22 February 2013

Namibia: Pohamba Paves Way for Geingob

SWAPO leaders who were closely associated with Hage Geingob during his campaign to retain the party's vice presidency have been climbing the ladder, demonstrating a shift in power in the ruling party.

It started shortly after last year's party congress when Geingob was appointed as prime minister during a Cabinet reshuffle by President Hifikepunye Pohamba and some of his followers were redeployed as political heads to strategic ministries.

This was followed by the appointment of Swapo leaders assigned to the different regions, when especially supporters of Youth and Sport Minister Jerry Ekandjo, who also contested the vice presidency, were left out in the cold.

In the latest development, the Swapo Politburo on Monday decided that the ruling party's secretariat should be reshuffled to make way for those who supported Geingob.

"This will pave the way for a smooth transition once President Pohamba leaves as head of state and consolidate the power base of the prime minister," a senior minister told The Namibian.

However, others are of the opinion that the moves, taken to ensure a smooth takeover, are divisive. They especially refer to the way the Swapo Politburo came to the conclusion of reshuffling the party's secretariat which will now be a point of discussion at next month's Central Committee meeting.

"Why did the president meet with eight of the Politburo members on Sunday to strategise on the appointment of secretariat members, but at the same time during the next day's Politburo meeting he again emphasised unity among the Swapo leadership," a Politburo member told The Namibian.

Some of the surprise moves of the proposed new secretariat are that Hardap governor Katrina Hanse-Himarwa will take over the labour portfolio, while Helmut Angula will be the secretary of information while Alpheus !Naruseb takes over the economic portfolio from Finance Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila. Ekandjo will now serve as secretary for transport, while Kuugongelwa-Amadhila missed out completely.

Veterans' Affairs Minister Dr Nickey Iyambo is earmarked for secretary of health in the place of the Health Minister Richard Kamwi.

Works and Transport Minister Erkki Nghimtina will be responsible for defence, while Regional and Local Government Minister Charles Namholoh is the party's new secretary for environment. Foreign Affairs Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah will take over the external relations portfolio.

"During this process all those who supported Jerry [Ekandjo] and Pendukeni [Iivula-Ithana] at the Swapo congress were targeted," the senior minister said.

Swapo secretary general Nangolo Mbumba was not prepared to comment on the changes.

"I cannot discuss the agenda of the Central Committee with you. This is only meant for the CC members. Once the meeting is over the public will be informed about the decisions taken," said Mbumba.

The Central Committee meeting is taking place from March 15 to 17 and will also serve as a preparatory platform for the party's extraordinary congress to be held from June 21 to 23.

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