Swapo vice president Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, who is facing increasingly pointed questions about her age, does not see her advanced years as a hindrance to serving the people of Namibia with integrity, honesty and transparency.
Nandi-Ndaitwah turns 70 next month, weeks before more than 800 delegates converge in Windhoek to choose a vice president of the ruling party.
The elected vice president will automatically become a Swapo candidate for the 2024 presidential election.
“They say I am too old. We need young people. I do not deny my age,” the veteran politician told New Era in an interview yesterday.
“I will be 70 on 29 October. I have to thank the Almighty who continues to shower me with health and who also showers me with a sound mind and energy. With that, it is what those who believe in my capability are looking at. I want to assure them those are the blessings that I will use in the service of the Namibian nation. I don’t see my old age being a hindrance in committing myself to serve the people of this country with integrity, honesty and transparency.”
Nandi-Ndaitwah, who also doubles as deputy prime minister and international relations minister, is eyeing re-election at the watershed November congress.
She is competing for the position against her senior in government and Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, as well as environment minister Pohamba Shifeta.
Former youth minister Jerry Ekandjo could also join the race if he succeeds in his letter of demand to be included in the contest, following the withdrawal of defence minister Frans Kapofi.
Nandi-Ndaitwah was President Hage Geingob’s pick for the vice presidency in 2017.
Geingob and his slate, which also included incumbent secretary general Sophia Shaningwa and the late deputy secretary general Marco Hausiku, went on to win the top four races during the highly charged congress.
This time around, Geingob has not publicly endorsed his party lieutenant or any other candidate competing for the vice presidency.
However, Nandi-Ndaitwah said she respects Geingob’s decision not to endorse her or any candidate ahead of the ruling party’s elective congress.
“I am telling you, I respect the president’s position for wanting to be neutral and impartial in this process and let democracy take its course. In one’s life, everything is a learning process. The past is a learning process. The present is what is happening. The future is what sustains you,” Nandi-Ndaitwah added.
‘Corruption is treason’
Meanwhile, in her legacy of combating corruption, Nandi-Ndaitwah holds the view that graft needs to be placed in the same category as that treason as outlined by Tanzanian statesman Julius Nyerere.
“I believe in people working on trust. When I am trusted with national responsibility, I have committed to doing that to the best of my abilities. And no one can come in between to prevent me from my responsibility. I believe in fairness and doing everything in the best interest of everybody. I cannot compromise on that one. That is one thing I have grown to know from my early age. When I do my work, I do it with all commitment. If you are the servant of the people, you must serve the people,” said Nandi-Ndaitwah, adding she detests corruption.
“I don’t want to work with a person who cannot be trusted. For example, if you are elected as a party, that means the people of Namibia have entrusted their natural resources to your hands to manage on their behalf. And you should do that. You must serve them. They must see the results; otherwise, you are betraying their trust.
“Julius Nyerere once said in some of his books: ‘corruption must be treated as treason’. If you are trusted with the natural resources, and you want to squander them, you are killing that nation. It is not acceptable in any way. Corruption is a killing of a nation.”
Born in Onamutai in the Oshana region, Nandi-Ndaitwah has been a member of parliament since 1990.
The mother of three sons has held various portfolios, including environment and tourism, information and child welfare.
According to her profile on Wikipedia, Nandi-Ndaitwah went into exile in 1974 and joined Swapo members in Zambia.
She worked at the Swapo headquarters in Lusaka, Zambia, from 1974 to 1975, and attended a course at the Lenin Higher Komsomol School in the Soviet Union from 1975 to 1976.
She graduated with a diploma in work and practised in the communist youth movement.
In 1987, she obtained a postgraduate diploma in public administration and management from the Glasgow College of Technology, UK, and in 1988 another postgraduate diploma in international relations from Keele University, UK.
In 1989 Nandi-Ndaitwah obtained a master’s degree in diplomatic studies from Keele University.