PRESIDENT Hifikepunye Pohamba’s move to “command” delegates to the Swapo congress to elect a certain candidate as vice president sets a dangerous trend that goes against the principles of democracy, Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana said yesterday.
Ithana, Swapo’s secretary general, is a candidate in the race at the congress which starts today.
She made the remarks following reported public announcements by the party’s incumbent vice president, Hage Geingob, that delegates from the regions were instructed by President Hifikepunye Pohamba to vote for him.
Iivula-Ithana made the remarks at the conclusion of her campaign at the Swapo headquarters in Windhoek.
“The notion that has been advocated from certain quotas of our society that directives from the top hierarchy commanding the lower party structures to follow suit to elect certain candidates into the vice president position sets a very dangerous trend that does not augur well with the principles of democracy which have been inculcated and practised within the Swapo Party and in our country,” she said.
In the 2004 race for Swapo’s candidacy, former President Sam Nujoma openly supported Pohamba against Nahas Angula and Hidipo Hamutenya.
Iivula-Ithana encouraged delegates to “freely exercise their democratic right to elect a candidate of their choice” on the basis of the leadership qualities, trustworthiness and performance track records of such a candidate.
Iivula-Ithana’s remarks came shortly after reports that the party’s leaders in the Caprivi Region allegedly coerced delegates into taking an oath to vote for a certain candidate, and that Oshikoto Governor Penda ya Ndakolo and Swapo coordinator Armas Amukwiyu over the weekend apparently threatened fellow regional leaders that they could find themselves without jobs if they failed to vote for Geingob.
As secretary general of the party, Iivula-Ithana did neither confirm nor deny whether such reports were true.
“Your vote as a delegate is exercised under a secret ballot principle, a principle that guarantees protection of your secrecy and privacy without having to fear or favour anyone. No one should therefore be subjected to taking any sworn statement committing oneself to vote for somebody as a result of so-called hierarchy directive. By doing that, we have thrown the principle of a secret ballot in the dustbin. Is that democracy?” she said.
She also said that the only sure way of keeping the party’s leadership strong was when all “true and loyal” members of the party embraced a culture of performance and delivery, and not populism politics or being promised government positions or other goods, as a basis and measure of retaining or promoting someone to higher positions within the party structure.
“We must remain guided by the principles of objectivity, justice and serving a greater purpose, a principle that has seen many sons and daughters of this soil sacrificing their precious lives for the greater good of others,” she said.
In addition, she said delegates and those that have influence over them must remember that the person elected as vice president was not only going to be operating and exercising leadership within the confines of the Namibian boundaries.
“Remember that he or she will represent and be the face and number one reflection of all of us as Namibians in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), African Union (AU), United Nations (UN) and other global economic and geo-political platforms, and must therefore have the required leadership and statesmanship calibre to represent the Namibian national economic and security interest well and effective,” she said.
Should she be elected as the party’s vice president, Iivula-Ithana said these were the democratic principles she would protect and continue to cherish.
She is contesting the position against Geingob and the minister of regional and local government, housing and rural development, Jerry Ekandjo.
Present at Iivula-Ithana’s conclusion campaign yesterday were former TransNamib boss Titus Haimbili, deputy justice minister Tommy Nambahu, acting secretary general of the National Union of Namibian Workers Alfred Angula, Vincent Hailulu of the National Housing Enterprise (NHE), northern businessman Prince Shiimi and unionist Connie Pandeni.
The deputy secretary of the Swapo Party Women’s Council, Eunice Ipinge, said Iivula-Ithana would have the support of the women at the congress.