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Helmut amendments sidelining a ‘power grab’

2022-09-16  Aletta Shikololo

Helmut amendments sidelining a ‘power grab’

ONGWEDIVA – The dust refuses to settle over the interpretation of the Swapo rules that hogged the headlines in the run up to the nominations for the party’s top positions. The father of the Helmut amendments has now called its circumvention a power grab. The infamous ‘Helmut amendments’, which sparked controversy within Swapo as they appeared to have limited prospective candidates’ chances of contesting for the top four positions in Swapo, have again raised eyebrows among the party members after it was bypassed ‘overnight’.

Some members of the ruling party questioned the rationale of setting aside the amendments a month before the congress. 

The Helmut amendments, as they are now known, allow only individuals who have been members of the party for a minimum of 20 years and “persistently and consistently” been members of the CC to run for the party’s top positions. The alterations to Swapo’s constitution were drafted by stalwart Helmut Angula.

After the Swapo Central Committee (CC) meeting, held in Windhoek last week, it appeared that the amendments only affect those who joined the ruling party after 2018, when its constitution was amended. This prompted those with ambitions to contest for the vice presidency position a new leash to stand a chance at the much-talked-about congress in November. This included Frans Kapofi, who quit the race on Wednesday, mines minister Tom Alweendo and backbencher Tobie Aupindi who lost the race.

“These amendments have been banned and violated. It is against the constitution,” said former Swapo think tank member and long-serving member, Ben Mulongeni. Mulongeni has in the past called the amendments “idiotic”. Questioned why he is suddenly irked by a decision to ignore them, which is what he initially wanted, the highly opinionated member said, “I will still call them idiotic because they are not inclusive. I am not saying I am finally speaking for the amendments. I am questioning the agenda behind them being bypassed unconstitutionally. These amendments could have been repealed even three months ago. Why do the right thing wrongly when you could have done the right thing, right?” Earlier this year, there have been strong calls to amend the Swapo constitution rules.

Presidential hopefuls Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah and Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila were said to be at the forefront of blocking
discussions about amendments to the ruling
party’s constitution at the central committee level.

Speaking at a mobilisation event in the Oshana region in June this year, Nandi-Ndaitwah warned members against shortcuts. She implored members to have a full understanding of the party’s constitution and follow its guidelines. “It is the shortcuts that bring a lot of chaos,” she said. Mulongeni suggested the party could have called for a Swapo extraordinary congress as is required by the constitution. “The CC meeting has no mandate to waive the amendments. If they could have reamended them on the right platform, then we will not question the motive behind the president’s decision to push Kapofi and Shifeta in the race. We are questioning the agenda,” Mulongeni complained. “If you wanted your boys to be qualified, you could have done it a few months before the CC meeting and change the amendments.” He thus added that the “wheelbarrowing” of candidates into a race they do not qualify for has compromised the integrity, competence, and quality of these people who were allowed to enter the race through the violation of the constitution.

“I will not be happy to be nominated through the violation of the constitution because that is being assisted to be wheelbarrowed in the race when you do not qualify, according to the constitution,” he added. Echoing the same sentiments as Mulongeni, Swapo veteran Angula who proposed the amendments and was also at the forefront of implementing them, said the decision to allow members who do not qualify to contest for the party’s presidency is “Illegal and unconstitutional”. He said, “You cannot just decide to go against the constitution because you have power.” Angula said there are provisions to which these amendments could have been amended. “They could have been amended three months before the congress. They were also adopted by the Swapo party extraordinary congress, and it can only be the Swapo party extraordinary congress or the Swapo elective congress to amend them,” he stressed. “I do not know if people do not read, or they just do things because of power. We are guided by the constitution, and it is what binds us together. If you ignore the constitution, history will judge you,” he added. He added that the amendments were meant to prevent the party from being captured by so-called chance takers.

Angula said, “There are various provisions in the constitution that could have allowed them. Civil servants, army, and police generals had a choice to be nominated a long time ago. Why wait until the last minute? The appointing officer also could have nominated them to be delegates at the Congress.” Attempts to get a comment from the party’s spokesperson Hilma Nicanor proved futile as her phone rang unanswered.


2022-09-16  Aletta Shikololo

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