By Tileni Mongudhi
Namibia’s President Hage Geingob last week emerged the victor at the ruling SWAPO Party’s sixth elective congress.
The victory means Geingob is now fully in charge of both the party and the government, allowing him to direct policy without any obstructions.
Geingob’s supporters told The Southern Times that his landslide victory means he can now comfortably get his second term as state president. This would mean he has seven years left to focus on his legacy project, which is to eradicate poverty in Namibia, before stepping down.
“It is now up to us to take up the slack and continue the march towards the realisation of economic prosperity for our people,” Geingob said in his victory speech, as he set the tone of his administration, which he said would focus on fighting hunger, income inequality and corruption.
He would also dedicate his energy to fight to bring about quality healthcare for all, education, land servicing, housing provision and sanitation.
Geingob and his team consisting of Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, Urban and Rural Development Minister Sophia Shaningwa and SWAPO Party School rector Marco Hausiku were the big winners at congress, taking over the party presidency, vice presidency, secretary-general and deputy secretary-general respectively.
Geingob was being challenged by Nahas Angula and Jerry Ekandjo. Nandi-Ndaitwah was competing against Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana and Helmut Angula. Shaningwa contested with the youthful Armas Amukwiyu, while Hausiku had to fend off competition from Martha Namunjebo-Tilahun and Petrina Haingura.
A new SWAPO
The SWAPO Central Committee election at congress was perhaps one of the shocking results seeing a new wave of younger leaders ascending to party’s highest decision-making body between congresses.
The development appears to speak to Geingob’s speech at the UN General Assembly in September when he said it was time to usher in a new leadership to take over Namibia.
Out of the 54 elected Central Committee members, only about 27 made it from the previous Central Committee. The rest are new members, many of whom never held leadership positions at national level. The majority are also youthful.
It was perhaps also a first that for about 40 years, the SWAPO Central Committee will not have party stalwarts like former Prime Minister Nahas Angula, Youth Minister Jerry Ekandjo, Vice President Nickey Iyambo, Home Affairs Minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, Ben Amathila, Libertina Amathila, former National Assembly Speaker Theo-Ben Gurirab and Helmut Angula.
Nahas Angula, Ekandjo and Iivula-Ithana have over the years gained a reputation of topping Central Committee lists with unmatched popularity in the party.
A Central Committee without the above-mentioned names also means that Geingob, new deputy secretary-general Marco Hausiku and new SWAPO vice president Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah are the remaining members of the “old guard” to be elected into the Central Committee.
Founding President Sam Nujoma and former president Hifikepunye Pohamba are honorary members of the party’s Central Committee and Politburo.
The Southern Times also understands that more members of the old guard could be added into the Central Committee on honorary basis.
It is also not clear how many in the said group Geingob would include on his list of 10 members the party president appoints to the Central Committee.
It is not only the old guard who are being transitioned out of the party structures to allow for youth to take over.
The Central Committee again for the first time is short of the dominant group of combatants and those who served in the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), SWAPO’s military wing during the liberation struggle. This group is collectively known as returnees in Namibia.
It is not only the faces and people who are changing, the sixth Congress also saw the introduction of new party songs praising Geingob, perhaps a show that the party was moving to a new era and is doing away with the liberation songs which dominated party events.
The lead-up to the congress was fierce and at times nasty and malicious. Geingob, for the whole year, faced persecution and every move considered wrong or a blunder was documented on social media and the mainstream media. He also had to defend himself from criticism from within the party structures. Media reports have detailed how Geingob faced the wrath of his comrades in Politburo and Central Committee meetings for whatever transgressions he was alleged to have committed, especially against the party constitution.
Media reports even suggested he was forced to concede that he was acting SWAPO president despite having been handed the instruments of power by his predecessor, Hifikepunye Pohamba.
Geingob also had detractors within his inner circles, who allegedly chronicled his every move, especially those relating to SWAPO politics. These alleged diaries were dubbed “those in the know” or “this reporter”.
His defenders, too, circulated the so-called hate or negative diaries on those considered the President’s enemies, some of whom served in his Cabinet.
But on Monday morning when he read out his victory speech, Geingob said he wants to unite the party and he no longer wants to see comrades treating each other like enemies.
“I am ready to be a president for all of you, I am ready to be a president of unity, a president of inclusivity and a president of shared prosperity,” he said, adding that, “Our goal now is to unite behind the SWAPO ideals and principles and continue the work that we have set out to accomplish. Today is not about saying that this individual has won or that individual has lost.
“It is not about saying that this team has won or that team has lost. There are no losers in SWAPO. Today SWAPO has won. No matter what the situation, no matter what the moment, no matter what the crisis, SWAPO will always emerge victorious.”
He added that it was inevitable that those who had contested and not achieved the desired results might have feelings of disappointment. He said it was natural because every team that plays in the finals believes it can win. He added that his primary objective following the congress would be to unite all SWAPO members behind the noble and selfless objective of our party.
The Southern Times understands that Geingob has already started reaching out to his former foes in his quest to unite the party, battling with divisions and factions for more than 10 years.
After cruising to victory and taking charge of SWAPO, President Geingob is expected to champion a process of reforming and revamping SWAPO and its administration. Below is what he plans to achieve:
Strengthening the party administration by appointing a full-time administrator who is a professional and capable of being an accounting officer of a ministry.
Secretary-general office shall be made bigger and beefed up with staff to improve the running of the party.
Proper accounting practices and auditing of party companies shall be conducted.
Effective governance, accountability and profitability will be some of the restructuring plans targeting party companies.
Financial accounting for funds appropriated to the party by Parliament shall be improved upon.
Revamping of the party headquarters to expand the aged building to provide office space for the serving president as well as the former party presidents.
To introduce a compensation structure for comrades working in the regions.
“It is discomforting to note that comrades who enter into government following elections become financially secured while comrades who have worked tirelessly to ensure victory, are still volunteering,” he said in one of his statements.
This will also include starting a healthcare scheme for party employees.
Party secretariat shall be strengthened to function as a cabinet to the secretary-general. The secretary-general will continue to have a standing invitation to cabinet meetings to allow her to brief the party secretariat to keep it abreast of what transpires at cabinet meetings.
strengthening research capacity of the party.
Holding public discussion forums to debate pertinent issues with the general public. Party may also use these platforms to recruit new party members.
More will need to be done to build regional party offices across the country.
The party band, Ndilimani Cultural Troupe, to get more support including better pay and housing provision for its members.
Party will explore ways to fund adequate medical treatment for ex-combatants and war veterans.
Deputy secretary-general will be responsible for the party school.
The information department will be revamped to allow for timeous release of information and holding of regular media conferences and briefings.
Regional coordinators to meet monthly at party head office to share information of what is happening in the party.
Updating and growing the party membership database.