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SWAPO Party of Namibia
Abbreviation SWAPO
President Hage Geingob (acting)
Secretary-General Nangolo Mbumba
Founder Andimba Toivo ya Toivo
Sam Nujoma
Founded 19 April 1960
Headquarters Windhoek, Namibia
Newspaper Namibia Today
Think tank SWAPO Think Tank
Youth wing SPYL
Women's wing SWAPO Women's Council
Elder's wing SWAPO Elders Council
Paramilitary wing PLAN (integrated into Namibia Defence Force)
Ideology African nationalism
Social democracy[1][2]
Political position Centre-left
International affiliation Socialist International
African affiliation Former Liberation Movements of SA
National Assembly
77 / 96
Local Councillors
226 / 327
0 / 5
Pan-African Parliament
4 / 5
Party flag
Flag of South-West Africa People's Organisation.svg
Politics of Namibia
Political parties
Coat of arms of Namibia.svg
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South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO), [ˈswɑːpəʊ], (German: Südwestafrikanische Volksorganisation, SWAVO; Afrikaans: Suidwes-Afrikaanse Volk-Organisasie, SWAVO), officially known as SWAPO Party of Namibia, is a political party and former national liberation movement in Namibia. It has been the governing party in Namibia since achieving independence in 1990. The party won 86.73% of the popular vote and 77 out of 96 seats in the general election held in November 2014.

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.[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 and Sam Nujoma as the successor of the Ovamboland People's Congress, an organisation established in 1957 and renamed the Ovamboland People's Organization 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.[3]

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 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.[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[edit]

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] It is alleged that "In exile, hundreds of SWAPO dependants and members were detained, tortured and killed without trial."[12] 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.[13]

SWAPO election campaign vehicle
Typical SWAPO sticker on Namibian vehicle

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 still 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.[14]

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".[14]


When Namibia gained its independence in 1990 SWAPO became the dominant political party, with its head, Sam Nujoma, elected as Namibia's first President. 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 former president Hifikepunye 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 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. The party leadership is further advised by a youth league, a women's council, and an elder council.


The Politburo of SWAPO is a body that currently consists of:[18]


Election results[edit]

Election Votes  % Seats +/– Position Government
1994 370,452 76.34
53 / 72
Steady Steady 1st Majority gov't
1999 414,096 76.82
55 / 78
Increase 2 Steady 1st Majority gov't
2004 625,605 76.44
55 / 78
Steady Steady 1st Majority gov't
2009 611,241 75.25
54 / 72
Decrease 1 Steady 1st Majority gov't
2014 772,528 86.73
77 / 96
Increase 23 Steady 1st Majority gov't

Central Committee[edit]

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:[20][21]

  • 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:

List of Presidents of SWAPO[edit]


SWAPO is a full member of the Socialist International.[22] It was a member of the Non-Aligned Movement before the independence of Namibia.

Namibia Today[edit]

Namibia Today is the mouthpiece of the SWAPO.[23] Its editor is Asser Ntinda.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tötemeyer, Gerhard (December 2007). "The Management of a Dominant Political Party system with particular reference to Namibia" (PDF). Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. Retrieved 9 June 2011. 
  2. ^ Dauth, Timothy (17 January 1995). "From Liberation Organisations to Ruling Parties: The ANC and SWAPO in Transition". NamNet Digest, Vol. 95, no. 3. Retrieved 9 June 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Matundu-Tjiparuro, Kae (19 April 2010). "The founder of Swapo". New Era. 
  4. ^ Eerikäinen, Marjo (14 July 2008). "The South Africa Mandate 1915–1989". Vantaa. Retrieved 15 March 2011. 
  5. ^ "Formation of the South African Republic". South Africa History Online. Retrieved 15 April 2011. 
  6. ^ "Namibia: Apartheid, resistance and repression (1945–1966)". Electoral Institute for the Sustainability of Democracy in Africa. August 2009. Retrieved 15 April 2011. 
  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. ^ Eriksen, Tore Linné. Norway and National Liberation in Southern Africa. p. 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. ^ Gewald, Jan-Bart (September 2004). "Who Killed Clemens Kapuuo?" (PDF). Journal of Southern African Studies 30 (3). doi:10.1080/0305707042000254100. ISSN 0305-7070. 
  13. ^ Leys, C.; S. Brown (2005). Histories of Namibia. London: Merlin Press. ISBN 0-85036-499-X. 
  14. ^ a b LeBeau, Debie (September 2005). "An Investigation into the lives of Namibian Ex-fighters fifteen years after Independence" (PDF). People's Education, Assistance and Counselling for Empowerment (P.E.A.C.E.). Retrieved 26 August 2011. 
  15. ^ "NAMIBIA: Election expected to be low-key". IRIN. 2004. Retrieved 9 November 2007. 
  16. ^ "Elections in Namibia". Retrieved 7 February 2009. 
  17. ^ Immanuel, Shinovene; Shipanga, Selma (3 December 2012). "Moderates prevail". The Namibian. 
  18. ^ Immanuel, Shinovene (19 February 2014). "Kazenambo joins Swapo's politburo". The Namibian. 
  19. ^ "Newly elected members of the Swapo Politburo". The Namibian. 12 December 2012. 
  20. ^ Poolman, Jan. "New blood in Swapo CC". The Namibian. Retrieved 3 December 2012.  The offline version of the article contains the list of elected CC members.
  21. ^ "Matter of Fact". The Namibian. 4 December 2012.  This erratum was only published offline.
  22. ^ List of Socialist International parties in Africa.
  23. ^ Swapo distances itself from mouthpiece's Kameeta attack in The Namibian, 18 February 2003.
External links