Windhoek — The much-awaited Swapo Party Congress kicked off at a hotel in Windhoek yesterday morning with the agenda for discussion chockfull, with President Hifikepunye Pohamba impressing upon delegates the critical importance of land distribution.
The party elections are crucial since they will potentially determine who will succeed President Hifikepunye Pohamba when his second term in office ends in 2015.
The three candidates contesting the Swapo vice-presidency, the gateway to State House are Swapo Party secretary general Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, vice-president Dr Hage Geingob and Jerry Ekandjo, the party's secretary for information, publicity and mobilisation.
Swapo Party President Hifikepunye Pohamba is standing unopposed for the position of party president. The Minister of Foreign Affairs Utoni Nujoma and Nangolo Mbumba the current Swapo Party deputy secretary general are contesting the position of secretary general, while Abraham Iyambo the Minister of Education will slug it out with the Omaheke Regional Governor, Laura McLeod-Katjirua, for the position of deputy secretary general. Eighty-three elective positions will also be up for grabs in the Central Committee of the ruling party.
"All of us are looking to successful elections. We want to ensure that our party emerges stronger and more united, with enhanced capacity to develop our country and improve the living conditions of our people," President Pohamba told delegates from all 13 regions.
"It is important to ensure that the results are respected and accepted by all Swapo members. In this light, leaders who will be elected during this congress must be supported by all Swapo Party members so that they can carry out their mandates successfully and in the interest of the party and the Namibian people," stressed Pohamba.
"We must deliberate and discuss all issues on our agenda frankly, openly and with the analytical thoroughness that each of them demands.
"Nothing can be left to chance," he stressed. Speaking off the cuff, Pohamba reiterated his earlier comments made in an interview with Al-Jazeera, saying the topic of land redistribution would enjoy priority during the congress.
"It is the landless who will stand up. The revolution is forced on the people," he echoed his earlier views from the Al-Jazeera interview.
"We have come here to work. During our work for the next four days, we must be guided by the provisions of the Swapo Party constitution, our internal policies and procedures, as well as the spirit of common purpose," said Pohamba, who was evidently in a jovial mood at the opening, cracking a number of jokes throughout his speech.
Founding Father of the Namibian Nation, Dr Sam Nujoma, resplendent in party colours urged delegates to implement the 2002 and 2007 Swapo Party Congress resolutions "for equal representation of women in positions of power in all decision-making processes".
Meanwhile, Pohamba says the ruling party has made progress towards attaining its medium and long-term national development goals, saying Namibia has already reached significant milestones, and in some instances surpassed targets.
"We have completed various capital and socio-economic development projects such as the construction and renovation of roads, railways, schools, health facilities and water pipes.
"The delivery of public services has also been expanded in different parts of the country, with specific focus on accelerated socio-economic development and service delivery in rural areas," he said.
He pointed at the high number of girls enrolling in schools, the progress made in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and the provision of anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs to infected people, as well as the provision of more than 6 000 hectares of land for irrigation purposes.
The 600 delegates gathered at the Safari Hotel on the outskirts of the city's business district are also expected to mull over reform proposals for the health sector, skills development, economic growth, and on the sensitive subject of land redistribution, among other pressing issues.
Registration of the 600 delegates started early Wednesday in the courtyard of the Safari Hotel, with the entire hotel premises cordoned off by tight security, since the main conference centre has been dedicated to the congress.
Security is so tight that no delegate is allowed to take digital equipment, from cellphones to portable cameras, into the conference hall.
Only accredited journalists covering the open sessions of the event are allowed to take in cameras, but not cellphones.
The congress is the ruling party's highest decision-making body and is expected, among others, to review government's performance covering the period 2007 to 2012.
Delegates will also review the recommendations of the Swapo Party National Policy Conference that took place in September this year.
Some of the policy documents up for discussion are those passed at the Swapo National Policy Conference in September, including the acquisition and distribution of land.
More than 40 delegates from sister political parties from Angola, Botswana, Cuba, China, North Korea, Belgium, South Africa and Zimbabwe are attending the congress that ends on Sunday.