SWAPO president Hifikepunye Pohamba and former ruling party leader Sam Nujoma yesterday both publicly stayed clear of announcing who they are supporting in the race for the top three positions, but the stage was set last night for lobbying to begin.
Three top positions, namely vice president, secretary general and deputy secretary general, will be up for grabs this weekend at the fifth Swapo congress that started yesterday in Windhoek.
Incumbent vice president Hage Geingob, secretary of information Jerry Ekandjo and secretary general Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana are competing for the vice president’s seat, a position that will provide a hint of who the next president of Namibia could be.
However, in sharp contrast to the 2002 Swapo congress where former President Sam Nujoma sang the praises of his then candidate Pohamba, the current head of state did not drop a hint of who he endorsed even though he publicly announced at other platforms that his preferred candidate was Geingob.
Instead Pohamba showered praises on Nujoma, other liberation heroes and those from sister political movements in other countries who came to show solidarity.
A decade ago it was done in style.
“History is made by people,” Nujoma told delegates during his 2002 congress speech.
“This man,” he said, turning to Pohamba, the then Swapo secretary general. “This man risked his life two times.” He said Pohamba was arrested “by the Boers” in the early 1960s and he was the first man to be flogged in public with makalani branches.
Later on in his speech, Nujoma said: “So, history is made by man. Twice he risked his life, but in the final analysis we have won.”
That is how it unfolded ten years ago when Nujoma handpicked Pohamba as vice president. Pohamba succeeded Nujoma three years later.
After that congress, Geingob, the man now supported by President Pohamba to succeed him, was given the elbow by Nujoma after he turned down an offer to become the minister of regional, local government and housing. Although he spent some time in the political wilderness, Geingob came back in Pohamba’s Cabinet.
Ten years later, Pohamba prefers to keep mum at the party’s highest decision-making body. Besides saying he sees nothing wrong in the current vice president, Pohamba has not told the congress why he prefers Geingob.
Nujoma, a man who is considered to still have major influence in the ruling party, has not revealed who he is backing.
Commentators are saying Nujoma might support the candidate supported by Utoni Nujoma, his son, who is vying for the position of secretary general. Ekandjo nominated Utoni Nujoma for the secretary general position and he has been campaigning alongside Ekandjo.
Meanwhile, Pohamba, who will chair the congress, said he was happy with how the campaign went up to the congress.
Pohamba and Nujoma pleaded with the delegates to embrace the results in order to cement unity within the party.
“A candidate who does not make it has a duty to support the winner without hesitation,” Pohamba said.
“The outcome must be respected and accepted by all Swapo members,” he added.
Pohamba spoke about various national and international issues such as the killing of women, baby dumping, food security and a threat of a revolution by landless people if they are kept sidelined.
Land reform will be at the top of the agenda and Pohamba said he listened carefully to Zanu-PF chairman Simon Khaya Moyo from Zimbabwe who offered to share their experience with regard to their land reform programme.
The four-day congress ends on Sunday and the election results will be announced on the same day.
Iivula-Ithana, who will be bowing out as secretary general, said she was happy with the party’s performance since the last congress and urged delegates to thoroughly look at policies that will be discussed.