RDP Will Get 25 Seats – Kavekotora [interview]

Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) secretary general Mike Kavekotora talks about his party’s preparedness ahead of this month’s general elections. He makes a startling confession that his party would not take over government – just yet – but shot down suggestions that RDP might lose its status as the official opposition. He was speaking to Toivo Ndjebela.

The RDP got eight seats in the last parliamentary elections. What will the party do differently this time around to increase its presence in parliament?

Firstly, I’d like to state that we do not believe we got eight seats from the last election. We believe we won more seats but because elections were manipulated, we ended up with eight seats. This time around we expect to have more seats, at least a minimum of 25 seats if elections are free and fair.

All parties are divided so we will take aantage of that. Swapo, DTA, Nudo … all of them are divided. The RDP too had its fair share of divisions but we have put that behind us and are going into this election as a united front. We’ve travelled the whole of Namibia and the response has been quite positive. The youth in particular have responded very well to our message.

By aiming for 25 seats, is that an early admission that you’ll not topple Swapo as a ruling party?

We have to be realistic. Swapo is using the State machinery and that gives them automatic aantage. There is also a financial element to it. We are operating on a shoestring budget and it would therefore be unrealistic to say we will topple Swapo in this election, but we are moving into that direction in the long run. We don’t anticipate everything to be easy. By stating 25 seats, I am being realistic about what we can do in this election.

Analysts predict a tight contest between RDP and DTA. What are your thoughts on this?

The so-called analysts did the same thing in Botswana. Their prediction was that the UDC [Umbrella for Democratic Change] will enjoy 13 percent of the popular vote. They were way off the mark because the UDC eventually got 30 percent. So I don’t attach any value to these so-called researches because they lack the scientific element. The DTA cannot compete with us. They are confined to specific areas, like Kunene. They have no presence whatsoever in the North. We have broken the Swapo monopoly in the North, something that the DTA has not succeeded in doing. Yes, [DTA president McHenry] Venaani is a very pragmatic leader but he’s carrying the party alone on his shoulders. However, since our inception in 2007, we have said that we are here to take on Swapo, not the opposition. Our ultimate aim is to take over government. We are here to revive the Namibian dream.

The RDP elective conventions, both for the mother party and the youth league, created some cracks of divisions. How united is the party going into this election?

We are going into the election as a unified force. Of course there were divisions, but these were democratic processes that should not be taken personally. The outcomes of the main convention were accepted by everybody, including the losers – namely Cde Kandy Nehova and Cde Jeremiah Nambinga. Recently we had our electoral college and, just to demonstrate the maturity of our leaders, Cde Hidipo Hamutenya was nominated by Cde Kandy Nehova to stand as the party’s presidential candidate. The two took each other on at the convention but have put all that behind them. The youth convention could have caused serious divisions in the party but maturity prevailed in the end. The dust has generally settled, although there are pockets of unhappiness here and there. But as far as the party is concerned, we have prevailed during our differences and are going into this election as a united force.

Your party’s parliamentary list, save the top four, created impressions that RDP is an Ohangwena party because it is dominated by members from that region …

Our list should be judged holistically, you can’t separate the top from the bottom. Yes, the majority of people on the list are from Ohangwena but that does not mean that we are a ‘Kwanyama party’ as is often alleged. People at our convention came from all 14 regions. The list reflects the wishes of the delegates. It was an issue of looking at quality. There are people who did well, yet they hail from other regions than just Ohangwena.

Your list is dominated by people related to the party president, including his sister, son and another relative. Is RDP turning into a Hamutenya dynasty?

No, not at all. Yes, Kela [Hidipo Hamutenya’s son] has been a member of key party structures such as the central committee but that’s not because he’s a son of the president. The president’s sister, Lucia Hamutenya, is quite far on the list. Obviously, as Africans we tend to have respect for our leaders such that sometimes we want to please a leader but the whole process was democratic. Democratically, you cannot deny a person the chance to stand. But we will definitely not become a dynasty.

How free and fair are this year’s elections so far?

So far the campaign process has been violence-free. There has been a few incidences here and there but I am happy so far. But whether the election itself will be free, fair and transparent remains to be seen. The million-dollar question revolves around the EVMs and the issue of paper trail evidence. There were constitutional amendments that suggested the EVMs will be used without a paper trail. We find it strange as to what necessitated the use of EVMs for a population of 1.2 million voters.

How financially prepared is RDP going into this election?

We do not access to State resources like the ruling party. Our meagre resources are being used to put our message across to the voters. We have printed T-shirts, posters and manifestos but our resources are limited. I am just happy that we’ve been to all corners of the country.

Who finances the RDP?

We are self-funded. We do have sympathisers in the business world who help us here and we’re thankful for that. The rest is our own resources and money from parliament.

RDP is often regarded as a distant cousin of Swapo in terms of similarities of policies. Policy-wise, what would you say is a radical departure of RDP from Swapo?

We moved out of Swapo for a reason. Yes, we are political parties operating under the same national constitution that dictates how Namibia should be run. So somehow there would be similarities. What differs is our approach to things. On education, for example, we are saying that education must be the driver of the economy. We must invest in educating people involved in the four pillars of our economy, namely, fisheries, mining, tourism and agriculture. Those graduating from our education must help grow the economy based on the four pillars. We have always preached free education, a constitutional provision on which Swapo has been sitting for 24 years.

What has been RDP’s highlight in parliament during the last five years? Why must the party get another chance in parliament?

First you must understand the challenge we have where Namibians are voting in a pattern that is moving the country towards a one-party system. People will eventually suffer as a result of that. Swapo has used its absolute majority to do things that the opposition would have done differently. There’s a lot of things that we succeeded in by putting pressure on Swapo and government, including our long-held position that elections should be held on a single day. We are also busy pushing for the revamp of the Veterans Act so that it accommodates former Koevoet and SWATF soldiers, in addition to former PLAN fighters. Some of these Koevoet were forced into joining the army and can therefore not be faulted for their participation.

The regular argument is that Koevoet and SWATF killed innocent Namibian civilians. They opposed Namibia’s independence. On what basis do you propose they must be rewarded?

We need to understand the background of Koevoet and SWATF. South Africa were the authorities that were calling the shots. They said that after matric, men should spend two years in the army. It was a rule. People were indoctrinated. They said Swapo was a communist party which aocates that everything must be owned by the state, including your wife. When PLAN fighters returned, they were accepted by the people. Nobody discriminated them

You were among those who neither went into exile, nor joined Koevoet. Isn’t this evidence that Namibians had a choice not to join Koevoet?

There were many circumstances that dictated such things. People need to understand this. There’s an issue of reconciliation. South Africa donated N$36 million to be distributed between PLAN and former colonial soldiers. So why can’t government reciprocate the same courtesy to both groups now? Why the discriminatory practices now?

Source : New Era