Namibia's Former White Rulers Change Political Strategy
IN an act loaded with symbolism, Namibia's National Party of South West Africa recently dissolved itself. Members of the party that effectively ruled Namibia as South Africa's "fifth province" for more than three decades, adhering to apartheid, have chosen a new strategy for seeking minority protection in this newly democratic state."We have closed down the National Party," former National Party leader Kosie Pretorius told a meeting of the Africa Leadership Forum in Windhoek Sept. 9. Mr. Pretorius, a member of the Namibian Parliament, says that he has dissolved the party and formed Monitor Action Group because he fears that confrontation politics will merely radicalize the ruling SWAPO (South West Africa People's Organization of Namibia) government and leave whites more exposed. "In the next 10 to 20 years it will be counterproductive to put up a white candidate in an election," he told the Monitor. Pretorius says that Dirk Mudge, leader of the main opposition group, the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance, is making a grave mistake by waging political war on SWAPO to win more seats in the next election. Mr. Mudge quit the National Party in 1977 because of its reluctance to make a clean break with apartheid. "We need to remove the racial issue from politics," says Pretorius, who was seen moving to the right of South Africa's ruling National Party after the two parted ways in 1977. Pretorius's Monitor Action Group will try to persuade the SWAPO government and opposition parties that greater autonomy for minorities is in the interests of national stability. "As a result of a system based on 'one man, one vote' our objectives have completely changed," he says. "Under the majority system we are completely eliminated as a group and as a party. Pretorius praised the constitutional proposals of the African National Congress of South Africa as more advanced than the Namibian Constitution in protecting language rights. South Africa took control of South West Africa after World War I, ruling under United Nations mandate until 1966, when the UN revoked the mandate. But the Pretoria government continued to rule the territory in defiance of the UN. The National Party of South West Africa (Namibia) won full representation in the South African Parliament in 1949. SWAPO was formed in 1957, and was named by the UN General Assembly in 1973 the "sole representative" of the Namibian people. In 1974, under pressure from Pretoria, the National Party initiated a multi-racial constitutional conference that led to the acceptance of limited power-sharing with the black majority. In internal multiracial elections in 1978 - boycotted by SWAPO, which was fighting as a liberation movement - the party lost its majority status and accused Pretoria of betraying its own people. UN-supervised elections were held in October 1989, and Namibia attained independence in March 1990. SWAPO won 41 of 62 seats in parliament; the DTA won 21 seats and the National Party three seats. The first one-person, one-vote ballot for regional-level government is to take place early next year. SWAPO came to power on a platform of racial reconciliation and a pledge to honor the rights of minorities. Nambia has 11 main ethnic groups, including some 60,000 whites, in a population of 1.5 million. "We will never be in a position - as a group - to win an election and have decisionmaking powers," Pretorius says. "The only strategy left is to lobby by way of a pressure group for greater autonomy....We and SWAPO have changed roles."