A LAST-DITCH attempt was made to change the rules and procedures in order not to have an election for the vice president’s position at next weekend’s Swapo congress.
Meanwhile, Swapo Secretary General Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana has criticised President Hifikepunye Pohamba for ignoring party rules and structures in campaigning for his preferred candidate.
Swapo Central Committee member and Omusati Governor Sophia Shaningwa proposed that the party should do away with the election of a vice president and rather adopt a motion that the delegates follow the Swapo hierarchy, a move that would have paved the way for Hage Geingob to automatically become Pohamba’s successor.It is believed that Shaningwa moved the motion because Geingob is the most senior among the three candidates vying for the position and thus wanted him endorsed as the sole candidate.
It is not the first time that automatic promotion in terms of hierarchy has been proposed in the party.
A few years ago Swapo Party Youth League, through its secretary Elijah Ngurare, also proposed the same through the ‘guided democracy’ principle, but the party leadership did not heed his call.
Shaningwa’s proposal caused some laughter among delegates as, according to a senior minister, the process of the upcoming election is already in an advanced stage.
“The motion should have been dealt with before the nominations were done and approved by the Central Committee. This is a sign of desperation,” the minister told The Namibian.
Repeated attempts to get comment from Shaningwa yesterday were unsuccessful.
Swapo’s Oshikoto regional coordinator, Armas Amukwiyu, asked who the returning officer in the election would be but this was seen by some as a move to object against lawyer Sisa Namandje.
Namandje was chosen for the job because he and his team were also involved in running the 2007 elections at the Swapo congress and at the 2004 extraordinary congress but nobody objected against that decision until Amukwiyu’s query.
“I just asked who the returning officer will be and if it will be a reliable person. After it was explained, I had no further questions,” Amukwiyu told The Namibian yesterday.
His move, coupled with Shaningwa’s proposal, was seen as a fear of election rigging from those who support Hage Geingob as candidate for the party’s vice president position.
The motion by Shaningwa came shortly after President Pohamba officially opened the party’s Central Committee meeting on Friday evening and thanked all the candidates for the manner in which they have been conducting their campaigns.
Apart from Geingob, Swapo Secretary General Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana and the party’s information and publicity secretary, Jerry Ekandjo, are contesting for the position of Swapo vice president.
“I admire their political maturity and the focus they have placed on the issues that matter to the Namibian people. They have shown that they are committed patriots who have the national interest at heart. We are proud that the Swapo Party continues to produce leaders of such high calibre,” said Pohamba.
At the same time Pohamba, as Swapo’s president and the head of state, is accused of abusing his power by using the party’s structure to campaign for his preferred candidate.
The president stressed during the official opening that democratic values must prevail before, during and after the congress.
“For the sake of unity of our party, it is vital to ensure that those who are elected by the congress receive the support of all Swapo Party members after the elections. Even the unsuccessful candidates must support the leaders who are elected. That is what democracy is all about. The outcome of the elections during the congress must be accepted by all Swapo members,” Pohamba said.
Another surprising objection that was raised at the CC was against the Ekandjo campaign rally held in Windhoek on Saturday.
According to the Khomas regional coordinator, Godhardt Kasuto, he was not informed about the meeting, which he described as a violation of the Swapo constitution. He told the CC members that all members have to follow the structures of the party. He was supported by Pohamba who told the members that he found it strange that Ekandjo could hold the rally on the same day as the Central Committee meeting.
Shortly before the start of the CC meeting, Iivula-Ithana expressed dissatisfaction with the same behaviour on the part of Pohamba, who instructed regional coordinators and governors to use the regional structures to campaign for his preferred candidate.
She told The Namibian that Pohamba is a delegate like the other about 600 delegates who will attend the congress and has a right to have a preferred candidate.
“With the nomination of candidates at the Politburo he kept quiet and when the candidates were endorsed at the Central Committee meeting he again did not raise anything about a preferred candidate. In the meantime rumours circulated that the president had called regional coordinators and governors and instructed them to inform the delegates in the regions to vote for Geingob. I was the first one to dismiss these rumours until some of the regional coordinators approached and informed me about it,” said Iivula-Ithana.
According to her, the Politburo members were instructed not to campaign before the Central Committee had endorsed the names of the candidates, but it seemed that Pohamba was ignoring his own instruction.
“The president can seek support for his preferred candidate but not use the party structures for that, as it is just improper,” Iivula-Ithana said.
The congress starts on Thursday and ends on Sunday after the election of office bearers, which include the secretary general, deputy secretary general and members of the Central Committee.