SWAPO (//), formerly the South West African People's Organisation (German: Südwestafrikanische Volksorganisation, SWAVO; Afrikaans: Suidwes-Afrikaanse Volk-Organisasie, SWAVO) and officially known as SWAPO Party of Namibia, is a political party and former independence movement in Namibia. It has been the governing party in Namibia since the country achieved independence in 1990. The party continues to be dominated in number and influence by Ovambo people.
After World War I the League of Nations gave South West Africa, formerly a German colony, to the United Kingdom as a League of Nations mandate">mandate under the administration of South Africa. When the National Party won the 1948 election in South Africa and subsequently introduced apartheid legislation, these laws were applied as well to South West Africa. It was considered the de facto fifth province of South Africa.
SWAPO was founded on 19 April 1960 as the successor of the Ovamboland People's Organization. Leaders renamed the party to show that it represented all Namibians. But, the organisation had its base among the Ovambo people of northern Namibia, who constituted nearly half the total population.
During 1962 SWAPO had emerged as the dominant nationalist organisation for the Namibian people. It co-opted other groups such as the South West Africa National Union"> South West Africa National Union (SWANU), and later in 1976 the Namibia African People's Democratic Organisation"> Namibia African People's Democratic Organisation. SWAPO used guerrilla tactics to fight the South African Defence Force. On 26 August 1966, the first major clash of the conflict took place, when a unit of the South African Police, supported by the South African Air Force, exchanged fire with SWAPO forces.
This date is generally regarded as the start of what became known in South Africa as the Border War. In 1972 the United Nations General Assembly recognised SWAPO as the 'sole legitimate representative' of Namibia's people. The Norwegian government began giving aid directly to SWAPO in 1974.
The country of Angola gained its independence on 11 November 1975 following its war for independence. The leftist Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), supported by Cuba and the Soviet Union, came to power. In March 1976, the MPLA offered SWAPO bases in Angola for launching attacks against the South African military.
When Namibia gained its independence in 1990, SWAPO became the dominant political party. Though the organisation rejected the term South West Africa and insisted on replacing it with Namibia, the organisation's own name—derived from the territory's old name—was too deeply rooted in the independence movement to be changed. However, the original full name is no longer used; only the acronym remains. SWAPO, and with it much of Namibia's government and administration, continues to be dominated by Ovambo people, despite "considerable efforts to counter [that] perception".
SWAPO president Sam Nujoma was declared Namibia's first President after SWAPO won the inaugural election in 1989. A decade later Nujoma had the constitution changed so he could run for a third term in 1999, as it limits the presidency to two terms.
In 2004 the SWAPO presidential candidate was Hifikepunye Pohamba, described as Nujoma's hand-picked successor. In 2014 the SWAPO presidential candidate was Hage Geingob who was the Vice-President of SWAPO.
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The party president is the top position of SWAPO; in 2012 this was held by Namibia's former president Pohamba. The vice-president is Namibia's current president Hage Geingob, who was elected to that position in 2007 and reconfirmed at the SWAPO congress in December 2012. The third highest position in SWAPO is the Secretary-General, a position held in December 2012 by Nangolo Mbumba. Number four is the Deputy Secretary-General, Omaheke Governor Laura McLeod-Katjirua.
Like many socialist and communist parties, SWAPO is governed by a Politburo and a Central Committee. The party leadership is advised by a SWAPO Youth League">Youth League, a Women's Council, and an Elders Council.
SWAPO's Central Committee consists of:
President-appointed members (2017):
Although SWAPO receives finances from government for its operations, the party also holds extensive business interests. Through Kalahari Holdings it entered into joint ventures with several companies, most prominently the Namibian branch of MultiChoice, a private satellite TV provider, of which it owns 51%. Kalahari Holdings has further joint ventures with Radio Energy, Africa Online, and businesses in the tourism, farming, security services and health insurance sectors. It owns Namib Contract Haulage, Namprint, Kudu investment, and the Ndilimani Cultural Troupe.
Various groups have claimed that SWAPO committed serious human rights abuses against suspected spies during the independence struggle. Since the early 21st century, they have pressed the government more strongly on this issue. Breaking the Wall of Silence (BWS) is one of the groups founded by people who were detained by SWAPO during the war and abused during interrogations. In 2004, BWS alleged that "In exile, hundreds of SWAPO dependants and members were detained, tortured and killed without trial." SWAPO denies serious infractions and claims anything that did happen was in the name of liberation. Because of a series of successful South African raids, the SWAPO leadership believed that spies existed in the movement. Hundreds of SWAPO cadres were imprisoned, tortured and interrogated.
In 2005 the P.E.A.C.E. Centre (People's Education, Assistance and Counselling for Empowerment) conducted an extensive study on the lives of Namibian ex-fighters and their families fifteen years after Independence. Their published ebook investigates the post-independence lives of those who fought on both sides of the Namibian War of Independence. Data from this research indicate that ex-fighters still[update] exhibit symptoms of long-term post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The findings indicate there is a correlation between the life circumstances of ex-fighters and their lack of resilience to traumatic war experiences. Resiliency has been linked to a number of protective factors, such as the socio-economic situation of the survivors, their socio-political environment, their social support networks, and their cognitive processes.
The study says that, in the case of Namibian ex-fighters, long-term psychological distress is different from a simple PTSD diagnosis. The survivors have almost invariably gone for nearly two decades without seeking treatment, adding to their burdens. During this time, the ex-fighters have been exposed to additional social and psychological stressors through life events. For a person without PTSD, such stressors may have fleeting effects, but for a sufferer of long-term psychological distress, each life incident could reduce the survivor's resilience to trauma, as well as triggering "flashbacks" to events during the war.