4 December 2017

Namibia: Geingob's Critics Eliminated

MOST Swapo politicians who continuously praise or rarely question President Hage Geingob won big over the weekend when they dominated the new appointments to Swapo's politburo, one of the party's top decision-making bodies.

While Geingob's supporters won, his critics were shown the door, which could spell the end of the political careers of some of Namibia's longest-serving top politicians.

The politburo is a 24-member Swapo body that is responsible for, among others, implementing high-level party decisions, oversight of the party's finances, and directing the party's political agenda.

Swapo has three top decision-making structures, namely the elective congress, which is held every five years; the central committee, which consists of 84 party leaders; and the 24-member politburo.

The central committee, which is the highest decision-making body between congresses, held its first meeting after congress on Saturday to elect the new politburo.

Geingob, as party president, is allowed to appoint six members to the central committee. He picked labour minister Erkki Nghimtina, defence minister Penda ya Ndakolo, deputy minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Christina Hoëbes, finance minister Calle Schlettwein, Swapo councillor from Rehoboth Colleen van Wyk and Jennely Matundu from the Kunene region.

The new 24-member politburo includes the six positions reserved for party president Geingob, party vice president Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, secretary general Sophia Shaningwa and her deputy, Marco Hausiku, as well as former party Presidents Sam Nujoma and Hifikepunye Pohamba.

The 18 vacant positions were split into two - nine men and nine women - because of Swapo's 50/50 gender rule.

The final results showed that Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila topped the politburo list, followed by former Swapo deputy secretary general Laura McLeod-Katjirua, former secretary general Nangolo Mbumba, gender minister Doreen Sioka, education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa and National Council chairperson Margaret Mensah-Williams.

Most of these party leaders are known for praise-singing Geingob in public.

Hanse-Himarwa and Mensah-Williams publicly praised Geingob, while Kuugongelwa-Amadhila is seen as reserved, and rarely opposes him.

Mbumba is regarded by his detractors as having done Geingob's bidding by ignoring the party constitution's to suit their agenda.

Other members of the politburo include environment minister Pohamba Shifeta, justice minister Albert Kawana, Kavango East governor Sirkka Ausiku and Swapo member of parliament Lucia Witbooi.

Shifeta was amongst those who wanted youth leaders critical of Geingob to be expelled from the party earlier this year, while Ausiku represented the President in her region.

National Assembly Speaker Peter Katjavivi is also new to the politburo. Katjavivi has publicly favoured Swapo during parliamentary discussions by blocking debates and topics that exposed the ruling party or the government to criticism from the opposition.

Geingob also pulled his finance minister Calle Schlettwein into the party's elite leadership by appointing him to the central committee. Schlettwein made it into the politburo as one of the highest-scoring politicians.

Businessman-turned-politician Tobie Aupindi made it into the politburo after being elected to the central committee last week.

It's unclear what underpins Aupindi's sudden popularity and political rise. He has, however, been seen in Geingob's campaign circles in the regions since last year.

Some claimed that he was lucky to be where he is, but others claim that there could be more to it. Aupindi is currently facing charges of corruption in court.

Works minister Alpheus !Naruseb, whose tenure in that portfolio has been marred by allegations of corruption, retained his politburo membership. It was under his watch that a controversial N$7 billion contract to renovate the Hosea Kutako International Airport was awarded two years ago.

Agriculture minister John Mutorwa, deputy economic planning minister Lucia Iipumbu and veterans affairs deputy minister Hilma Nicanor also made it into the politburo.

Despite all the claims of unity following the divisive congress atmosphere, Geingob's most vocal critics have been eliminated from the party's top bodies.

Those eliminated from the politburo include youth minister Jerry Ekandjo, former Prime Minister Nahas Angula, home affairs minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, politician-turned-businessman Kazenambo Kazenambo and former minister Helmut Angula.

Police minister Charles Namoloh also failed to retain his position in the politburo, but remains in the central committee.

The others who lost their seats in the politburo, but are seen as Geingob supporters, are labour minister Erkki Nghimtina, trade minister Immanuel Ngatjizeko and former chairperson of the National Council, Asser Kapere.

The Namibian understands that Geingob's inner circle believes that the 'old guard' should not cling to power, and should allow younger leaders to come through.

However, this is not reflected by the Geingob team's choices in the politburo, most of whom have been in the central committee for many years.

The 50/50 Swapo rule has also increased women's representation at politburo level, from six out of 24 members after the 2012 congress to 11 out of 24 this year.

Geingob partly controlled the previous politburo, but he now has near complete control of the key bodies of the party.

Apart from some regional coordinators and union representatives who are automatic members to the central committee, such as Oshikoto regional coordinator Armas Amukwiyu and Namibia Public Workers Union's (Napwu) general secretary Peter Nevonga, the central committee is dominated by Geingob loyalists.

Some, however, suspect that cracks will soon start showing in the Geingob camp because he will not be able to reward most of the people who were promised jobs or contracts in government, because of the poor economy.

People familiar with Swapo politics said former Nedbank head Martin Shipanga, who "declared unconditional love" to Geingob earlier this year, failed to make it into the central committee. He was on the President's list for the central committee, but he fell off to accommodate Ya Ndakolo. There is speculation that he could be rewarded with a government position.


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