A succession battle is raging in the top ranks of the Swapo Party Women’s Council as delegates gear up to elect a new secretary at the wing’s elective congress next month.
A two-horse race is widely expected between former Windhoek mayor and incumbent deputy secretary Fransina Kahungu and gender ministry official Katrina Liswani. The latter yesterday said she was not allowed to speak to the media, while Kahungu was not reachable.
Outgoing SPWC secretary Eunice Iipinge yesterday confirmed the nominations of the two candidates, however, she was quick to say the party’s politburo is in the process of vetting them to see whether they are in good standing.
“The candidates have to be vetted by the party’s politburo first before they are confirmed,” said Iipinge.
The SPWC’s central committee last weekend nominated Kahungu and Liswani for the top position. Maria Ntusi and Sylvia Kandanga were nominated for the deputy secretary position.
The SPWC will hold its congress on or between 17-19 December in Windhoek.
According to Iipinge, the congress will be attended by over 700 people including five delegates from every regional executive committee and four delegates from each district or constituency.
Iipinge also said it is all systems go for the elective conference in less than two weeks. Director of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Graham Hopwood said both the SPWC and the gender ministry have not been vocal and active enough on the crucial gender-related issues facing the country.
Hopefully, he said, whoever is elected will take up the challenge of campaigning for gender equality and for an end to gender-based violence in a far more visible and meaningful way than the SPWC leaderships of the past.
Political analyst Ndumba Kamwanyah said the SPWC has been rendered dormant over the last few years, partly due to the intraparty division.
As a result, he said, the wing has lost a sense of purpose and direction in terms of the discourse pertaining to women voice within the party, including challenging the patriarchal hierarchy party structure.
“It is against that background that the incoming secretary should be a game-changer in addressing the dormancy of the wing and make it relevant again.
She should be an independent thinker as well as a unifier,” he said.
Another commentator Gerson Sindano from the University of Namibia believes both candidates have what it takes to lead the women’s wing.
“Swapo party is at a crossroads now. Any candidate who emerges victorious from the Swapo women’s wing congress will most likely have a huge task to assist Swapo to regain control of the political landscape in the nation, in the next elections,” he said.
“Also, the winning candidates will be instrumental in determining how the next Swapo party congress will play out. Liswani is a well experienced political veteran at the Swapo party headquarters.
It will be interesting to see how the politics will play out when she faces former Windhoek mayor Kahungu. Both politicians should not be written off.” According to Sindano, the women congress will serve as a precursor to the much-anticipated Swapo congress next year, which will elect the top leaders of the party. “Those who are hoping to contest for Swapo party presidency and vice president positions will follow the upcoming Swapo women congress with keen interest - because the winners of these crucial positions will be key to assisting anyone who intends to run for top four positions at the upcoming Swapo congress,” he said.