Last week Thursday, former Rally for Progress and Democracy president Hidipo Hamutenya made a grand entrance to the Swapo-Party head office that he had left a dismayed man some eight years ago, cementing the belief that “if you cannot beat, them join.”
Like the Biblical prodigal son, Hamutenya was welcomed by Swapo Secretary-General Nangolo Mbumba, and embraced in a typical gesture which signified the return of a once-lost son.
Mbumba welcomed Hamutenya by saying “Hamutenya never betrayed the course, what happened was party leaders differed on ideas. I am hereby accepting my leader with honour and dignity”. He then uttered all the kind words, even embracing the returning soldier as his leader.
There are a few lessons people can get from the grand return of Hamutenya, with the obvious one being that there are no permanent enemies in politics, but merely allies. Hamutenya could easily have experienced the coldness of living outside the great Swapo house in the past eight years, and realised that there is that need for anyone who wants to face natural causes with respect to stay with the bandwagon than to try and derail the train carrying the masses.
Hamutenya, arguably a decorated figure whose contribution to the liberation struggle is not erasable, has been a major critic of the ruling party in the past few years, although he never really offered alternatives to the maladministration which he believed was being unleashed by Swapo. There is also never a wrong time in politics to choose the right path.
While at face-value, the return of Hamutenya could be viewed as the greatest betrayal to his comrades in the RDP who looked at him as a father figure and an icon who could push their beliefs, his return was somewhat expected. It was only a matter of time. This is the guy who spent eight years trying to hustle power from a compact unit like Swapo with a band of followers who had very few among themselves believing in whatever ideology they had, other than the fact that they wanted to oppose Swapo and create an alternative voice.
Another obvious lesson in the return of Hamutenya is that there really is no need for opposition politics in Namibia, because the few mistakes which Swapo is making are easily remedied and do not attract the need for a different voice which the masses can see as a necessity. This was partially confirmed by Hamutenya himself when he declared his allegiance to the party he once dumped a few years back in the company of his son as a rather rejuvenated political figure, saying he would like his grandchildren and children to enjoy their legacy in Swapo, a party that he has also been part of for a long time.
“I pondered on the issue for months before I made my decision. This is the legacy of my children and grandchildren, Thank you for welcoming me,” Hamutenya said in his return speech. It is unfortunate that those left in the RDP would have to find another father figure and pillar of strength they can listen to.
It was virtually unbelievable that Hamutenya, a decorated figure, would have taken the risk of finalising his career in the woods of political oblivion when there is an opportunity of busking in glory in Swapo.
Perhaps, looking at his return speech in comparison with his statement in 2007 when he said ,“It is my sincere feeling that we, as an organisation and as a country, have lost a sense of purpose and direction which for decades have held us together under the most trying of circumstances.”
It would be obvious that his was an act of disgruntlement than a genuine cause for divorce with his party. Everyone wants comfort In politics, there is no one who wants to be on the receiving end all the time, and the more you stick with a losing team, the more irrelevant you become to the masses. This is yet another factor which could have easily swayed Hamutenya to return to the part that he thinks has the legacy for his children and grandchildren.
For a man who has been used to a winning mentality in Swapo to suddenly spend the rest of his life coming second and third would have been very difficult for him. There is obviously a wayward belief that some have raised on social networks in a bid to drive debate.
The bulk of the engagement on social networks, which have become the hot talking points of the modern day, is that Hamutenya never left Swapo at all. Others think that like any other ruling party in the world, they would need an opposition, and there was no better way of doing so than creating the RDP.
One, however, feels pity for those who were following the man as they have to do some deep soul-searching and ask themselves if the RDP has a future away from the name of Hamutenya, or whether the party was too synonymous with the man, so much so that his departure could be as well the beginning of the end for them.