Paul T Shipale
On Friday, 19 August 2022, The Namibian newspaper published a report by Shinovene Immanuel and Tileni Mongudhi titled ‘Cracks in Geingob, Shaningwa political marriage’.
In that article, the reporters said that the relationship between President Geingob and Swapo’s chief administrator Shaningwa is in trouble because “Geingob believes Shaningwa does not have the capacity to run the party.”
The President faction is allegedly “concerned that there was an attempt by a party security operative to investigate the background of three senior politicians linked to top positions, and likely supported by Geingob.”
These are Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, the prime minister who is one of the candidates considered by Geingob as his successor, Armas Amukwiyu, Oshikoto regional coordinator who is said to replace Shaningwa as secretary general, and Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, who was said to go and contest for the position of deputy secretary general.
On Tuesday, 6 September 2022, the headlines in the newspapers were about nominated candidates by the Swapo Party’s Politburo which confirmed the nomination of Kuugongelwa-Amadhila for the position of vice president and Amukwiyu for the position of the secretary general.
The incumbent VP Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah and SG Shaningwa did not need any nomination by virtue of being already in the positions. Lucia Witbooi and David Hamutenya were nominated to go and contest for the position of deputy secretary general. “Insiders see Hamutenya’s nomination as ‘a spoiler’ thrown into the race for strategic reasons,” said Namibian Sun editor Toivo Ndjebela.
What is interesting here is who nominated the above candidates.
Kuugongelwa-Amadhila was nominated by Tobie Aupindi, who also seconded the nomination of David Hamutenya, while Kuugongelwa-Amadhila’s nomination was seconded by Calle Schlettwein.
Amukwiyu was nominated by Margaret Mensah-Williams and seconded by Pohamba Shifeta, while Evelyn Nawases-Tayele was nominated by Katrina Hanse-Himarwa and seconded by Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.
Lucia Witbooi’s nomination was done by Laura McLeod-Katjirua and seconded by Veikko Nekundi.
This indicates the behind-the-scenes political manoeuvring which points to clear camps and factions. I, therefore, agree that if one puts on the lenses of a political analyst, what is playing out is political cannibalism.
Indeed, while the nominated candidates wore the same jackets at the 2017 congress, the tables have turned so badly in the run up to the 2022 congress. Is like when someone once said, “you sleep as Zuma and wake up as Ramaphosa.”
One could add the idea of cooking ideological concoctions.
It seems the 2004 Swapo Party’s extraordinary congress “three scenarios” is back again. I, therefore, agree with the former editor of Namibia Today Asser Ntinda who said “slate politics will bury Swapo soon than we had expected.” On his part, Ndjebela reported on Friday, 18 August 2022 that Team Swapo and Team Harambee resurfaced, saying they are dead on paper but alive and well in the trenches.
Indeed, remnants of the erstwhile Team Swapo and Team Harambee are on a comeback trail re-emerging with new jackets on or even re-baptised.
Ndjebela said with the party teeming with economic opportunists, it is likely that a few of these ungrounded hoppers might exchange camps and join former adversaries in pursuit of their own parochial fortunes.
On 2 May 2008, I wrote an article talking about three groups or camps.
Alfred T. Hengari said that the three scenarios were considered based on the three nominated presidential candidates in the 2004 ruling party’s (Swapo) extraordinary congress that took place on 28-29 May as decided upon by the party’s central committee meeting of 2-3 April 2004.
According to Hengari, the first scenario was that of former President Hifikepunye Pohamba, seen as “playing a transitional role to pave the way for a third generation leader.” He was viewed as ‘a brother and comrade’ to the Founding President and Father of the Nation, a ‘perfect loyal homme d’etat ... and foot soldier’ whose presidency will have ‘an emblematic figure’ of President Nujoma ‘looking over the shoulders of his protégé to continue a legacy and guard it against any Frankenstein who would launch an attack on this legacy’,” said Hengari.
The second scenario was that of Hidipo Hamutenya commonly known as HH, considered “a Subterranean leadership bid running for years” which “never moved an eye away from the biggest trophy in politics” with probably “various scenarios worked out (such as the formation of a new party as evidence by the Nyamu’s notes) and possibly a cabinet – in waiting”. This group was considered to have orchestrated “a coup de theatre at the politburo for his nomination”.
The last scenario was that of the former prime minister Nahas Angula considered to have “a leadership style of intellectual inter-activeness and policy thinking” and “seeking consensus and building coalitions and collective governance” with themes of creating “a knowledge-based society”. Despite being libelled as a novice with “chutzpah” and “charisma”, a neutral, an idealist who think out of the box etc., Angula, played a pivotal role of a safe-net.
