In Swapo You Get the Full Package [interview]

The Swapo Party Deputy Secretary General, Laura Mcleod-Katjirua, yesterday spoke to New Era journalist Alvine Kapitako on the party’s achievements and the challenges it has faced since taking over power 24 years ago.

She also exuded confidence that the ruling party will once again emerge victorious as Namibians go to the polls in the presidential and National Assembly elections tomorrow (Friday).

In your view what makes Swapo’s election manifesto different to that of its rivals – the minority parties contesting the 2014 elections?

“I like the question. What definitely will make a document better than the others is its content. In the Swapo Party manifesto we have set out our party’s vision for the Namibian people for the next five years. So, we are telling Namibians what promises we are making for the next five years. In the same document we have also articulated our achievements for the past 24 years, meaning after every five years we review our election manifesto to make sure we are able to identify those projects that we have promised the Namibian people, whether they have been carried out or not. If you look at the Swapo Party manifesto we have also identified our future promises. What do we promise the Namibian people? Everything is within this manifesto. And not leaving out the theme of Swapo Party, which is consolidating peace, stability and prosperity. It’s no secret and it’s neither a joke. Swapo brought peace, kept peace, we have been stable and now we are saying let us seriously look at the prosperity of this country. So all that you get in the (Swapo Party) election manifesto.”

What are the major highlights with regard to progress made by the Swapo-led government to address promises that it made to the electorate during the previous elections?

“More importantly the road network infrastructure in this country. From here if you want to go to Otjinene (in the Omaheke Region) you are just travelling on a tarred road – what a wonderful development. In the next coming three or four years from Windhoek you will travel on a tarred road up to Aminuis. It has never been there, it has never been a dream but Swapo has brought that dream to be realised. And I think the road network connections are so lovely and comfortable for us to drive around for our proper investment and for the mobility of the Namibian people themselves. What’s also worth mentioning is education. Remember at independence there was even no university in this country. Today we are proudly talking about three universities – the University of Namibia, the University of Science and Technology (Polytechnic of Namibia) and the International University of Management.

And now we have also introduced free primary education and come 2016 there will be free secondary education. As always, we would say we may not have done it all to the expectations of the Namibian people but we have done it according to our set programmes. We have told ourselves that we will develop this country in terms of education and we did so. Health is another issue – there were areas where there were no clinics, hospitals, doctors. At least we are reaching out to most of the population of the country. We have also developed the green scheme project in terms of food security in Kavango Region. Proudly also we boast as Namibians the rice plantation. When you tell other Africans that we are planting rice they are saying it’s a nice joke but we did – we have harvested (this rice), so that’s something that we really have to be proud of. Telecommunications is another thing. For now, we can connect to the global village. You can sit here nicely and talk to your family in the United Kingdom, in the United States of America. That was never here before independence. So really a lot has been done. There is clean potable water, that service has been given to our people through our decentralisation policy. We have also brought in that policy (decentralisation) to say at least take Government closer to the people so that people themselves participate in their own destiny. And this is where you find out that people tell Government what they want and not the other way round where Government tells people what they want. At the end of the day, they may say ‘we did not need what you are bringing in’. So people’s participation is very important and the structure of decentralisation is working well. Now we have community conservancies, people are living out of community conservancies, it was not there before independence. So our people are able to run their own affairs. And at least to get a certain income from the community conservancies. All I’m trying to say is in terms of developing this country, I think we did a lot unless we just want to politicise the whole issue. We have got international acclaim in terms of good governance. Don’t forget about the mass housing, it’s something that was launched recently but there is that recognition that Namibians need housing and Tuesday some of the houses were handed over to the recipients – that’s a move. Of course, we may have some hiccups here and there and not have enough houses for Namibian people. But remember in countries that have been independent for as long as hundred years housing is still a very very serious problem. But I think as Namibians we are forging ahead and we are able to at least provide a roof over the heads of our people. And as I was saying our manifesto is still talking of promises, that is to say whatever we have done is not complete, it’s not enough. It will only be enough when it’s enough. So our election manifesto still articulates some of the factors that we need to develop.”

Some people and the opposition feel the Swapo-led Government has not done much to alleviate poverty and to address the resettlement of the landless. What are some of the challenges faced thus far in addressing these issues?

“My dear, remember that at independence we agreed at the first land conference that we will adopt the willing-buyer, willing-seller principle and that is our constitution. There is no way we will use any back door. There is sizeable land that has been bought and distributed to the Namibian people.

