…By Lola Smith for TDPel Media.
Namibian President Hage Geingob’s recent state visit to South Africa also involved addressing a meeting of the national executive committee of the African National Congress (ANC), emphasizing the longstanding connection between the ANC and Namibia’s governing party, South West Africa People’s Organisation (Swapo).
Observations that as former liberation movements, the ANC and Swapo draw lessons from each other, reflecting the deep bonds of solidarity formed during their struggle against oppression.
However, concerns that the nostalgic reminiscences of their past as liberation movements can turn into a form of populism, employing the merits of history to mask present failures.
Such romanticism poses a potential threat to constitutional achievements.
Geingob’s visit coincided with a period of diminishing political legitimacy for both governments, as they face similar challenges in the lead-up to the 2024 elections.
Since coming into power, both the ANC and Swapo have failed to meet expectations, particularly in combating corruption.
Consequently, the upcoming elections will serve as a verdict from voters in South Africa and Namibia, significantly impacting the future of democracy in both nations.
History with Lasting Bonds – South Africa and Namibia
Highlights of the special history of relations between South Africa and Namibia.
After World War I, the Treaty of Versailles ended the war between Germany and the Allied powers, transforming the German colony of South West Africa into a C-mandate under the administration of South Africa.
This resulted in the annexation of the territory and the entrenchment of apartheid.
In response, Namibia’s liberation movement Swapo took up arms, establishing a close alliance with the ANC, which was also engaged in an armed struggle.
Both movements garnered significant international support and were recognized by the UN General Assembly as authentic representatives of their respective people.
The liberation struggle led to UN-supervised elections in 1989, in which Swapo secured an absolute majority and proclaimed independence in 1990.
This historic event was attended by Nelson Mandela, who had been recently released from prison.
Similarly, apartheid in South Africa ended through the democratic elections in 1994, with the ANC emerging as the majority party.
Both Swapo and the ANC played crucial roles in the drafting of democratic constitutions, which incorporated fundamental human rights, free elections, independent judiciaries, and the separation of powers.
Popularity in Decline
While initially enjoying substantial support, both the ANC and Swapo have experienced declines in popularity over time.
The ANC’s popularity peaked in the 2009 election but fell to 57.5% in 2019.
Surveys predict that the ANC will lose its absolute majority in the 2024 elections and may need to form a coalition government to remain in power.
Swapo, on the other hand, fared comparatively better in Namibia, but its two-thirds majority was lost in the 2019 elections.
The loss of control over regional, provincial, and local levels of government has compelled both parties to engage in alliances and shifting coalitions, compromising the principles upon which they were founded.
This erosion of trust in politicians and democracy has been exacerbated by their lackluster performance in governance and failure to deliver basic services.
State capture has become a governance approach.
2024 and the Limits to Liberation
While the outcomes of the 2024 elections remain uncertain, the author suggests that even if the ANC manages to retain power, its credibility will be further diminished.
Namibia’s Swapo party may also face challenges, although the opposition has yet to present a credible alternative promising improved well-being for the ordinary people.