South West Africa People's Organisation

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Group.png South West Africa People's Organisation   WebsiteRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
UNIN X.jpg
At State House, Lusaka (1986): SWAPO leader Sam Nujoma and President Kenneth Kaunda
Formation19 April 1960
Founder• Andimba Toivo ya Toivo
• Sam Nujoma
HeadquartersWindhoek, Namibia

The South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO) is a former national liberation movement which was founded in Windhoek, South West Africa (now Namibia) on 19 April 1960 by Herman Toivo ja Toivo and Sam Nujoma, and demanded immediate independence for Namibia from apartheid South Africa.

SWAPO emerged as the sole liberation movement in the early 1960s because it had the support of the Ovambo, the largest ethnic group in Namibia. After South Africa refused a United Nations order to withdraw from Namibia in 1966, SWAPO turned from political campaigning to armed struggle and formed the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN).[1]

In 1976, the United Nations Institute for Namibia (UNIN) was established in Lusaka, Zambia, to educate Namibians for roles in an independent Republic of Namibia. In 1986, on the 10th anniversary of the founding of UNIN, pictured at State House, Lusaka are: (left to right) SWAPO's Secretary of Information and Publicity Hidipo Hamutenya, SWAPO activist Anton Lubowski, SWAPO activist Charles Courtney-Clarke, SWAPO President Sam Nujoma, UNIN Director Hage Geingob and Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda.

SWAPO has been the governing party in Namibia since achieving independence on 21 March 1990. The party won 75.25% of the popular vote and 54 out of 72 seats in the parliamentary election held in November 2009.[2]

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 already too deeply rooted to be changed. However, the original full name is no longer used and only the acronym remains; the party's official name is SWAPO Party of Namibia.[3]


After World War I the League of Nations gave South-West Africa, formerly a German colony, to the United Kingdom as a mandate under the title of South Africa.[4] When the National Party won the 1948 election in South Africa and subsequently introduced apartheid legislation,[5] these laws also extended into South-West Africa which was the de facto fifth province of South Africa.[6]

SWAPO was founded on 19 April 1960 by Andimba Toivo ya Toivo as the successor of the Ovamboland People's Congress, an organisation established in 1957 and renamed the Ovamboland People's Organisation in 1959. The reason for the renaming was that although the organisation had its base among the Ovambo people of northern Namibia it wanted to be representative of all Namibians. During 1962 SWAPO had emerged as the dominant nationalist organisation for the Namibian people, co-opting other groups such as the South West Africa National Union (SWANU), and in 1976 the Namibia African People's Democratic Organisation.[7] SWAPO used guerrilla tactics to fight the South African military. On 26 August 1966 the first major clash of the conflict took place, when a unit of the South African Police, supported by 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 (UNGA) recognised SWAPO as the 'sole legitimate representative' of Namibia's people.[8] The Norwegian government began giving aid directly to SWAPO in 1974.[9]

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. The MPLA offered SWAPO bases in Angola to launch attacks against the South African military in March 1976.

Controversy within the movement

Various groups have claimed that SWAPO committed serious human rights abuses against suspected spies during the independence struggle. One of which includes the Breaking the Wall of Silence (BWS), which was founded by those detainees to press the SWAPO-government on the issue.[10][11] SWAPO denies serious infractions and claims anything that did happen was in the name of liberation. The stories of the detainees begins with a series of successful South African raids that made the SWAPO leadership believe spies existed in the movement. Hundreds of SWAPO cadres were imprisoned, tortured and interrogated.[12]

In 2005, the P.E.A.C.E. Centre conducted an extensive study on the situation Namibian ex-fighters and their families fifteen years after Independence. The resultant ebook investigates the post-independence situation of those who fought on both sides of the Namibian Liberation War. Data from this research indicate that ex-fighters 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, with resiliency being 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.[13]

It is argued that in the case of Namibian ex-fighters, long term psychological distress is different from a simple PTSD diagnosis because the survivor has almost invariably gone almost two decades without seeking treatment. Moreover, during this time, the ex-fighters have also been exposed to additional social and psychological stressors which, for a person not suffering from long-term psychological distress would only have a fleeting impact, 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".


When Namibia gained its independence on 21 March 1990, SWAPO became the dominant political party, with its head, Sam Nujoma, elected as Namibia's first President.

In July 1991, the South African Government admitted that it gave more than $35 million to seven political parties that opposed the leftist South-West Africa People's Organisation in pre-independence elections in neighbouring Namibia. SWAPO went on to win the elections for a constituent assembly in November 1989, which were held under United Nations supervision. But it received only 57 percent of the vote, well short of the two-thirds majority it needed to introduce a socialist-oriented constitution in Namibia.

South Africa had previously denied allegations that it gave money to SWAPO's opponents in the election. The admission seemed to broaden the current scandal over covert Government payments to South Africa's Zulu-based Inkatha movement and Inkatha's affiliated labour union.

