SWAPO'S powerful political bureau has rejected a plan backed by president Hage Geingob to reduce the number of years a candidate needs to compete for top party positions, such as vice president and secretary general.
The politburo and the central committee, however, resolved last week that Geingob should not be challenged as party president at the upcoming elective congress slated for this year.
In 2018, Swapo amended its constitution, adding a raft of new rules, including being "consistently and persistently" a member of the ruling party's politburo and central committee to qualify for top party positions.
However, there has been a push in the party to remove the so-called 'Helmut Amendments' from the party constitution to include potential candidates who might be excluded from the amendments.
The matter was discussed at Wednesday's politburo meeting at State House where the Swapo think tank made a presentation.
Geingob wanted the amendments to be reviewed. He was allegedly supported by former education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, Tobie Aupindi and the Swapo's think tank.
The proposal was not supported by top Swapo leaders such as incumbent vice president Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila and Albert Kawana, Windhoek Observer reported last week.
Presently, the requirement to be in the central committee for 10 years to qualify for the vice presidency could largely benefit Nandi-Ndaitwah and Kuugongelwa-Amadhila. However, there are some in the party who are lobbying for an outsider or politician who has not served in the central committee for the required years but could lead the party.
Information seen by The Namibian shows that the politburo subsequently resolved to reject the proposed amendments.
"No amendments need to be effected to Articles 15, 16, 17, and 18 of the Swapo constitution, as was proposed by the [Swapo] think tank."
"Maintaining the current provisions of the said articles will protect Swapo from infiltration by outsiders (opportunists) who are not in good standing with Swapo over a while because they did not persistently and consistently contribute to the party," the politburo said.
The politburo discussions laid bare possible cracks between Geingob and his deputy Nandi-Ndaitwah - around five months before congress.
Geingob's push to amend the constitution could increase competition for Nandi-Ndaitwah.
The Namibian understands that power brokers are allegedly looking at one or two politicians to challenge Nandi-Ndaitwah for the top positions at the congress.
Sources in the party admit that the groupings of tribal blocks in Swapo are likely to be key factors in influencing who becomes the next vice president, and subsequently represent the ruling party at the 2024 elections.
Some party insiders are, however, worried that the party political battles could expose Swapo like how it unfolded under Hidipo Hamutenya, who subsequently formed his own party after losing the vice presidency to Hifikepunye Pohamba.
Swapo spokesperson Hilma Nicanor declined to comment on politburo decisions or discussions that are not approved by the central committee.
She said it is public knowledge that the constitution was changed recently (2018).
Nicanor is against changing the constitution all the time. "There is really no need," she added.
"The think tank is just a body that the party has put in place for the purpose of researching. Research was done. Some ideas were brought for the party to look at. The final decision lies with the party leadership," she said.
The central committee was expected to discuss the stance of the politburo on rejecting the amendments, but the matter was not discussed and deferred to a special central committee meeting.
Sources said Geingob might have to admit defeat in the amendments plan, but one of his goals was to be assured a win at this coming congress. And he got what he wanted.
The central committee has decided that Geingob (80) should not be challenged at the upcoming congress.
Former president Hifikepunye Pohamba was also not challenged in 2012 and passed on the presidency to Geingob in 2015 to avoid two centres of power.
The Swapo think tank made a presentation at State House on Wednesday last week, making several recommendations, including succession.
"It is proposed for the upcoming congress that the current Swapo president runs unopposed and continues his tenure until 2024," the politburo said.
According to information seen by The Namibian, this approach is meant to "resolve the time gap between the elections and the handing over of powers by the sitting president to the president-elect, and in so doing resolve the conundrum of having two centres of power".
The politburo said there is a need to hold the elective congress closer to the swearing-in date (21 March) of the newly elected state president and parliamentarians.
Swapo's Soviet-styled politburo also agreed to open up the three top positions below the president such as vice president, secretary general and deputy secretary general.
"To maintain the democratic fabric of the Swapo party, all other top three positions shall be contested and supporters of both the winning and unsuccessful candidates respectively, be inducted to accept the election results and subsequently rally behind the elected leadership," the politburo said.
Nicanor confirmed to The Namibian yesterday that the central committee made this decision over the weekend. She said there was a previous decision to look at how to align the party presidency with that of the state.
She declined to comment on what will happen to Geingob after 2024 and whether the party will have another congress to elect its president.
Speaking at the central committee meeting, Geingob said some Swapo members are ashamed of being associated with the ruling party.
"Shame on you if you are trying to be ashamed," he said.
The ruling party has been tainted by the Fishrot corruption scandal, which includes allegations that stolen public funds were used to finance and buy votes for Geingob and his party faction called Team Harambee.
Geingob urged Swapo members not to feel guilty of being supporters of the party.
He also took a swipe at Swapo's critics such as the Popular Democratic Movement, formally known as the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA), and some sections of the media for allegedly collaborating with the apartheid government.
"The truth is we fought for this country while some of them were collaborating with the Boers. They are talking too much. Where was DTA ... somebody from DTA calling people sell-outs and puppets?" Geingob asked.
He said he is tired of Swapo members being ridiculed in the public for making political statements to make them look stupid
"Why do you want to hate us? We freed you," he said.
Swapo leaders have in the past months faced criticism over public comments made at rallies.
This includes claims by former minister Jerry Ekandjo that Namibia's national flag belongs to Swapo.
Kuugongelwa-Amadhila was quoted in the media this month saying Swapo should be kept in power until Jesus returns.
To Geingob, that is a political statement.
"When we make political statements, we are ridiculed as if we are stupid. We are educated," Geingob added.
He said other political parties are not criticised for making ambitious statements such as taking over the government after the 2024 national elections. "That's nonsense," the president said.
"The freedom of the press you are enjoying, we fought for it. Where were some of you ... with theBoers?" Geingob asked.
"I'm getting tired of this. You should be the one to be ashamed of your history. It's rotten, collaborators."