THE commonly accepted approach is to benchmark your performance against best practices in your sector.
It is therefore legitimate to ask what lessons Swapo can draw from Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) of Tanzania whose leadership transmission process seems to consistently strengthen party and country unity and avoid the divisive negative emotional fallout that has haunted our process since the 2004 Swapo congress.
WHY THE CCM MODEL?
Both countries were former German colonies. Our leaders and fellow party members chose Tanzania as their first home away from home when they embarked on the armed liberation struggle. Hence the reference often made to the Tanganyika Group. No other African sister party or country had as much influence on the political values and principles espoused by the Swapo leaders and members. The Tanganyika spirit within Swapo has more to do with a common shared ideological understanding than just party members who actually physically resided in Tanganyika. CCM is therefore a legitimate respected political benchmarking model.
COMMON LEADERSHIP UNDERSTANDING
The common understanding is based on two simple principles, namely that:
1. Each succeeding president is to be alternately selected from a Tanganyika and from a Zanzibar CCM member.
2. When both contesting nominees come from the same part of the country CCM historically showed a bias in favour of the younger candidate.
This common understanding shared and defended by all CCM members alike has contributed to Ali Hassan Mwinyi succeeding Julius Nyerere when he was 60. Benjamin Mkapa succeeded Ali Hassan Mwinyi when he was 57 years old and Jakaya Kikwete succeeded Benjamin Mkapa as president when he was 55 years old.
THE RATIONALE BEHIND IT
Julius Mwalimu Nyerere himself explains the first underlying principle as follows: “African nationalism is meaningless, dangerous, anachronistic, if it is not, at the same time, pan-Africanism.” CCM likewise views leaders selected only from one part of the union as meaningless, dangerous and anachronistic.
The second pillar evolved from the 30-year practice through which CCM wanted to set a maximum age at which the president may assume office, as the Tanzanian constitution, like our Namibian Constitution, sets a minimum age limit but not a maximum age limit. The evolved CCM practice is that the candidate must not be older than 60 when he/she assumes the office of president.
Yes, if we agree that the same analysis made the founders of the Owambo People’s Organisation (OPO) conclude, long before they reached Tanganyika, that tribalism is meaningless, dangerous and anachronistic irrespective of who practises it, as it gives legitimacy to the apartheid Bantustan ideology conceived to divide African people to rule them better. The rational OPO founders concluded that to combat the common enemy OPO as well as all together tribal-mindset-based parties had to be dissolved to together with all progressive patriotic forces form the unitary, nationalistic and pan-African Swapo.
The Founding Father preserved that progressive nationalist spirit over the 50-year history of Swapo, as proven by prominent personalities from all the regions of Namibia who played an eminent role in the pre- and post-independence party leadership.
This common understanding on which Swapo was founded was first challenged when Pendukeni Ithana, with the blessing of the Founding Father, nominated Hage Geingob as party VP.
The ideologically confused pretext for the challenge, then as now, was that the President should not interfere with the right of members to freely designate their successor.
The absence of evergreen CCM-like Swapo leadership transmission guidelines shows, however, that like in 2004 some are now again using the same pretext to yet again impose choices that are ideologically inconsistent with the inclusive nationalistic pan-African ‘One Namibia, One Nation … One Continent, One People’ premise for which OPO was dissolved and the Swapo Party created.
The rotation of highest party leadership posts between candidates from three geographic regions (north, central and south), together with strict application of the 60-year age cap and the gender inclusiveness requirement, should allow us to arrive at evergreen consensual nominations which, like the CCM example, will strengthen our party/country unity and remove any suspicion of tribal-based considerations. No progressive party entertains the intellectually dishonest argument that only one region holds monopoly over all leadership talent in a country.