But then as I’m saying this the demands of citizens will obviously always surpass what we are able to provide. And if somebody is to say that we have not done anything I don’t think that is the best word in the vocabulary. The best word in the vocabulary is that there are still some loopholes for us to do more and that recognition as a party we do have and we know we have to provide for some more. But honestly on the willing-buyer, willing-seller we don’t go around and force people to sell land to us. We are using that system and through that system even if I do not have the figures here right now, it’s eminent and enough to tell us that somewhere, somehow a lot has been done. Now remember when you talk of criticising, it’s obvious and normally it might be a positive or negative criticism but in this regard you already mentioned, you said ‘opposition’ so it’s obvious the opposition will criticise in that regard.

But proudly, we are saying we have done what we have set ourselves to do in terms of our election manifesto and that to the letter we have done. The gap – that what we are promising – is an ongoing process. Remember development is ongoing, it’s a dynamic system. So we are still in the process of developing this country – as we have been saying our independence is only 24 years old and our vision is 2030.”

Should Swapo win this election what will it do to ensure it comprehensively addresses the issue of poverty and the high unemployment rate, particularly among youth?

“Ja (yes), we have a ministry … remember there was no ministry of youth. And we normally as a government also at times create programmes in order to alleviate poverty and create jobs. But then also, government should not be seen as the only job creator. It must be done by the private sector and not necessarily by the government (alone). But so far if you look at the picture of Namibia, you will find out that the majority of people that are employed are employed within the public sector and the private sector of course. But we must hold hands and make sure that our people are employed. The other thing that we can look at are industries and factories that can absorb a number of people, other than just employ one person and maybe within three months you only employ three people – that definitely is just not enough. With regard to poverty that’s why we have things like the green schemes to make sure that we are able to feed the Namibian nation, provide food security, and we are also in the process of creating more food security and value adding to our resources because we end up exporting raw materials and at the end of the day we do not create jobs. Somebody gets our raw materials and then creates jobs somewhere and then sends us the end product – so that is one field we are also looking at.”

Is the party happy with the level at which the multi-billion dollar mass housing project is being implemented? And what are some of the party’s concerns, if any, with regard to the way in which this housing project is being implemented?

“Some of the houses are actually at the completion stage, some of them were already handed over on Tuesday to His Excellency (President Hifikepunye Pohamba). What we have set ourselves as a Government is going to happen. The only big question and concern is whether these houses will be able to cater for every Namibian who needs shelter.

But as I’m saying it’s a very hard issue to really make sure that at the end of the day every Namibian will have a roof over their heads in terms of especially the unemployed. How do you give a house to somebody who is unemployed?

But as a government this is also an issue that we are looking at because we can as well have social housing, we can as well give subsidies to make sure that those that are closer can at least benefit through the process. Here and there we may have problems but the good thing is that we have started. For me as an individual, I think that is a good step in the right direction. Other than just talking and not having started anything. And it being a new programme, here and there we will have some hiccups but one hopes that come the second phase we would have then learnt from our own mistakes and be able to do what is best.”

What is your general assessment of Swapo Party’s recent election campaigns across the country and are you satisfied with the outcome of these campaigns by Swapo?

“Ja (yes), I must say I’m not satisfied … I’m happy. I’m happy with the campaign that has been done and the only judgement that one can use is the attendance of our campaign rallies. That has been very effective, it has been to our satisfaction and remember we had our last closing star rally here in Windhoek at the Sam Nujoma Stadium. If it was a cup of coffee, one would have said that it’s overflowing, so that tells you that we have picked up momentum.

People are ready to vote and they have indicated that they trust and they love the Swapo Party. So, tomorrow (Friday) is D-day and I’m telling myself come thunder, come rain, come high water we will win these elections with flying colours.

And this is not also just because people love Swapo … people love what Swapo does, people love what Swapo has brought, people love what Swapo wants to do for them that’s in terms of the future where we are and where we intend to go, that’s what makes the difference.”

You just mentioned that people love Swapo. There has been so much negative publicity surrounding the Swapo Party. One instance is the remarks of the Swapo Secretary General at the closing star rally where he referred to people as poor. And also the raft of development challenges. What makes the party still so popular?

“(laughs) We are a mass organisation. A mass organisation means we belong to the masses. And obviously, the other important aspect is the trust. When you trust somebody you automatically develop love. You cannot trust somebody and hate that somebody – you trust and you love that person. And we care for this nation. And remember Swapo was a liberation movement, we seriously fought for this country to make sure that it becomes independent for the sake of all Namibians.”

Source : New Era