The Namibian payments were acknowledged at a news conference today by Foreign Minister Roelof F Botha. The most prominent recipient was the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance, which won more than a fourth of the vote and now sits as the official opposition in the Namibian Parliament. Defending the outlay of "a considerable sum" — more than 100 million rand — to limit SWAPO's election victory, Mr Botha noted that South Africa had just fought a bitter counterinsurgency struggle against the organisation. SWAPO fought a 23-year guerrilla war against South African rule.[14]

President Sam Nujoma had the constitution changed so he could run for a third term in 1999, but in 2004 he was replaced as the SWAPO presidential candidate by Hifikepunye Pohamba, who was described as Nujoma's hand-picked successor.[15][16]


SWAPO's top position is that of the party president; it is currently held by Namibia's president Hifikepunye Pohamba. Vice President is Hage Geingob who was elected into that position in 2007 and reconfirmed at the SWAPO congress in December 2012. Number three in SWAPO ranks is the Secretary-General, a position currently held by Nangolo Mbumba, and number four is the Deputy Secretary-General, currently Omaheke Governor Laura McLeod-Katjirua.[17]

Like many socialist parties, SWAPO is governed by a Politburo and a Central Committee. Party politics further is advised by a SWAPO Youth League, a SWAPO Women's Council, and an Elder Council.


The Politburo of SWAPO is a body that consists of:

  • the party president Hifikepunye Pohamba and vice president Hage Geingob
  • Secretary-General Nangolo Mbumba and his deputy, Laura McLeod-Katjirua
  • 17 elected members:[18]
  • Nahas Angula
  • Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah
  • Ben Amathila
  • Marco Hausiku
  • Libertina Amathila
  • Charles Namoloh
  • Theo-Ben Gurirab
  • Nickey Iyambo
  • Jerry Ekandjo
  • Immanuel Ngatjizeko
  • Katrina Hanse-Himarwa
  • Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana
  • Alpheus Naruseb
  • Erkki Nghimtina
  • John Mutorwa
  • Albert Kawana
  • Asser Kapere

Central Committee

SWAPO's Central Committee consists of:

  • President, Vice-President, Secretary-General, and Deputy Secretary-General,
  • the SWAPO coordinator of every Region of Namibia,
  • people elected at the party congress
  • Founding president Sam Nujoma and SWAPO founder Andimba Toivo ya Toivo as permanent members, and
  • ten president-appointed members.

The current members are:[19][20]

  • Hifikepunye Pohamba (ex officio, SWAPO President)
  • Hage Geingob (ex officio, SWAPO Vice-President)
  • Nangolo Mbumba (ex officio, SWAPO Secretary-General)
  • Laura McLeod-Katjirua (ex officio, SWAPO Deputy Secretary-General)
  • Elected members:
  • Nahas Angula
  • Abraham Iyambo
  • Ben Amathila
  • Marco Hausiku
  • Nickey Iyambo
  • Jerry Ekandjo
  • John Mutorwa
  • Utoni Nujoma
  • Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila
  • Theo-Ben Gurirab
  • Libertine Amathila
  • Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah
  • Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana
  • Bernard Esau
  • Pohamba Shifeta
  • Richard Kamwi
  • Petrus Iilonga
  • Joel Kaapanda
  • Albert Kawana
  • David Namwandi
  • Isak Katali
  • Katrina Hanse-Himarwa
  • Erkki Nghimtina
  • Tjikero Tweya
  • Erastus Uutoni
  • Samuel Ankama
  • Margaret Mensah-Williams
  • Pohamba Mandume
  • Doreen Sioka
  • Kazenambo Kazenambo
  • Helmut Angula
  • Peya Mushelenga
  • Loide Kasingo
  • Alpheus Naruseb
  • Peter Katjavivi
  • Leon Jooste
  • Asser Kapere
  • Charles Namoloh
  • Lempy Lucas
  • Veikko Nekundi
  • Hilma Nikanor
  • Lucia Witbooi
  • Penda Ya Ndakolo
  • Usko Nghaamwa
  • Immanuel Ngatjizeko
  • Eunice Iipinge
  • Elia Kaiyamo
  • Moses Amweelo
  • Sophia Shaningwa
  • Samuel Nuuyoma
  • Martha Namundjebo-Tilahun
  • Rosalia Nghidinwa
  • Clemens Kashuupulwa
  • Henock Ya Kasita
  • Uahekua Herunga
  • Willem Konjore
  • permanent members Sam Nujoma and Andimba Toivo ya Toivo,
  • 13 Regional SWAPO coordinators
  • 10 members appointed by the president


SWAPO is a full member of the Socialist International.[21] and was a member of the Non-Aligned Movement before the independence of Namibia.

See also


  1. "South West African People's Organisation (SWAPO)"
  2. "Observer report"
  3. "The founder of SWAPO" New Era 19 April 2010
  4. [;218;58993;1858;29614;75003;75071 "The South Africa Mandate 1915-1989"]
  5. [ "Formation of the South African Republic"]
  6. [ "Namibia: Apartheid, resistance and repression (1945-1966)"]
  7. "Google Books", A History of Resistance in Namibia, Page 99, Peter H. Katjavivi, ISBN 0-86543-144-2
  8. "BBC News - Timeline: Namibia"
  9. Tore Linné Eriksen "Norway and National Liberation in Southern Africa" (pages 90)
  10. "Church council's stance on detainees revives apartheid rhetoric, charges the NSHR" The Namibian, 18 November 2003
  11. "Ex-detainee issue still runs deep" The Namibian, 4 October 2005
  12. Leys C., S. Brown (2005) "Histories of Namibia", Merlin Press, ISBN=0-85036-499-X
  13. [ "An Investigation into the lives of Namibian Ex-fighters fifteen years after Independence"]
  14. "Pretoria Spent $35 Million To Influence Namibian Vote"
  15. "NAMIBIA: Election expected to be low-key"
  16. "Elections in Namibia"
  17. [ "Moderates prevail"]
  18. "Newly elected members of the Swapo Politburo"
  19. "New blood in Swapo CC"
  20. "Matter of Fact" The Namibian
  21. "List of Socialist International parties in Africa"

External links

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