18 March 2013

Namibia: 'Struggle Kids' Divide Swapo

Photo: Noor Khamis/IRIN
File photo of Samuel Munge (left) and Stephen Maina trying to stay warm in downtown Nairobi, Kenya.

THE 'children of the liberation struggle' caused tension at the Swapo Central Committee meeting held over the weekend.

The Namibian is informed that the debate around the 'struggle kids', as they are known, left the ruling party's CC almost divided.

CC sources said it all started when President Hifikepunye Pohamba said that the 'children of the liberation struggle' were "not special" and that they "did not suffer". Pohamba's utterance is said to have caused a stir, inviting opposing views from the floor. A source who attended the meeting told The Namibian that Pohamba told them that the government had made a mistake in the past by giving special treatment to the group. Pohamba is said to have added that it was time to correct that mistake.

Pohamba is said to have been supported mainly by the deputy minister of gender equality and child welfare, Angelika Muharukua, Hardap Governor Katrina Hanse-Himarwa and National Council vice chairperson Margaret Mensah-Williams.

They all are said to have shared Pohamba's sentiments that the 'struggle kids' are not special.

Yesterday Hanse-Himarwa declined to go into details of what she said at the meeting, adding that what matters is the outcome of the meeting, which is a common stance on the issue.

She said she cannot differ with President Pohamba. "He is my leader, he has wisdom. Even if I disagreed, I won't be discussing it in public," she said. "I don't go into the CC with an individual agenda."

Hanse-Himarwa lashed out at media sources, saying "tell your sources who are planted in the CC to, once in a blue moon, become truthful".

"We know who they are," she said.

Mensah-Williams declined to comment on the issue, saying the party's secretary general, Nangolo Mbumba, was tasked to respond to questions.

On the opposing side was Defence Minister Nahas Angula, who stood his ground and said that the 'struggle children' are somewhat special and their issues need to be considered. Helmut Angula is said to have supported Angula's sentiments.

Also in the Angula corner was former Mines Deputy Minister Henock Ya Kasita, who countered those who were stating that most of the 'struggle kids' had been given jobs but squandered them. Ya Kasita is said to have asked his comrades to "stop generalising the issue" and substantiate the claims with data.

He is said to have further demanded an explanation about those who kept their jobs and are doing well. Ya Kasita, however, added that when 'struggle kids' are considered for jobs, other youths must be offered the same to avoid marginalising them.

At yesterday's media briefing Mbumba said the Central Committee deliberated extensively on the issue of the 'children of the liberation struggle'.

"It affirmed its commitment to the welfare of all the youth of Namibia. The Central Committee endorsed the position of the Political Bureau that 'the children of the liberation struggle' should go back to their homes while their plight is receiving attention by government," he said.

Another issue said to have sparked a debate was about some party leaders claiming that they are being targeted.

The discontent came up when the CC had to endorse the Politburo's recommendation on the party secretariat.

Some quarters of the CC wanted a vote for the party secretariat so that it could bring a balance because they felt it was dominated by those seen as loyalists of party vice president Hage Geingob. However, there was no voting at the end.

"We cannot be pretending to be united while some comrades are being targeted," said a source close to the CC. Mbumba yesterday said leaders were assigned to the secretariat based on their position as ministers.

He pointed out examples such as Foreign Affairs Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, who has the secretariat portfolio of external affairs.

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