The South West Africa People’s Organisation (, SWAPO; af|Suidwes-Afrikaanse Volks Organisasie, SWAVO; german: Südwestafrikanische Volksorganisation, SWAVO), officially known as the 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 the Ovambo ethnic group. SWAPO held a two-thirds majority in parliament from 1994 to 2019. In the general election held in November 2019, the party won 65.5% of the popular vote and 63 out of the 104 seats in the National Assembly. It also holds 40 out of the 42 seats in the National Council. As of November 2017, Namibian President Hage Geingob has been the president of SWAPO after being elected to the position at the party's electoral congress.


Background and foundation

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 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.

Struggle for independence

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 (SWANU), and later in 1976 the 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.

Independent Namibia

When Namibia gained its independence in 1990, SWAPO became the dominant political party. Though the organisation rejected the term ''South West Africa'' and preferred to use ''Namibia'', the organisation's original 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 the Ovambo ethnic group, despite "considerable efforts to counter hatperception". 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.


SWAPO was founded with the aim of attaining the independence of Namibia and thus is part of the African nationalist movement. Pre-independence it harboured a socialist, Marxist–Leninist ideology, a thinking that was not immediately abandoned when independence was achieved in 1990 and SWAPO became the ruling party Officially, however, it adopted a capitalist ideology, until the electoral congress in 2017 approved the official change to socialism with a "Namibian character", although some Namibians have labeled the change as lacking a "grass-roots ocialist nature. Various commentators have characterised the politics of SWAPO in different ways. Gerhard Tötemeyer, himself a party member, considers its post-independence politics neo-liberalist and social democratic. Henny Seibeb, an opposition politician from the Landless People's Movement, describes the current party ideology as liberal nationalism with traces of "dogmatism, authoritarianism, and statism".


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 Youth League, a Women's Council, and an Elders Council.


The Politburo of SWAPO is a body that consists of: * The Party President: Hage Geingob * The Party former President: Hifikepunye Pohamba * The Secretary-General: Sophia Shaningwa * The Deputy Secretary-General: Marco Hausiku * Two Members appointed by the Party President * 18 Members elected by the SWAPO Central Committee: * Nangolo Mbumba * Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila * Laura McLeod-Katjirua * Pohamba Shifeta * Peter Katjavivi * Doreen Sioka * Katrina Hanse-Himarwa * Margaret Mensah-Williams * Sirkka Ausiku * Lucia Witbooi * Hilma Nikanor * Bernard Esau * Alpheus ǃNaruseb * Calle Schlettwein * John Mutorwa * Albert Kawana * Lucia Iipumbu * Tobie Aupindi

Central Committee

SWAPO's Central Committee consists of: * The President * The Vice-President * The Secretary-General * The Deputy Secretary-General * The Founding President of SWAPO as a permanent member * 13 SWAPO Party Regional Coordinators * 54 members elected at the party congress * 10 members appointed by the party president The members are: * Hage Geingob (''ex officio'', SWAPO President) * Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah (''ex officio'', SWAPO Vice-President) * Sophia Shaningwa (''ex officio'', SWAPO Secretary-General) * Marco Hausiku (''ex officio'', SWAPO Deputy Secretary-General) * Sam Nujoma (''ex officio'' SWAPO founding President) * Hifikepunye Pohamba (''ex officio'' SWAPO former President) 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 * Tjekero Tweya * Erastus Uutoni * Samuel Ankama * Margaret Mensah-Williams * Mandume Pohamba * Doreen Sioka * Kazenambo Kazenambo * Helmut Angula * Peya Mushelenga * Loide Kasingo * Alpheus ǃNaruseb * 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 President-appointed members (2017): * Calle Schlettwein * Erkki Nghimtina * Penda Ya Ndokolo * Christina Hoebes * Jennely Matundu * Collien Van Wyk

List of Presidents

*Sam Nujoma- (1960 – 2007) *Hifikepunye Pohamba- (2007 – 2015) *Hage Geingob- (2015 – 2017/acting president), (2017 – present)

Finances and business interests

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. ''Namibia Today'' was the mouthpiece of the SWAPO, and Asser Ntinda its editor. The paper does not appear to have been active since 7 April 2011 and closed down in 2015.

Alleged human rights abuses

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 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.


SWAPO is a full member of Socialist International.List of Socialist International parties in Africa
It was a member of the Non-Aligned Movement before the independence of Namibia in 1990.

Electoral history

Presidential elections

National Assembly elections

National Council elections

See also

*People's Liberation Army of Namibia *Namibia African People's Democratic Organisation *Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola *South African Border War *South West Africa National Union *SWAPO for Justice *Andimba Toivo ya Toivo



External links

Website of SWAPOWebsite of the SWAPO Youth League

''The Wall Street Journal'', 19 November 1989. {{DEFAULTSORT:Swapo Category:African and Black nationalist organizations in Africa Category:South West Africa Category:Guerrilla organizations Category:History of Namibia Category:Military history of Namibia Category:Political parties in Namibia Category:Socialist International Category:Rebel groups in Namibia Category:National liberation movements Category:National liberation armies Category:Left-wing parties Category:Anti-Apartheid organisations Category:1960 establishments in South West Africa Category:Decolonisation