Next week Namibians go to the polls to elect their president and members of the National Assembly. Already, political parties contesting the polls have been criss-crossing the length and breadth of the country canvassing for votes.
A total of 11 candidates will contest for the highest office in the land while 1,358,468 people have registered to vote in the election. Among the candidates is one female, as well as an independent candidate. We would, however, have wished for more female candidates, in line with the principle of gender balance.
The Namibian electorate will have to choose from an array of political parties contesting to fill the 96 parliamentary seats.
The political parties contesting in next week’s elections are; All People’s Party (APP), Christian Democratic Voice (CDV), Congress of Democrats (COD), Landless People’s Movement, Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters (NEFF), Namibia Patriotic Front (NPF), National Democratic Party (NDP), National Unity Democratic Organisation (NUDO), Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP), Republican Party (RP), Swanu of Namibia (SWANU), Swapo Party of Namibia (Swapo), United Democratic Front of Namibia (UDF), and Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP).
The number of registered voters, as well as the parties and candidates contesting in the polls shows democracy at work. We believe this is what Namibians have fought for, that is to be given the right and chance to freely choose their political leaders. Namibians took up arms against German imperialism and South African apartheid in order to determine their destiny, economically empower themselves and benefit from their God-given natural resources.
Today, Namibia is a model when it comes to democracy on the continent. But whoever wins the forthcoming polls should expeditiously address economic empowerment issues for the benefit of all Namibians.
Electoral observers, including those from the SADC region and the African Union, have already descended on the nation to observe the elections. This is in line with the SADC and AU principles and guidelines governing democratic elections.
Already the SADC Electoral Observer Mission (SEOM), headed by Zimbabwe’s Defence Minister, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, has said its assessment is that Namibia is ready for the elections. This is plus.
She added that SEOM would continue to engage all political stakeholders, civil society as well as role players to the election in making sure that Namibia meets the laid down SADC guidelines and principles governing democratic elections.
She also called for trust on the SEOM engagement after coming under severe pressure from opposition politicians and civil society on whether the regional bloc had the credibility needed to observe a credible, free and fair election following events of the past where it had been under criticism for early endorsement of the process.
Muchinguri-Kashiri said the guidelines and monitoring of the process in Namibia would be hinged on full participation of citizens in the political process, freedom of association, assembly and expression, measures to prevent corruption, bribery, political violence, intimidation and intolerance, equal opportunity for all political parties to state media, respect for values of electoral justice, independence of the judiciary, and civic and voter education, among a few more benchmarks.
Swapo secretary-general, Sophia Shanigwa, has said the ruling party is happy with the regional bloc’s assessment so far, while the RDP presidential candidate, Mike Kavekotora, said SADC needs to prove its impartiality and less inclination to revolutionary parties.
However, Muchinguri-Kashiri rubbished allegations that the mission supported liberation movement political parties to remain in power, saying SADC goes beyond liberation movements.
She explained that SADC was guided by principles and it abided by those guidelines and not by their own personal or party aspirations.
Last year, the SADC executive secretary Dr Stergomena Tax reiterated that SADC and the African Union have the capacity to assess and observe elections in the region and on the continent without outside interference.
Dr Tax said SADC had guidelines on conducting and observing democratic elections in member states and that it was not up to western powers to meddle in elections in the region and on the continent.
Perhaps more telling was Dr Tax’s revelation that there was a SADC external partner which wanted to be involved in the counting process of an election in an unnamed member state. She said the unnamed external partner even wanted to meddle in the member state’s internal processes by putting in place their own instruments.
SADC member states must be on guard against foreign meddling in their internal processes. African observers have done remarkably well in elections held thus far on the continent, including in Botswana, Malawi, Mauritius, and Mozambique.
We believe observer missions from the continent are very capable and should take a leading role in observing elections on the continent. Foreign observers, that is those from outside the African continent, can only come at the invitation of countries that are holding elections and should not be given room to meddle in the internal politics of sovereign nations. Africans are well placed to know their processes and should not let foreigners decide for them whether an election is free or fair.
After all, most of these foreign countries have a history of colonising the continent, oppressing its peoples who were not allowed to exercise their rights to vote, and plundering their resources. Why should they be allowed to decide whether an election is democratic, free and fair at the expense of African observers?
As Robert Mugabe would say, these foreigners did not know democracy, judging by their history of slavery and colonialism, and it was only revolutionary parties like the ANC, Chama Chamapinduzi, Frelimo, the MPLA, Swapo and Zanu-PF that fought for the democracy that is enjoyed across the SADC region today.
We wish Namibians a free and fair election and may the best candidates win!