By Tileni Mongudhi
WINDHOEK – Senior SWAPO leaders with ambitions to challenge President Hage Geingob for the party presidency at next month’s party elective congress have come out of the woodwork to publicly declare their candidacy.
Swapo, one of the liberation movements in Southern Africa, goes for its elective congress towards the end of next month.
Elsewhere in the region, FRELIMO in Mozambique held its congress last week where incumbent president Filipe Nyusi was re-elected for another term.
In South Africa, the African National Congress holds its national conference in December and incumbent party president Jacob Zuma is expected to step down. Two front runners to replace Zuma have emerged in the ANC and these are current deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa and former African Union chairperson Nkosazana Dhlamini-Zuma.
In Zimbabwe, the ruling ZANU-PF goes for its routine annual national conference in December and there were no indications that this would result in a change in party leadership, although there has been in-fighting along factional lines within the party.
In Namibia, the last week saw screaming newspaper headlines stating that at least two top ruling party leaders are openly challenging Geingob for the party presidency.
Geingob, however, appears to be secure and analysts predict that he will be elected substantive SWAPO party president.
The ruling party’s president is by default the party’s presidential candidate in the 2019 presidential elections. This week, it emerged that former Prime Minister Nahas Angula will come out of retirement to challenge for the party presidency, which has been vacant since April 2015 when former President Hifikepunye Pohamba resigned and retired from active politics.
Geingob has been acting Swapo president since 2015, after Pohamba handed him the party’s instruments of power.
Angula will be joined by Youth Minister Jerry Ekandjo in the race for the SWAPO presidency. Ekandjo lost to Geingob for the party vice presidency position during the 2012 elective congress, which saw divisions within Swapo deepen.
Home Affairs and Immigration Minister and former SWAPO secretary-general Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana also this week went on the record declaring that she will join forces with Ekandjo to challenge Geingob. Iivula-Ithana said she will be Ekandjo’s running mate at congress and will challenge for the party vice presidency.
Rising star and SWAPO’s Oshikoto regional coordinator Armas Amukwiyu as well as former SWAPO party Youth League secretary Elijah Ngurare have also confirmed running for one party top four positions under the Ekandjo banner. Amukwiyu was, until 2015, a staunch Geingob lieutenant.
Current SWAPO deputy secretary general Laura McLeod-Katjirua’s name has also been brought into the leadership race, while current SWAPO information and mobilisation secretary Helmut Angula, who is the party’s spokesperson, was quoted in the media this week confirming that he too was eying the party vice presidency at congress.
After months of being coy about the prospects of running, the party leaders came out in a space of days to declare their availability for higher offices.
This was prompted by Geingob’s decision to declare that he is running for the SWAPO presidency and nominated Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah as his vice presidential candidate. He also named Rural and Urban Development Minister Sophia Shaningwa as his nominee for the secretary-general post and acting Rector of the SWAPO party school Marco Hausiku as his nominee for the deputy secretary general’s post. Hausiku has also served as Deputy Prime Minister before retiring in 2015.
At the current rate, indications are that at least 38 percent of SWAPO’s Politburo members, which is the party’s national executive consisting of 24 members, will be running for a top four post.
Geingob was seen by some of his comrades as acting in an unconstitutional manner when he declared those he “wishes to work with”.
He was also accused of not following party nomination procedures when he announced his team.
Iivula-Ithana, for example, publicly accused the President of disrespecting his comrades and disregarding their views and opinions. She also accused him of nominating his team but did not open the floor for other nominations, which are expected to be handled at this weekend’s Politburo and Central Committee meetings.
Nahas Angula claimed he was running because he felt Geingob was side-lining senior leaders. He was also quoted in media accusing Geingob of hiding behind the party’s 50/50 gender representation at all party structures rule to nominate Nandi-Ndaitwah as his vice presidential candidate. Angula seemed more irked by Ndandi-Ndaitwah’s nomination. The party’s 50/50 rule is a constitutional requirement enforcing that all structures of the party must have 50/50 gender representation.
Media reports also further stated that Angula intended to run for party vice president as Geingob’s running mate. Angula supporters believe he has reason to be aggrieved after he was overlooked by former President Hifikepunye Pohamba in 2012. It was widely believed that Angula was next in line from Pohamba, just for his dreams to be shattered when Pohamba preferred Geingob to takeover from him.
SWAPO secretary-general Nangolo Mbumba dismissed his colleagues’ sentiments as just mere “political talk”. He said party leaders contesting for positions are allowed to talk and voice their opinion as part of the process, adding that it was easy for them to throw allegations around but none have so far provided concrete evidence of how the party constitution has been violated.
“We will be talking but the only thing that will influence the outcome of congress will be the voting,” he said, insisting that the party’s internal democracy is intact. He also said despite the “political talk” there was no reason to fear that the party “will tear itself apart”.
Composition of SWAPO Congress
Total voting delegates – 776
Central Committee consists of 84 members all of whom automatically attend and have voting rights.
140 regional delegates (10 delegates for each region elected at regional conferences)
484 delegates elected from the party’s 121 political districts. Each district is represented by four delegates at congress.
The Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) is alocated16 delegates.
The Swapo Party Elders Council (SPEC) is also allocated 16 delegates
The Swapo Party Women’s Council (SPWC) is allocated 20 delegates, to ensure women are not disadvantaged.
The party’s affiliate the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) also gets 16 delegates at congress.
The party also has provision for 50 non-voting delegates to attend the congress.