Namibia’s official opposition party, the DTA of Namibia, has not forgiven ex-DTA leader Mishake Muyongo, who fled the country for exile to Denmark in 1998 after failing to secede the former Caprivi Region, now Zambezi, from Namibia.
In a frank tell it all interview this week about the rebranding of the party, DTA president McHenry Venaani spoke of how Muyungo harmed the party by letting it lose its official opposition status. Venaani put the blame for the party’s waning popularity squarely at Muyongo’s feet, especially in the Zambezi Region where the DTA previously had overwhelming support.
“When he went we lost that political structure and with the advent of CoD we were really painted black, because half our members were called names in Caprivi. Up to now people are really finding it difficult to resonate with the DTA because of the Muyongo saga,” Venaani remarked.
Muyungo, speaking to New Era Weekend from Denmark where he is exiled, would have none of it. In fact he wants nothing to do with the party he led for seven years before fleeing the country. “I do not want to talk about the DTA. I have not been a member of the DTA for almost 20 years now. That is water under the bridge now,” an irate Muyongo said.
The DTA lost control of Zambesi Region and the decline in support would soon be felt in other parts of the country, as according to election statistics, the party’s representation in the National Assembly fell from 15 seats in 1994 to a mere seven in 1999.
Also, during the 2004 regional elections the party was lagging behind the Congress of Democrats (CoD) in, for example, Kabbe Constituency where the party managed to garner only five votes compared to CoD’s 27, while getting 96 votes to CoD’s 785 at Katima Mulilo Urban and 247 to 898 at Linyati constituencies.
“Internally there were processes that we took then to expel Muyongo and so forth, but the utterances that we made probably did not resonate very well with the people of Zambezi and now one could argue that we could have handled the matter better so that we could retain the support,” said Venaani of Muyongo’s expulsion from the DTA.
“What we did [wrong] was to underestimate the issue… We thought that Muyongo was alone and that it was just a leadership problem – not realising that the whole [Mafwe] tribe, especially the traditional authority was involved,” said Venaani.
“So when you are pushing Muyongo, you are pushing a number of key players. Kingmakers. By us expelling Muyongo we lost rapport with all these structures, not realising that Muyongo’s influence had infiltrated in those lower structures,” Venaani added.
In response to this Muyungo said: “Nobody expelled me. I, with my party, withdrew from the DTA. I was just an associate member. Nobody could have expelled me. I do not want to talk about the DTA. Stop it my brother. I do not want to talk anymore,” he said and hung up the phone.
Venaani also had some good things to say about Muyongo, while maintaining that he has no contact with Muyungo currently, but he nevertheless respects the man as a former leader, whom he believes made a mistake with the secession attempt.
“He was a good mobiliser and at the time that he left the party was ill-prepared to handle that transition, very ill-prepared and it hurt us. You must remember that under Muyongo we used to govern the Caprivi. And Muyungo was a kingmaker in the Caprivi. He was very popular in the Caprivi and the party used to run and control a number of regions. Caprivi was one of the regions under his leadership.”
He further described Muyongo as a skillful and experienced leader, because he had a rupture with African politics, making him different from any other DTA president. “He had experience in African parties. Something that I took from him when I assumed power is that I am one of the leaders that stays in the office. I am office-bound every day of my life. If I am not sitting at parliament I am at the head office.”
Also, he added, Muyongo did not let anyone in the party in on his planned actions that would lead former president Sam Nujoma to declare a state of emergency as government forces clashed with separatists fighters in that region. It is for this reason that Venaani believes Muyongo couldn’t get backing for his action.
“I do not think the outcome would have been different, but I think he would have carried a lot of sympathy, because there were people who were sympathetic with him about the oppression and the issues that he raised of oppression, but their sympathy only ended with the issues that he was raising.”
“On the question of secession he did not have [public] sympathy, but on the issues he was raising he had sympathy. I remember the late Ovaherero paramount chief Kuaima Riruako had sympathy with him on the issues, but didn’t have political sympathy with the secession,” Venaani said.