A nalysts earlier this week dissected the nominees and what they bring to the table.
They are not impressed. What Swapo’s top leaders hoped to be a controversy-free campaign in the run up to November’s congress has already started on a false note with stalwart
Jerry Ekandjo insisting on a third run for the party’s vice presidency.
Ekandjo failed to make the cut during last weekend’s central committee vote for the party’s top three positions, excluding the presidency. The man who piped Ekandjo to the post surprisingly withdrew from the race on Wednesday, the same day Ekandjo informed the party, through his lawyers, he is running anyway.
The drafted three candidates gunning for the Swapo vice president (VP) inspire little to no confidence to overturn the fortunes of the ruling party and by extension, the country.
This general consensus is deduced from several political commentators who were interviewed this week on the credentials that the four aspirants bring to the table. All eyes are fixed on the next VP, who is likely to be Swapo’s presidential candidate at the next general elections. The analysts pointed to public perception of high level of corruption among the contenders, unproven leadership records, internal party infights as barometers where some of the VP hopefuls come short. In the party, however, the gloves are off. It is now knuckle-to-knuckle in what is expected to be a fierce contest.
Last weekend’s central committee, which was marred by controversies, particularly, the circumvention of the so-called ‘Helmut amendments’ gave onlookers a taste of what to expect in November.
Three horse race
The much-talked-about 7th Swapo ordinary congress will pit incumbent Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, PM Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila and environment minister Pohamba Shifeta. The fourth candidate was defence minister Frans Kapofi, who unexpectedly withdrew from the race on Wednesday, citing family reasons. Now, the three remaining contestants are as seen tried and tested cadres of the former liberation movement, both as struggle icons, technocrats, diplomats and post-independence political heavyweights.
In Swapo, it does not get bigger than Nandi-Ndaitwah, Kuugongelwa-Amadhila and Shifeta. The initial quartet has a combined 109 years of experience at the top echelons of governance before Kapofi withdrew. Nandi-Ndaitwah has been a parliamentarian since independence dawned on Namibia while Kuugongelwa-Amadhila joined the national planning commission – which earned her a seat in Cabinet - in 1995 before becoming finance minister in 2003.
Shifeta’s resume commands respect of its own. He first joined the National Assembly in 2005. He has been a member since then, serving in various portfolios such as deputy youth and sports, deputy environment minister before becoming a fully-fledged minister. According to analysts, they leave much to be desired.
Political analyst, Natjirikasorua Tjirera holds the view the biggest challenge post the Geingob era is unity. He said remnants for the 2017 divisive congress have refused to die.
“As much as they believe that Swapo is united, the reality is that there was a bitter struggle for power in Swapo in 2017, which has not been cured and which I don’t see it being cured by any of the candidates recently nominated, especially those vying for the vice presidency position,” said Tjirera.
Swapo has over the years maintained that factions in the party are dead. Tjirera disagrees. “Swapo has been recording immense political losses in 2017, 2019 and 2020, but they still do not seem to be doing enough to unite and pull the masses and amicably become one again,” he stressed. In 2019, Swapo lost its powerful two-thirds majority in the National Assembly followed by loses of major municipalities such as Windhoek, Swakopmund and Walvis Bay.
In the two southern regions – Hardap and //Kharas – the ruling party was also pushed into the opposition benches.
“It is one thing to be a Cabinet minister, and it is completely different to have a responsibility to lead an organisation such as Swapo. None of them have a concrete capacity to become next president of this country,” he said. Tjirera said Nandi-Ndaitwah whose integrity is said to be beyond reproach could be the silver lining. “Yes, it is needed to be corrupt free, and her name has never been implicated in corruption-related matters, but would she be able to keep together a group so divided and to which its division has spilt even onto the youth wing? I really doubt,” he stressed, adding that the party has failed to produce leaders who are inclusive.
In his message to the SPYL elective congress last month, the youth wing secretary Ephraim Nekongo also spoke on the division in the party. Nekongo said the slow pace at which the party has been implementing its 2019 election manifesto has resulted in people losing trust in the party.
Another political analyst Rui Tyitende delved into the qualities of the candidates.
