4 December 2012

Namibia: Ithana Talks Women?s Empowerment in Swapo

THE former Swapo secretary general, Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, has rejected claims that she ‘sold’ votes to Hage Geingob to clinch the sought-after position of vice president at the weekend’s congress.

Iivula-Ithana, who only garnered 64 votes, competed with Jerry Ekandjo, who scored 220 votes against Geingob’s 312.

Ithana, the first woman to contest for the vice president’s seat of the ruling party, told The Namibian yesterday that “you always find stories wherever there are many people”.

If she had won, Iivula-Ithana could have been the ruling party’s presidential candidate in 2014.

Ithana reflected on the valuable experience she gained during the campaign, saying it was an interesting experience and she believed that she deserved better than the votes she got.

“I expected more [votes] than that,” she said.

“Everybody I spoke to agreed that they would vote for me but I guess some of them did not have the courage to tell me that they won’t vote for me,” she said, adding that no delegate had rejected her campaign.

Although she was endorsed by the Swapo Party Women’s Council (SPWC) as their candidate, the wing’s secretary, Petrina Haingura, turned her back on Iivula-Ithana and instead publicly declared her support for Ekandjo.

In 2007, the SPWC instructed Haingura to start pushing the party’s leadership to change the party constitution so that women would make up half of the representatives in top decision-making bodies and in Parliament.

Iivula-Ithana feels that there is a need to bring more women into the leadership structures of Swapo.

She said the majority that are known are the ones that are elected while the upcoming women leaders are left unrecognised.

Out of the 60 new Central Committee members, only 16 are women. Five years ago, the Central Committee had 15 women.

In 2002, former Swapo President Sam Nujoma was forced to drop plans to nominate 21 women to the Swapo Central Committee.

Many party stalwarts, most of them ministers at the time, feared they would have lost out to people who would have been ‘wheelchaired’ into positions.

Iivula-Ithana said the emphasis should be placed on nurturing women into the political structure to ensure that they are not isolated and in the end fall out.

A woman delegate that The Namibian spoke to at the congress on Sunday said they were happy that they had Iivula-Ithana contesting for the party’s second-highest position.

“We at least managed to get one seat in the person of Laura McLeod-Katjirua”.

McLeod-Katjirua is the party’s new deputy secretary general.

The delegate said: “We acknowledge that Iivula-Ithana not winning is perhaps a sign that Namibia is not ready for a woman vice president.”

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