Foreign Policy Blogs

Namibian Opposition Parties Win Election Appeal, but Don't Pop the Corks on the Champagne Bottles Just Yet…

The court case in which the Rally for Democracy Party-led (RDP) opposition coalition is challenging the presidential and parliamentary election results held on November 27 and 28 last year has been sent back to the High Court which struck the case from the court roll on technical merits in March this year. The ruling gives the nine opposition parties some kind of victory, but what it did not do is giving them a time for a champagne toast because the Supreme Court ruling did not deal with the merits of the parties’ challenge to the polls. This Supreme Court ruling merely means that the High Court, which tossed the case out, must now make a decision on the merits of the opposition coalition challenge, a costly and potentially long process before the High Court would make a decision.

Writing about the potential backlash of this court challenge in the July edition of Insight Namibia, (, I argued that court victory or not, this approach could hurt RDP, the new official opposition, more than the other opposition parties in the coalition. Why? This is because this type of politics (court battle) in Namibia is not yet a force that can rally voters behind a party. A court legal proceeding may appeal to urban and elite voters, but could prove far less popular among peripheral and rural areas, constituencies RDP or any opposition party needs to mount a serious challenge against the ruling party Swapo.

Constitutional principles aside, the bottom line is that focusing on the outright repeal of the election results, the RDP, the leader of the coalition, is indeed positioning itself too far away from ordinary Namibians, especially rural voters. In other words, the opposition’s election court challenge is unlikely to dramatically affect the mainstream Namibian political culture.

What the court challenge is not doing for the RDP is giving it a platform to showcase its leadership by articulating bread and butters issues affecting ordinary Namibians. In fact the dilemma of the opposition parties in Namibia seems to be that they focus too much on governance and rights-related issues, instead of bread and butter issues affecting the daily lives of ordinary Namibians. Certainly good governance and human rights are worthy fighting for, but for an ordinary person in “Mutwegosikombo” village, he/she cares less about which voters’ roll was used or whether the results were posted at each polling station. I am not suggesting that opposition parties should abandon the quest for good governance but merely stating that they need to be the parties of  issues–“kitchen table” issues– by talking more about concrete things important to ordinary Namibians’ lives such as ndjala-hunger, poverty, education, jobs, and HIV/AIDS.

Another thing that should make the RDP not toasting champagne glasses is the “enthusiasm gap”, the excitements that the party generated when it was still newly formed seems to be dampening down primarily because of the party’s absence in the parliament, but also recently the party has been in the news for wrong reasons. First, the party’s absence, despite being the new official opposition in the parliament, from the parliament has been criticized for robbing its constituencies their right to be represented in the parliament. Instead of representing the interests and aspirations of the people who voted for them, the party has boycotted, without proper consultations with its consultations, the parliament in favor of the court challenge. Secondly, the party’s “hide and seek” game during the attempt indaba by the Namibian opposition parties to form a coalition for the upcoming local government elections, the RDP, which withdraws from the coalition talks, apparently angered other parties after its representatives to the talks refused to reveal any constituencies in which their party would not contest. If that’s not enough, recently the party flip-flopped and started another coalition pact talk with another opposition party, the Republican Party (RP).

Now, if these do not sound like a desperate move on the part of the RDP, clearly the party is struggling with its message!



Ndumba J. Kamwanyah

Ndumba Jonnah Kamwanyah, a native of Namibia in Southern Africa, is an independent consultant providing trusted advice and capacity building through training, research, and social impact analysis to customers around the world. Mos recently Ndumba returned from a consulting assignment in Liberia in support of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).
In his recent previous life Ndumba taught (as an Adjunct Professor) traditional justice and indigenous African political institutions in sub-Saharan Africa at the Rhode Island College-Anthropology Department.

He is very passionate about democracy development and peace-building, and considers himself as a street researcher interested in the politics of everyday life.
Twitter: NdumbaKamwanyah