This time around, there are also three camps or scenarios, with one camp belonging to the current VP of Swapo, considered a diplomat with charisma who may run her campaign on an anti-corruption ticket but disadvantaged by her age.
Another camp belongs to the faction supporting the current prime minister, considered a technocrat with a strong political portfolio and the advantage of her age but seen as less charismatic and defensive.
There is the third camp or scenario of ‘the dark horse’ as alluded to by New Era on Wednesday, 7 September 2022, in case the ‘Helmut Amendments’ are removed and one of the other two candidates do not make it through the vetting process and second round of nominations by the central committee.
Nevertheless, the third scenario also means the re-emergence of the erstwhile Team Swapo candidates for the top four positions.
The above scenarios remind me of when a certain Jonathan Cobra’s piece on 8 January 2005 under the title ‘political paranoia’, wrote that, “it has always been an open secret that the would-be-reformers championed by HH as the next likely successor, too powerful to dismiss and ban into political wilderness… HH support among the military has always stayed Nujoma’s hand.” This also reminds me of the just ended elections in Kenya between Uhuru Kenyata and Raila Odinga’s Azimio or what they call “dynasty politics” and the Kenya Kwanza Party of William Ruto, considered “a hustler” who won the presidency despite all odds.
The presidential spokesperson also wrote on Swapo succession in an article that appeared in New Era of Monday, 5 September 2022 taking a swipe at Dr Ben Mulongeni’s comments when he called for the country’s next president not to be based on gender nor tribe or any similar consideration, except the criteria of competence.
Hengari took strong exception to Mulongeni’s fleeting comments that the sitting President was elected on the basis of calls for non-Oshiwambo speaking President.
Hengari said, “Dr Mulongeni seems to buy into the false narrative of the use of tribalism as a stepping stone of President Geingob’s presidency”, calling it a serious effrontery and demagoguery. He also accused “some emerging so-called revolutionaries, whose revolutionary credentials are based on frustration and tribalism”. Similarly, he condemned what he called “the tribally-laden slur from a supposed cadre posing as a revolutionary while harbouring deep-seated tribal bigotry.”
It was the same Hengari who observed, on 4 April 2008, in The Namibian under the title ‘A transformative discussion about tribalism’ that it was normal tactic of political campaigning. He wrote that, “the support and mobilisation strategies of the candidates were often time anchored in sub-tribal division. In fact, some of the campaigns at the time exposed tribal gate-keeping and ethnic entrepreneurship as an accepted, flagrant and unsophisticated tool of political campaigning and mobilisation within Swapo.”
In 2008, I wrote that there were “accusation and counter accusations of ethnicity and divide-and-rule tactics using a tribal card because while some were casting aspersions and castigating others as autocrats and dictators, they themselves were photo-posing as democrats and were economical with their real political agenda considered as an ethnic project of tribal solidarity.”
I also dismissed the allegation that this was “a conspiracy helped by the Ndongas” as it was alleged by Hengari in his opinion piece in April 2008 saying that “it was not uncommon to hear at the time in private that the Ndongas were forming a block against Hamutenya’s Kwanyamas etc.”
A certain ‘Walya shaKadila’, in the Windhoek Observer of 23 April 2005 under the title ‘An era to end in anti-climax?’ also alleged that there was hatred for the Ovakwanyama, the non-Oshiwambo etc.
I totally dismissed these allegations and said, “If there are those who started playing with loaded dices of tribalism are those who perceived themselves as ‘not wanted’ and resorted to ‘ethnic entrepreneurship of tribal solidarity’.”
The thing I do not like about these scenarios is when some are trying to drive a wedge between the founding president and the former president and damage their good relationship by alleging that one supports one candidate while another supports the other candidate, seemingly based on tribal affiliations.
As a Pan-Africanist, I will never support tribalism regardless of who practices it.
We must be magnanimous in victory and not use words such as “some opportunistic hopefuls… This time too, they were decisively defeated.”
I agree with the statement that it is collectively accepted that there will always be democratic contestation but such contestation must be in a healthy manner because there is always tomorrow after election and we must build and we must build this nation and this unfinished house as it belongs to all of us.
As the founding president always says “A people united, striving to achieve a common good for all members of the society, will always emerge victorious”!
* The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of my employer and this newspaper but solely my personal views as a citizen.