Katima Mulilo — As the Swapo Party vice-presidential succession campaign reaches a crescendo, there were conflicting views on whether the Caprivi Region should vote as a block.
The candidates contesting the Swapo Party vice-presidency - the gateway to State House - are Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana the secretary general, Dr Hage Geingob the incumbent vice-president and Jerry Ekandjo, secretary for information and publicity of the ruling party.
Linus Mafale, the Swapo Party regional coordinator announced over the weekend that the 28 party delegates from the Caprivi Region will vote as a block for Geingob.
Prospective delegates from the Caprivi Region to the Swapo Congress were reportedly 'coerced' to affirm they will vote for Geingob, who is Mafale's choice. Sources inside the party say this development has now split the region with other delegates resolutely opposed to the so-called 'block voting'.
During Friday's unfolding political drama a 'pastor' reportedly prayed for Geingob to win the vice-presidency, after which Mafale potrayed the incumbent party vice-president in glowing terms using very flowery language.
"Come rain or sunshine, whatever happens I will vote for Comrade Geingob," the source reportedly affirmed Mafale as having said in the presence of Geingob, after which a directive was given to all district coordinators of Swapo in Kabbe, Katima Rural, Katima Urban, Linyanti, Sibbinda and Kongola to vote for Geingob.
"There was no consensus, it was very undemocratic and people felt very intimidated by his (Geingob's) presence. Even during the (national) elections this does not happen. It was psychological torture," said a source that requested anonymity.
The source said if the Caprivi Region will vote as a "block" this will be political suicide, adding that "block voting is very dangerous."
"We want to play our game free and fair," said the source, who added that initially the Swapo Party in the Caprivi Region had agreed that they should give a fair chance to all the vice-presidential candidates based on the messages from the three candidates, after which each one would make their own choice.
But Mafale together with some party structures in the region endorsed Geingob during a meeting where delegates had divided opinions.
Geingob was in Katima Mulilo to solicit support in his bid to become Namibia's next presidential candidate in the 2014 national elections.
However, an insider who preferred anonymity alleged that no discussions were held with the regional structures regarding the affirmation of Geingob as the Caprivi Region's preferred candidate and that the Swapo Party structures were "coerced" into accepting him as their preferred choice.
"We were just surprised that after the regional coordinator had endorsed Geingob, he continued to ask the various structures to also do the same, when there was no prior discussion held regarding the issue. That's very undemocratic. How can you ask the structures to endorse someone when that person is already in their presence? How can you impose your own decisions on people like that?" asked the source.
According to the source, such tendencies border on "dictatorship" and does not augur well for the party. "Very soon we are going to have other candidates coming to Caprivi. If we have already endorsed Geingob without hearing what other candidates have for us, what kind of voters are we"? queried the source.
"We call upon the Swapo Party Central Committee to call him (Mafale) to order, otherwise the party will be tarnished," lamented the source at Katima Mulilo. Other structures such as the regional Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) seemed to have a different opinion as they refused to take part in the endorsement of Geingob.
Sonnety Sikobiso the SPYL secretary is even said to have walked out of the meeting where Geingob was 'endorsed'. Another youth league insider, John Ntemwa, who chairs the Caprivi Regional Youth Forum like the SPYL made it clear that the youth's preferred candidate is Jerry Ekandjo.
"I want to make it clear that we are busy campaigning for Comrade Jerry Ekandjo as our preferred candidate, let them campaign for their candidate as well, but the manner in which they are doing things intimidates others by saying the Head of State asked the regional coordinators to support the vice-president of Swapo," said Ntemwa.
"It's unfair supporting one candidate while there are three. Comrade Linus Mafale, our coordinator requested constituency coordinators to take an oath confirming their support for Geingob. That's intimidation, the youth league has a candidate and that's Comrade Ekandjo," he said.
"We have done our groundwork and would like to tell those that are being misled by campaign managers by using the Head of State, that your vote is your secret and Namibia is a democratic country," said the outspoken Ntemwa. The Swapo Party elective conference is slated for November 29 to 02 December this year. The victor of the vice-presidential seat at the conference is likely to become Namibia's next president given the popularity of the ruling party.
Although the Caprivi Region will be represented by 28 delegates at the congress, other regions that have more constituencies will naturally have more delegates since each constituency sends three delegates, while an additional ten are delegated from the district conferences.
• Additional reporting Chrispin Inambao.