President Hage Geingob believes the era of guided democracy, championed by his predecessors in the ruling party, is over and prospective candidates will have to battle it out this time around.
The guided democracy principle has been used as a succession plan in Swapo, which saw Founding President Sam Nujoma handpicking former president Hifikepunye Pohamba as his successor. After serving two terms as head of state, Pohamba, while also serving as Swapo president abruptly left his Swapo presidency position, paving way for Geingob to succeed him.
However, Geingob's ascendancy to the acting presidency of the ruling party culminated in a long-drawn-out battle among senior party figures. "There is no guided democracy anymore. That is the new normal. One man, one woman, one vote. I went through that. I can't choose anybody to say you are the vice president that is automatic," he said in a wide-ranging interview published elsewhere in this edition.
The President, who was speaking to New Era on the eve of his 80th birthday yesterday at State House, also said no one in the top structures of the party was guaranteed automatic candidacy at the party's next elective congress in 2022. Geingob was elected party leader in 2017 during a watershed elective congress, which also saw his preferred candidates for the vice presidency, secretary general and deputy secretary general, getting the nod.
For the presidency, Geingob stood against former youth minister Jerry Ekandjo and former prime minister Nahas Angula.
"I was the vice president and even the president of the country, but I was challenged. It has become a norm in Swapo. So, it will be that way. People are going to stand peacefully, I hope, and will be elected and we accept the outcome. If you go to boxing, there is only one winner. Again, if you go to elections, there is only one winner. So, don't go to elections if you won't accept the outcome. That is not democracy."
Geingob, who has largely elected to play his cards close to his chest ahead of next year's congress, also ruled out standing for another term, saying he was planning for retirement. "Yes, my time is running. If you drive past Otavi you'll see I'm busy with my farm. Preparing for retirement. That is another thing: Many of the ministers and former fighters don't prepare for retirement," he said.
Geingob also defended his record and is adamant that there is a light at the end of Namibia's Covid-19 fight. The coronavirus has devastated the local economy which has seen thousands of people losing jobs as businesses feel the pinch of the virulent pandemic, which has claimed more than 3 000 lives in Namibia.
"Every day we are burying comrades, fathers, families of us, so, I see now it is going down a little bit. Maybe the winter was also a factor because it (Covid) thrives in the cold areas. Every year since we took over, we had a deficit of N$2 billion. But not savings. Now the economic downturn. We tried to navigate around that, then came the severe drought. As we navigated around it, then came Covid. We didn't plan for it. So, it is an independent intervening variable that came and destroy what we were planning. We had to look at the Harambee (plan). Changed it again here and there and see if we can survive. If we can all hold hands, we will pull through," he said.
Turning to young people harbouring ambitions to lead one day, Geingob told impatient youth to wait for their turn and be properly groomed for senior roles.
"Don't people want to be groomed? You just jump from a tree and want to become president? No! You'll fail! So, we are grooming and we have already many of them. As I'm saying, systems, processes and institutions are there. You can come in and run this country. Women and men, anybody. We are grooming," he said.