Mudge Gets Credit for Namibia’s Democracy

VETERAN retired politician Dirk Mudge and the party he founded in the 1970s, the DTA of Namibia, helped establish a multi-party and multi-ethnic democracy in Namibia, speakers said at the launch of Mudge’s newly published autobiography in Windhoek this week.

“This book is a people’s chronicle. It defines who we are,” the executive director of the Namibian Institute of Public Administration and Management, Joseph Diescho, said at the launch of Mudge’s self-penned life story at the National Art Gallery of Namibia in Windhoek on Tuesday evening.

Diescho said Mudge – who shook up white politics in pre-independence Namibia when he and a group of followers broke away from the apartheid-supporting ruling National Party in 1977 to form the multi-racial Democratic Turnhalle Alliance – was someone who, like all visionary leaders, decided to go against the grain and stand up for what he believed in.

Mudge and the party he helped found laid the foundation for multi-party, multi-ethnic, multi-point-of-view politics in Namibia, which is today the most stable and democratic country in Africa, Diescho said.

A longtime friend of Mudge, retired law professor Marinus Wiechers, also credited Mudge and the DTA with having helped to create a multi-party political system in Namibia.

Namibia and its independence process served as an example for the political and constitutional developments that were later to follow in South Africa, Wiechers added.

It was not the ability to say “yes” that distinguished great political leaders from others in the political sphere, but rather the ability to say “no”, Wiechers remarked. In Mudge’s life it was the “no” that he demonstrated when he broke away from the National Party in 1977 that elevated him to a different level of political leadership in Namibia, he said.

Also speaking at the launch, Mudge said he was initially reluctant to write an account of his life, but he eventually decided it was important to put the history, of which he was a part, into perspective.

He started writing his book at the age of 84, said Mudge, who turned 87 in January this year.

He did the writing himself, without any ghostwriter, but was assisted by people who edited and proofread the autobiography as it took shape.

Mudge recounted that he realised around 1973 that the problems facing Namibia could not be solved by one group of the country’s people, such as the white population, alone.

In the book, Mudge recounts how he was vilified by some fellow Afrikaners and became a target of political mudslinging by conservative white people after he turned his back on apartheid and racial discrimination and decided to work with other racial groups toward the independence of Namibia.

It took a long time, but ultimately white people in Namibia saw the light and accepted his view that Namibia’s independence was an inevitability, Mudge said on Tuesday.

In the foreword of the book of more than 500 pages, published in Afrikaans under the title ‘Enduit vir ‘n onafhanklike Namibieuml’ (‘To the end for an independent Namibia’), South African journalist Max du Preez describes Mudge as the first leader from the mainstream Afrikaner establishment who realised that he was also an African and that his destiny was completely connected to the destiny of black Africans, and who also made that realisation his political platform.

The symbolic impact of Mudge’s mindshift – also in white-ruled South Africa – should not be underestimated, Du Preez writes. In Du Preez’s view, Mudge is one of the most outstanding Afrikaner leaders in history.

An English translation of the autobiography, which is published by the South African publisher Protea Boekhuis and distributed in Namibia by Demasius Publications, is in the pipeline and could be available before the end of the year.

Source : The Namibian