Swanu Will Discard Namibia’s Capitalist System [interview]

With just a few days before Namibians go to the polls to cast their vote in the presidential and National Assembly elections on Friday, New Era journalist Alvine Kapitako sat with Swanu president Usutuaije Maamberua who explained why his party should be voted into power.

Swanu is one of the oldest political parties in Namibia, why hasn’t it been able to have mass appeal to the Namibian electorate?

You know the answer. The fact that it is the first political party means that it is also the political party that first singularly faced the wrath, might, intelligence and the financial powers of the regime of South Africa. And this was within three months of the party’s formation that it was confronted by the massacre of the Old Location on 10 December 1959. As you know the party was formed in September 1959. So within its formative months it already had to face such wrath and there was no other political formation to assist us. After that incident many other leaders either went into exile and others decided to form other political parties like Swapo, Nudo and so on. Another reason is Swanu was formed with members from different tribal homes so we didn’t have a ghold in a particular tribal formation unlike other parties that then followed. For example, Swapo established itself from OPO (Ovambo People’s Organisation) meaning that their base was the Aawambo people who are also the majority. And Nudo was formed based on their tribal home among the Ovaherero people so we lost on that basis. Political parties that followed after Swanu were formed on the basis of tribal groups and that is how it is up to now – we don’t have a tribal home. All the other parties that you think are bigger than Swanu are those based on certain tribes or ethnic homes.

Swanu’s theme for this year’s elections is premised on ‘giving the land and wealth to the people’. How will you give back this land and redistribute this wealth?

We’ve got several strategies. First, Swanu is the only political party in Namibia that has the deepest understanding of the land question for the reason that we are the political party that took over from the anti-colonial resistance leaders. The responsibility of resisting was handed over to Swanu hence we had two tasks at our formation. First, it was to liberate the country of which together with others we attained the political liberation of Namibia. And our second task was to fight to restore the land that was taken from our people so hence we come from very with that understanding or responsibility.

How does Swanu intend on getting this land for the promised redistribution to the people?

Through land expropriation as per our constitutional provision. Second through taxation that is incremental taxation in that for every additional piece of land, depending on the economic zone or agro economic zone in Namibia, we will impose heavy tax to discourage certain people with a lot of land from accumulating more land. Heavy investment in the barren land so that we can resettle people into those areas that are underdeveloped is another way of regaining land and the other method is afforestation. To grow back trees and vegetation that was affected during the colonial war so that we can have better capacity. Another way is through moral suasion, which means that we will have to talk to the people who have got access land to either sell or donate to the state. That is for them to understand that if the land question is not addressed if we don’t share then obviously at the end of the day we are all going to be losers.

Fishing quotas will be allocated for the benefit of the public and not for the benefit of the individual and the same goes with mineral exploration and licences. Fishing quotas will only be given to the poor and rural communities, it will not continue benefitting the elite as it is. As socialists we are saying socialism is there to maximise production and maximise equitable wealth and resource distribution. Wealth distribution in the broader interest of the people whilst capitalism maximises production and maximise profit in the interest of individuals.

One of your specific policy issues is to resettle ‘only the neediest’ in society. How do you define the neediest in society? How differently to the Swapo-led government do you intend on resettling those in need of land?

Anybody who has got capacity to acquire land on his or her own cannot be resettled through government schemes. You distinguish the needy in terms of their means. If you have got means to acquire your own piece of land you cannot come to access land acquired by the government for resettlement purposes because you can access land through AgriBank or whatever means you have. But for the needy – those ones who don’t have the means to acquire land for themselves are the ones to benefit from resettlement schemes. And by resettlement we are not just referring to former commercial farms. Resettlement is everywhere and even in urban areas. If you are an urban-based person and you don’t have the means and capacity to acquire erven the government is going to facilitate that you be resettled by provision of an erf in the city or in towns. If you live in rural areas and have no means to have your own piece of land to be able to do your production government will capacitate you to acquire land.”

On fish quotas, you say only poor urban and rural based communities will be allocated fishing quotas? Won’t this antagonise the other segments of society that you intend to exclude from such fishing quota allocations?

Ja (yes), but they are in the minority. If you are rich why do you want to benefit from that? Why do you have to feel antagonised if you are not going to get the fish quotas or the benefit directly from the mineral resources? It’s in the spirit of not being patriotic, they are already benefiting from government tenders and all these things and perhaps they are even well off because of their education aantage that they have so why will they not want their grandmothers in the village to benefit? We want to instil the socialist spirit.

On education you critique what you say is the high failure rate among students, how is Swanu going to remedy existing skills imbalances in our education setup?

Very simple and we have said it many times … many many times. Establish a technicalvocational training institution in every region in Namibia. The other thing is we are going to follow the Constitution of Namibia to the letter and spirit, Article 20 saying that primary education shall be free and compulsory up to the age of 16 or at completion of primary education. What we are doing at the moment and it was even introduced belatedly is free primary education. But, it is not compulsory, that is why you find children still roaming the streets because we are not living up to the constitutional provision.

Can you imagine what would happen if we were to make primary education compulsory? Would you still have young people on the streets with no skills? And when you reach the age of 16 at the end of your primary education you will come out with some level of skill – either the language skill or mathematical skill to be able to do something for yourself.

But we will go up to university. We say education must just be free from pre-primary school up to university level. It’s simple as that, it’s affordable.

Corruption is a problem in Namibia. How do you intend to fight and eradicate corruption?

Unfortunately (sighs), it’s not going to be an easy task, I know, because corruption in Namibia is now at the highest political level. The politicians are now connected to corruption and it’s going to be very very difficult. I have to admit it’s going to be very difficult. We are not talking about petit corruption where you go to an airport and you see something is missing. That is not the kind of corruption we have in Namibia. We have got what is called ‘state captured by the elites’ corruption. The state is now in the pockets of the elites … the state is now dancing to the tunes of the elites .. the political elites, the politically connected. You see that is how deep our corruption has come. So I’m not going to pretend that we will just root out corruption overnight because the network is so deep. I’m going to strengthen and make the corruption watch independent. The Anti- Corruption Commission will get its budget directly from parliament. So they will not have to run to the prime minister or a certain minister to give their reports or beg for money.

In a nutshell why should the electorate give your party the mandate that it so requires?

People should vote for us because Namibia has adopted a capitalist system. Now, how on earth do you want to believe that after emerging from a capitalist, exploitative, and apartheid system we are now going to correct the ills of that exploitative and capitalist system with another capitalist system?

Source : New Era