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Swapo secretary general-aspirant Armas Amukwiyu has taken a dig at the party’s purported dormant secretariat which has placed the former liberation movement on autopilot, from an administrative perspective.
“These are the departments that are supposed to carry out day-to-day activities. They [secretariat] are dormant because there is no accountability. The current machinery in place in the secretary general’s office seems to be paying little attention to that, and the party is challenged,” Amukwiyu said during a recent interview with this paper.
This is why, in his eyes, Swapo is nowhere to be seen when the working class takes to the streets and demands better wages, nor has any position on recent oil discoveries or the hyped green hydrogen project.
“The department that deals with labour issues in this country, you hardly hear the party talking about labour issues. The department that deals with education for example, environment, international relations, security, these departments are dormant,” Amukwiyu charged.
The Oshikoto coordinator said the party’s communications department is also ineffective and inefficient. “The party must have policies to direct its government to focus on issues that will add value to the livelihoods of our people,” he said.
The buck stops at the office of the secretary general (SG), a position he aspires to awaken from its slumber in the Swapo machinery.
“I will make sure there are checks and balances for the office of the secretary general to perform to its fullest,” the youthful politician-cum-businessman said.
Should he assume the role of SG, Amukwiyu vowed to ensure that there are monthly reports by the secretariat to his office. He faces an uphill battle to beat incumbent Sophia Shaningwa, who appears to have unleashed all the weapons in her arsenal to retain the position.
In most political parties, the SG is one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful politician. In Swapo’s corridors, it is informally referred to as the “engine-room”.
Apart from lucrative perks and a seat at the high table, the position comes with immense political capital.
The Swapo SG presides over a multi-billion-dollar business empire, has a seat in Cabinet, a spot in the National Assembly, and commands a huge army of supporters.
However, Amukwiyu has been tainted by accusations that he benefitted from Fishrot, a multimillion-dollar scheme that landed
two former Cabinet ministers in jail awaiting trial on a sprawling corruption case.
The ruling party has struggled to shrug off the corruption tag, especially after details emerged that successive Swapo campaigns – internal and external – have been bankrolled by illicit monies derived from Fishrot.
Amukwiyu conceded receiving payments from businessman James Hatuikulipi, who is awaiting trail in prison for his alleged role in the Fishrot saga.
But Swapo “didn’t know that the money was stolen”.
“The elephant in the room is the so-called Fishrot thing, which has really tainted the party because our opponents have used it to their advantage,” the coordinator acknowledged.
“When I received the amount [around N$5.2 million], I was the chairperson of all Swapo regional coordinators. We were campaigning for the presidential and
National Assembly elections [in 2014], as well as regional and local authority elections [in 2015],” he explained.
Media reports suggest that Hatuikulipi is the Fishrot ‘mastermind’.
The politician continued: “Being the chairperson, I was given the donation by James Hatuikulipi in his capacity as a businessman. He never came to us with anything else. He just said ‘look, I have got this much, it’s a donation for you guys to do your work’. That is how it came to me. That was not the only donation. We received a lot of other donations.”
Through that scandal, State resources were allegedly stolen at an industrial scale.
“When we receive donations, we don’t ask ‘where did you get the money from’? Therefore, in our conscience, we are not part and parcel of Fishrot because we did not take the money knowing that the money was stolen”.
When Amukwiyu and Swapo learned that the donation was dodgy, he went to the Anti-Corruption Commission, gave a statement under oath, returned a luxurious black Land Rover Discovery SUV and since turned State witness in the matter “because I don’t want to be associated with anything that is corrupt”.
Swapo has since learned its lessons, the hard way. Donations now go through a rigorous vetting process to ensure that the source is beyond reproach.
“The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) has made sure that there is a law in place. Political parties have to declare the source of donations in the region of N$4 to N$5 million,” he added.
Amukwiyu is also on the campaign trail alongside eight other candidates for top positions at the upcoming congress, canvassing for support.
He said his candidature has been well-received by congress delegates.
The 44-year-old sees himself as the glue between Swapo and Namibians. “There is no bond between the people and the party. The leadership that I am bringing to the table is seeking first and foremost to unite our heavily-divided party.
That can only be achieved if we concentrate on the restoration of the party’s identity. We must restore confidence and trust between
the party and the people of Namibia,” he stated.
Unlike in 2017 when he formed part of Team Swapo, which was knocked out at the watershed congress, Amukwiyu is not aligned to any group this time around, he said. This is despite strong indications that he is part of a faction rallying behind Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.
His position is informed by the current campaign rules, which oppose factions.
“The 2017 congress nearly destroyed our party. Hence, we are not and I am not aligning myself to any candidate because as a secretary general, remember, I have to work with everybody. Whoever wins the VP position, I am willing to work with that comrade,” he continued.
The youthful politician has also made this position clear to delegates during their behind closed-doors campaigns.
“It is their own choice whether they want to vote for the current VP [Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah] or comrade PM [Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila] or comrade Pohamba Shifeta. Equally, there are four candidates for the deputy SG position,” he said.
His comments come at a time when some quarters within Swapo have come out guns blazing, accusing the Hage Geingob-led administration of monumental failure.
They also accused the Swapo leader of failing to unite the party and sabotaging party stalwart Jerry Ekandjo’s vice presidential ambitions. It is that group’s view that if the status quo remains, Swapo stands to lose the 2024 elections. Former Prime Minister Nahas Angula is the group’s chief campaigner.
While Amukwiyu agreed that the party has internal challenges, he took issue with the manner in which the concerned group voiced its reservations. “These could be genuine concerns. But it is unfortunate that it is happening in the public domain. I would have preferred that we should come under one roof. It should be a two-way traffic, and out of respect. We are all trying to save the image and soul of the party,” the ambitious leader noted.
“I would have approached it in a different manner. As secretary general, I would have said, ‘comrades, let’s engage. Let’s talk to one another before we go public. We clean our house from within and when we go in public, we speak from one position’.”
The Angula-led group claims their complaints have fallen on deaf ears, despite reaching out to the party’s top three leaders and the central committee.