Swapo leader Hage Geingob says his deputy, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, is the ruling party’s sole candidate at next year’s general elections, quashing doubts the party is still undecided in that regard.
Geingob said this on Saturday during the opening of a central committee meeting, which lasted for over eight hours.
On the day, he set the tone by saying the party will use everything at its disposal to ensure that Nandi-Ndaitwah succeeds him. “We are going to have one candidate only when time comes. That will be comrade Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah. So, let’s stop the rumours, dreams and fears and so on. The time is not here yet. The appropriate time [will come]. And we will campaign because it’s Swapo at stake. There are a lot of things at stake. Swapo and the country,” Geingob said to rapturous CC applause. The contest, he said, is over.
“When you have processes, systems and institutions, it’s not [about] an individual. It’s a question of our party and country. Therefore, we have a person who will lead us, supported by all of us, whether you were opposed to [her]… that’s politics.
It’s democracy. You have the right to oppose, disagree or condemn a person. But when that person is elected, that’s why I kept on saying, don’t play the person, play the ball. When the game is over, you kick the ball away,” he added.
Geingob’s remarks come at a time when talk is rife in Swapo corridors that “moonlighters have gone into overdrive”, concocting plans to ensure that Nandi-Ndaitwah, or NNN as she is affectionately known, is challenged and dethroned from the Swapo vice presidency next year through an extraordinary congress.
Geingob, however, is adamant that the international relations’ minister is the ruling party’s one and only candidate.
“When it’s over, it’s over. I hope we don’t go and have factions from now on. I’ve been hearing it still. It’s over. We have elected candidates. When the time comes, we will properly campaign for her. We will do the campaign, some of us, so that she is elected on behalf of Swapo,” Geingob implored the rank and file. The Swapo president’s affirmation effectively means Nandi-Ndaitwah will become Swapo’s poster child, as the former liberation organisation will attempt to reclaim its glory days on the ticket of integrity, accountability and anti-corruption.
At a watershed congress last year, she defeated prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila and environment minister Pohamba Shifeta to retain the Swapo vice presidency.
Saturday’s meeting also elected Swapo office-bearers and party representatives at legislative and government levels.
Information minister Peya Mushelenga was elected as secretary for external relations, while deputy works minister Veikko Nekundi will serve as secretary for defence.
Meanwhile, deputy gender equality minister Bernadette Jagger was elected as secretary for economic affairs after seeing off competition from former Cabinet minister Alpheus !Naruseb.
Modestus Amutse (labour), Lucia Witbooi (education, culture and sport), Kornelia Shilunga (health and social services), Pohamba Shifeta (legal), Erastus Uutoni (transport), Jenelly Matundu (environmental affairs), Laura McLeod-Katjirua (agriculture, water and food security) and Verna Sinimbo (housing, sanitation and rural development) were elected as secretaries by acclamation.
From the legal fraternity, Wise Immanuel presided over the elections.
Two centres of power
Recently, local media reported on an apparent rift between Geingob and Nandi-Ndaitwah. The latter, according to a report by The Namibian, declined a prime ministerial position, instead preferring a position as the country’s vice president to seemingly contest the perceived two centres of power which currently exist within the party.
In Swapo’s diction, two centres of power refer to a situation whereby the positions of Head of State and the Swapo president are held by two different individuals. This issue was a notable topic of discussion that dominated the ruling party’s discourse before Geingob took over as party leader in 2015.
In September last year, Geingob indicated his intention to step down as party leader before the 2024 general elections to allow whoever is Swapo vice president to take
charge of the party. This deal was brokered when both the politburo and central committee allowed him to run unopposed at last year’s intra-party elections.
However, Geingob would make a shock U-turn, announcing he will remain as party president until the end of his term.
Opposing this stance, Nandi-Ndaitwah’s supporters believe by virtue of the position she holds in Swapo, she deserves to be appointed as the country’s vice president. This, they argue, would instill uniformity at both party and State levels.
As Head of State, Geingob is empowered to appoint the vice president. Current vice president Nangolo Mbumba and Geingob have been inseparable for years. And, it remains unclear if Geingob is prepared to remove his close political ally and long-time friend for internal party stability.