27 November 2012

Namibia: Geingob 'membership' in Question

WHAT is in a membership card? For the Swapo Party watershed congress delegates it is key to attending and taking part in deliberations at the gathering.

A thinly disguised swipe was made at the rally of one of the candidates vying for the Swapo vice presidency in Windhoek this weekend.

And, intriguingly, it appears to be directed at a Swapo veteran who is also an aspiring state president on the ruling party’s ticket.

The allegation is that Hage Geingob allegedly made a last-minute attempt not to fall foul of the rule when he allegedly renewed his membership card only last week.

Geingob refused to comment. “I don’t speak to The Namibian because you are biased. Just go ahead and write what you want to write. I donÂ’t want to discuss anything with The Namibian.”

A former deputy minister and Okaku constituency councillor, Henock Ya Kasita, without mentioning names, accused one of the three candidates of not being a paid-up member.

“They have rejoined after they went wherever they went. They renewed, and it’s not even a month,” Ya Kasita said.

He could not be reached to elaborate on this statement.

The allegation making the rounds in Swapo is that Geingob approached the party administrators to pay his membership dues. When he was asked to show his card, he failed and offered to have his membership backdated to April 1994, which was allegedly the last time he had paid the fees. But sources also stated that Geingob has consistently paid the much bigger contributions of the one percent of his salary to Swapo.

Geingob has been a member of Swapo since the early 1960s and people with knowledge of party rules argue that he was merely playing it safe and to avoid giving his opponents ammunition to raise technical issues about “good standing”.

Geingob is competing with the party’s secretary of information, Jerry Ekandjo, and secretary general Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana for the Swapo vice presidency at the congress that starts this week. Ekandjo and Iivula-Ithana both said they were in ‘good standing’ as far as their membership fees and cards were concerned.

Deputy secretary general Nangolo Mbumba is of the opinion that “these are things said to indirectly discredit candidates”.

According to Mbumba, if the allegation was true, then how did Geigngob manage all these years to participate and get elected to the party structures.

“How can someone who was elected recently not have a membership card? Those are malicious lies manoeuvred by those who want to discredit him,” Mbumba said.

Mbumba, the current minister of safety and security, said a member who knows that he is going to be nominated cannot afford not to be a paid-up member.

“Those are just stories being thrown around to make him seem like he is not a good administrator – which he is,” said Mbumba.

When asked whether he is a paid-up member, Jerry Ekandjo quickly responded that his membership card is up to date.

“Did someone tell you that I did not pay up,” Ekandjo asked, questioning whether The Namibian was tipped off that he hadn’t paid his dues.

“I don't have anything outstanding,” he said on Saturday at a rally.

Willem Konjore, a former Cabinet minister, was denied entry to the Swapo congress that was held at the University of Namibia in 2002 because he did not have a membership card.

He was rescued later by other senior comrades and allowed to attend the congress.

Andimba Toivo ya Toivo, a founding member of Swapo, was allegedly also not in good standing at one stage, but was attending important meetings at which crucial decisions were taken.

Ya Toivo is also said to been refused entry but was later allowed in by the organising committee, who argued that he was one of the founding members of the ruling party.

Asked to recall his experience, Ya Toivo said: “Go and ask your sources so you can get the story right.”

Mbumba yesterday added that “all those who participate in Swapo elections are bona fide members”, adding that Geingob has participated in previous elections.

“For you to go to congress, you have to be a paid-up member and the ruling party also has a secretary for finance who ensures that everyone who attends has settled their account,” said Mbumba.

Asked about the consequences of failing to produce a membership card, Mbumba said: “You cannot enter, participate or even vote. It’s like an electoral card.”

The Namibian could not absolutely ascertain whether the story was made up merely to unsettle Geingob or whether he genuinely had an oversight about the different payments to the party.

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