“One would have wanted to see the programmes, policies or laws that they would like to initiate to take Namibia out of the crisis it’s going through. Even as an analyst, I find it difficult to do an assessment of potential candidates. They have not indicated how they want to transform Namibia,” he explained.
On Netumbo-Ndaitwah, he pointed to her statement on reviving the long-held dream to pump water thousands of kilometres from
the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of Congo to Namibia to ensure water security.
At best, Tyitende described it as baffling.
“Why do we need water from the DRC when we have water from Kavango and Zambezi rivers? Secondly, she could have spoken on the issue of the two aquifers in the Ohangwena region where she is from. Namibia is a dry country, but she could not even articulate a clear position on water security. Maybe she is a good candidate, but she has not come out strongly yet. “Kuugongelwa-Amadhila has skeletons of her own, albeit never being dragged to court to answer for her perceived crimes or mismanaging public resources.
“We know her track record as a minister of finance. It was under her leadership when we had a Targeted Intervention Programme for Employment and Economic Growth (TIPEEG) where the government was supposed to spend N$14 billion and create 100 000 jobs. How many jobs have actually been created? It was under her leadership where the government went under a borrowing spree and the debt of the country went up,” he asked.
Shifeta is the tourism minister under whose watch the Kora awards saga, which cost taxpayers at least N$23 million, unfolded.
The awards never took place. “Shifeta is still tied to the Kora awards issue and money that they spent on an event that never took place. What will happen to the national purse?” the political scientist asked.
There is a new twist to the congress. On Wednesday, Swapo stalwart and parliamentarian Jerry Ekandjo, through lawyer Richard Metcalfe, threatened legal action against the party if he is not recognised as one of the VP candidates.
According to him, allowing ministers Kapofi and Alweendo in the contest for VP, while they have never served as members of the CC “even one day” was a blatant violation of party rules. Ekandjo came third in the election for candidates, behind Pohamba Shifeta and Kapofi. “This absolutely disqualifies them for nomination for the position of vice president for the Swapo party,” Ekandjo said before adding that he will start his campaign for the position that has eluded him since 2007. He vowed to kick-start his campaign, with or without the party’s blessing. Swapo’s executive director, Austin Samupwa, yesterday confirmed the party received Ekandjo’s letter of demands.
Swapo, he said, referred the letter to its lawyers to guide them on the way forward.
When Ekanjdo’s popularity was at its zenith in 2007, he set aside his ambitions to land the Swapo VP position, Geingob – who had just returned from the political wilderness – unopposed. The decision not to challenge Geingob was taken in consultation with Swapo’s top brass at the time.
Ekandjo would again contest for the post in 2012 and 2017, losing to Geingob on both occasions. ‘Maudjuu’, as he is affectionately known in the Swapo circles, did not respond to detailed questions yesterday on how he
plans to conquer the position this time around or if he harbours presidential ambitions. Ekandjo needs no introduction on the political arena. A liberation struggle icon and political prisoner in the notorious Robben Island in South Africa, Ekandjo was part of the Constituent Assembly which drafted the Namibian constitution.
He has been a member of the National Assembly since the genesis in 1990, starting off as urban and rural development minister.
Ekandjo would go on to serve in various Cabinet portfolios as minister of home affairs, land reform and youth and sports.
Presently, Ekandjo is an ordinary Swapo member of parliament and one of Geingob’s eight appointees to the assembly.
Namibia is a country at crossroads, which needs a president that understands and has the capacity to resolve issues confronting it, analyst Ndumba Kamwanyah said.
“Looking at the high level of corruption in this country, mismanagement of resources and lack of implementation of programmes, we need a leader that is servant and at the disposable of Namibian people in terms of responding to their needs,” said Kamwanyah.
He said the top candidates might possess a wealth of experience, but come short on ethics and morality. “That is a red flag if the party is fuelling people, of which some of their names have been involved in cases that have brought the country to the status it found itself. That shows that we are not serious and we are taking the government for granted,” he noted. All hope, however, is not lost as some candidates have never been tested at the highest level and were most bound by collectivism as Cabinet members. “Maybe now they will start to reveal their concrete and realistic agendas,” he stressed.