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Home / Closed-door campaigns slammed… as Swapo emphasises unity in leadership battle 

Closed-door campaigns slammed… as Swapo emphasises unity in leadership battle 

2022-10-11  Edward Mumbuu

Closed-door campaigns slammed… as Swapo emphasises unity in leadership battle 

With six weeks left before Swapo’s decisive intraparty congress, little to nothing is known about what the top four candidates have to offer, as their campaigns are exclusive for the little over 700 delegates. The new phenomenon, which has seen Swapo operating under a veil of secrecy, has left pundits scratching their heads over why those who want to
lead the ruling party – and extension Namibia – “don’t want to subject themselves to public scrutiny”. 

One such pundit is academic Ndumba Kamwanyah, who believes Swapo’s new strategy will do more harm than good to the ruling party, especially to whoever wins the coveted vice president (VP) position. Swapo’s next VP will be the ruling party’s torch-bearer at the national polls in 2024. “It is a death trap for the party, especially for the VP candidates. You don’t want to make the mistake of not introducing your candidates to the public to test the grounds. It is a big miscalculation,” Kamwanyah opined. 

In his eyes, however, the decision not to hold public rallies could help restore confidence in “Swapo’s tainted brand because they can control the narrative and information that is circulated”. 

Kamwanyah hastened to say closed-door campaigns were not the answer to restore the party’s image. “It is not benefiting the party. You don’t shy away from politics. Those dirty tricks must come out. The people must be held accountable and answer publicly to allegations against them, instead of external forces bringing Swapo dirty linen in public,” he added. 



Another analyst Rui Tyitende agreed with Kamwanyah, describing Swapo’s decision to go the confidentiality route as “a blunder of colossal proportions that goes against the principles of democracy”. “Even the miss Namibia contestants present their ideas to the public; why not political party candidates, who will most likely assume state power? What happened to the mantra of ‘the people are Swapo and Swapo is the people’?” Tyitende asked. 

He then questioned the entire rationale behind the tight campaign regulations, branding most as draconian, ludicrous and anti-democratic.  “They have condemned their members, supporters and sympathisers as voting fodder, who will be deprived of listening to the policy positions of the various candidates,” he said. 

He also questioned why candidates are obliged to address the same delegates on the same day.  “My hunch is that it is part of a choreographed manoeuvre to hinder the campaign prospects of certain candidates. How do you campaign side by side with your political opponent while purportedly having divergent visions for the country?” he charged. 

Tyitende added the possibility of vote buying in the current set-up cannot be ruled out, as it has allegedly happened in the past. 

“Democracy is on sale to the highest bidder,” he said.



Equally, lawyer-cum-political commentator Natjirikasorua Tjirera is in the dark about the vision of those who could become Swapo VP.

“What is their plan with marginalised communities in Kavango or even the Ovazemba in Kunene? Will they be recognised and get due recognition and have their traditional leaders recognised by government. What is their plan to fight corruption, revive the economy or even on other contemporary socio-economic issues, such as genocide?”

He continued: “Maybe for Swapo’s sake, the internal damage will be minimal. The other side of the coin is that ordinary Swapo members or sympathisers will question how whoever becomes VP was ushered in.

“When you play open cards, it is easy to defend yourself. But how do you convince the neutral voter or the ones who rejected you in 2019 to vote for you if you’re operating in secrecy?” the lawyer said. 

Social media is not only abuzz with posters of the nine confirmed candidates for the top positions.  Prospective central committee members are also reaching out in an attempt to be noticed by congress delegates, who will hold the key to deciding the future of Swapo, and by extension that of the country.


2017 lessons 

The year 2017 was a rude awakening moment for Swapo, the party’s //Kharas coordinator Mathew Mumbala conceded, saying their current posture is informed by lessons learned there. 

That year, the Swapo congress was marred by public spats and unheralded bravado of innuendos and insults exchanged between candidates and their respective armies of loyalists. 

The lines were drawn. It was Team Swapo vs Team Harambee. In the traditional Swapo household, the nucleus was shuttered, with relatives going against each other along factional lines.  

Swapo has learned its lesson, with a pinch of salt, Mumbala said. “There is no shutting out of the public or the media. These are lessons from 2017. We don’t want groupings. You can interview the candidates after they address the delegates. If you want, you can follow them around in the regions,” Mumbala said. 

Mumbala then took issues with delegates from other regions following the candidates around wherever they go as it defeats the entire logic. “They were not supposed to be there. You don’t want to see //Kharas delegates attending the event in Zambezi. It shows that people are aligned and it creates groupings. It will bring division,” he said. 

The coordinator added: “But if you are a Swapo member and the campaign comes to your region, you are allowed to attend. What is not allowed is for you to engage the candidates directly. But you can raise your issues to the delegates so they asked on your behalf. Every region will be given an opportunity.”


Public interest

When Swapo leader President Hage Geingob officially launched the internal party campaigns last month, he conceded it would attract immense public interest. 

“We know that Swapo is the premier political party in Namibia and the frenzy that has surrounded our politburo and central committee meetings will only increase because the whole country is interested in Swapo – even our enemies and those that claim to hate us,” he said.  “As I have said before, let us play the ball and not the individual. You are not campaigning against enemies and adversaries. You are campaigning to articulate to the masses – why you are the most suitable candidates to lead the Swapo Party.”

Surprisingly, on the same day, Swapo legal guru Albert Kawana announced a raft of stringent rule-governing the campaigns.  Chief among the 13 rules is no public campaigns.  Those contesting for the top four positions will address delegates on the same dates to level the playing field. Dirty campaign tactics or “de-campaigning”, as it is known in the Swapo diction, either social media, television, radio or via press releases, will result in automatic disqualification. 

Candidates are also barred from corruptly promising money or land to congress delegates, an offence that will result in his/her withdrawal from consideration. The 2017 congress is said to have been bankrolled by illicit proceeds from the Fishrot scandal, a claim Swapo vehemently denies. 



Last weekend, candidates vying for the Swapo VP, secretary general (SG) and deputy SG positions descended on the Zambezi region, where they addressed the 42 delegates.

They have already covered Khomas, Omaheke and Erongo. 

This weekend, the candidates will address congress delegates in the two Kavango regions, after which Ohangwena, Oshikoto, Oshana, Omusati, Kunene, Otjozondjupa and //Kharas will follow in that order. 

The final meeting is slated for the Hardap region on 12 November 2022 before the attention turns to the capital, where delegates will meet to decide the party’s leadership fate. 

Incumbent VP Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah will defend her position against Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila and environment minister Pohamba Shifeta. 

Meanwhile, party SG Sophia Shaningwa will contest to beat off stiff competition for the position presented by Oshikoto coordinator Armas Amukwiyu. 

Former cabinet minister Uahekua Herunga, parliamentarians Lucia Witbooi, Evelyn !Nawases-Taeyele and Kavango West party coordinator David Hamutenya will contest for the deputy SG position. 


2022-10-11  Edward Mumbuu

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