WINDHOEK – Swapo youth were once again outwitted at the party’s electoral college over the weekend, but President Hage Geingob’s grip on the party tightened further as those perceived to be his staunch supporters retained their place on the party’s parliamentary list.
At 83 on the list, Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) secretary for education Hophni Ipinge is the highest-ranked among the league’s candidates at the electoral college.
Some youthful members, such as Mandela Kapere who ranks 45th on the list, did well at the electoral college, although they were not nominees of the youth league.
The SPYL at its last congress resolved to push for at least 40 percent representation in the National Assembly, something that seems to have prompted party elders to form a block of their own and thus outmaneuver the young turks.
“They installed fear into the older guards and to protect themselves against a possible youth onslaught, they [elders] ganged up against the youth,” an observer commented.
After registering its record win of 82 percent in the 2014 election, Swapo gained 77 seats in the National Assembly. Anyone ranking beyond this number from the weekend’s election would not hope that the party performs even better than it did five years ago if they are to make it to parliament.
A total of 96 seats are up for grabs in the National Assembly, in addition to eight non-voting members to be nominated by the head of state.
Swapo president Hage Geingob is expected to nominate 10 candidates to the party list, as is constitutional prerogative.
Four deputy ministers, Lidwina Shapwa (78th), James Sankwasa (81st), Piet van Der Walt (85th) and Engelbrecht Nawatiseb (987th) are all beyond the 77 seats won by Swapo in 2014.
National Assembly speaker Peter Katjavivi is ranked 89th of the list, while Margaret Mensah-Williams, the Chairperson of the National Council, is ranked 92nd, three places ahead of party veteran and minister of labour Erikki Nghimtina at 95.
Occupying the top five positions on the list are Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, Sophia Shaningwa, Pohamba Shifeta, Lucia Iipumbu and Tom Alweendo.
Swapo deputy secretary-general Marco Hausiku elected not to contest in the race to parliament.
Director of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Graham Hopwood said the results show that President Geingob now has almost complete control of the party.
“… His key supporters and trusted lieutenants are mostly in safe positions,” he told New Era yesterday.
Hopwood said Geingob has the option of bringing back some of those in lower positions such as Katjavivi, as well as some of the deputy ministers who did badly in the votes.
“It seems clear that the President wanted to avoid the 2014 situation when he had to bring back some old guard figures - Pendukeni Iivula Ithana and Jerry Ekandjo in his eight non-voting choices for the National Assembly. This time he has much more room for maneuver and can bestow his patronage where he likes,” stated Hopwood.
Hopwood was however worried that candidates who have criminal convictions – citing Tobie Aupindi, Marina Kandumbu and Katrina Hanse-Himarwa – were allowed to contest for parliament.
“It seems we have moved a long way from President Hifikepunye Pohamba ‘zero tolerance for corruption’ slogan,” remarked Hopwood.
He believes that the constitutional stipulation that MPs must not have been sentences to a jail term over 12 months for corruption only provides a baseline and that political parties should set higher standards.
He said a good example to follow would be the Companies Act (Section 225), which states that anyone convicted of any offence involving dishonesty that resulted in a jail sentence or a fine in excess of N$1000 is barred from being a director.
“Surely we should have at least the same standard for our MPs. As it stands, it looks like corruption is tolerated by the ruling party,” said Hopwood. Political analyst Professor Nico Horn observed that those who belonged to what was called ‘Team Swapo’ in the build-up to the 2017 party congress are basically out unless the President use the 10 nominees from the group to bring some back.