is probable that they may land one to two seats in parliament.
Yet according to him, it will not be an easy stroll in the park as the party seems to be built on ethnicity and zeroed in on one aspect, land.
“You do not want to limit yourself. As it seems, they are more focused on the landless people and at the beginning you know that it was because they were not happy that the Namas and Damaras lost land. So there is that ethnic component that they need to clear out so that they can become more appealing to everybody,” says Kamwanyah.