Namibia: Geingob's 'Long Shot' At Swapo Unity

11 September 2019

PRESIDENT Hage Geingob faces the mammoth task to unify a shattered Swapo Party ahead of the presidential and National Assembly elections in November.

Signs of a wider rift among members of the ruling party which emerged at the 2017 elective congress are still visible.

The just-ended Swapo electoral college held in Windhoek last weekend further deepened the division after only Geingob's loyalists made the party's list of 96 members who would qualify for seats in the National Assembly.

After winning by a landslide at the weekend's event, the president's loyalists openly laughed at other Swapo members - who supported a faction that opposed Geingob at the 2017 congress - including his strong rival, former youth and sports minister Jerry Ekandjo, when their positions on the list were announced.

Despite the mocking after the 'pot' outcome, the president yesterday chose Ekandjo as one of his 10 nominees to the party's parliamentary list.

This move was seen by analysts as an attempt to unify opposing members. Ekandjo and former home affairs minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana were fired from their ministerial positions by Geingob after they opposed him at the 2017 congress.

Ekandjo is now number 31 on the list, moving up from 107. The former youth minister is one of the longest-serving parliamentarians after joining the legislature in 1990.

Ekandjo did not respond to phone calls and text messages sent to his mobile phone yesterday.

Geingob also elevated speaker of the National Assembly Peter Katjavivi, who was ranked at position 89th on the list, to 23rd position.

Katjavivi yesterday said he accepted his nomination, and was ready to serve the nation once again.

"I thank the president for his confidence in me," Katjavivi added.

Geingob also elevated National Council chairperson Margaret Mensah-Williams to the 24th position on the list from a low 92nd.

Mensah-Williams and former education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa were prominent in Geingob's camp during the events leading up to the party's elective congress in 2107.

Other people added by Geingob to the list are Veno Kauaria, Heather Sibungo, Kletus Karonda, Bertha Dinyando-Nyambe, Hafeni Ndemula, Vincent Mareka and Nono Katjingisiua.

Seats in the National Assembly are allocated on how the party performs in the national elections.

At the closing session of the electoral college on Sunday, Geingob urged members to hold hands and unite for a common cause.

"It is very painful because we are trying to contest for positions in a democracy that we have adopted. Some comrades lost, some won, but I want to look at all of you as winners because your party has won. So, those of you who won shouldn't be big-headed and look down on others who lost," Geingob said.

Some believe this attempt will be in vain.

Constitutional expert Nico Horn yesterday said the nomination of Ekandjo to the list came as a surprise, given that "his political career was over and done with".

Horn added that although Ekandjo's addition could be seen as an attempt to unite members, Geingob still had a huge task ahead of him because the outcomes of the 'pot' were "very harsh", and could be interpreted as punishment for those who opposed the president.

"It could be an attempt to unite the members, but it is still a long way to go because there will still be a lot of bitter people who feel left out. The list also expresses an amount of punishment for 'Team Swapo' supporters," Horn said.

Ekandjo is the only one on the party list from 'Team Swapo'.

The Namibian understands that Geingob's faction which campaigned as 'Team Harambee' during the 2017 elective congress has also started showing cracks after certain ministers and allies failed to make the 96-member party list.

Political commentator Graham Hopwood said the outcomes of the 'pot' only maintained the status quo.

Hopwood expected the president to bring in people with special skills and experiences, as well as "fresh faces" that he can appoint to the executive as part of his 10 nominees.

THE SCARE

Some Swapo members fear that the growing division among members could cost the party at the upcoming national elections.

A person familiar with the matter believes that Ekandjo was brought back because he has not openly criticised Geingob after the 2017 congress.

Others believe the president wants to attract a large membership that sympathises with Ekandjo during the upcoming elections.

A person who spoke to The Namibian on condition of anonymity said: "Ekandjo has a lot of followers on the ground, and he is known to be a firebrand who is able to pull the crowds. It sends a message of unity among the party followers, but this is not enough".

"You need to understand that none of the candidates who sympathised with Ekandjo during the 2017 congress made it to the list. The youth league is shattered at the moment, and another challenge will be how the party will campaign in the regions, given that most of the candidates who came from the regions as well as regional coordinators did not make it onto the list," the source said.

A LIST OF 'YES-MEN AND YES-WOMEN'

Swapo stalwart and former prime minister Nahas Angula yesterday told The Namibian that the 'pot' outcome was as he expected.

He said the fact that the party's parliamentary list was dominated by the president's loyalists shows that delegates voted with their "stomachs, and not minds".

Angula added that the list also shows that the president wants to "surround himself with a lot of yes-men and yes-women".

"It is not good to have a leader who just says everything and people clap hands, even if he is wrong, because there will be no progress. It is important to have diverse views because they might propose something that could lead to a better life for all of us," he added.

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