The legitimacy of the former liberation movement, the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO), has steadily been eroded due to a combination of factors. These have included socioeconomic decline, SWAPO’s increasingly outdated populist narrative, financial scandals, and elite self-enrichment. In addition, opposition has grown in the form of electoral support for new parties.
After independence from South Africa in 1990 it won elections by huge margins, enabling it to entrench its power. Like other former liberation movements, its legitimacy centered on the idea that citizens owed the party unconditional loyalty in return for liberation. But heroic narratives tend to have a sell by date. If people feel neglected, their loyalty will decline. Since 2015 it’s become increasingly clear that SWAPO has lost appeal among the younger generation as the struggle for liberation passes into history. This generation expects good governance and measures it not in rhetoric, but in delivery. After all, they were born into an independent state. Their number as voters is about to become a majority.
Namibia's relative wealth is anything but fairly distributed. Inequality remains at staggering proportions. According to the latest United Nations Human Development Report, over half of employed Namibians earn less than US$95 (N$ 1,400) a month. Even among those in paid employment this amounts to less than the average per capita income for sub-Saharan Africa.