As jostling for positions in the run up to the SWAPO Party national elective conference slated for November gathers steam, questions have emerged about what happened to Team Hage, the political outfit that propelled the once self-exiled leader to the highest office in the land.
As history will show, President Hage Geingob was in the political wilderness, after a self-imposed exile following his demotion in 2002 by the then President, Dr Sam Nujoma, but things changed in 2006, when he returned to politics, first as a backbencher in Parliament.
Ironically, it was Nujoma who propelled Geingob to become the SWAPO chief whip until he was nominated as the vice president of the party.
To show that no love was lost between the two, sources say Nujoma personally campaigned for Geingob to claim the position of SWAPO vice president, with the SPYL under the leadership of Dr Elijah Ngurare coining the term “guided democracy’, in line with Nujoma’s advice that Geingob should become vice president of the party and Hifikepunye Pohamba president.
SWAPO insiders will confirm that it was Nujoma who played the leading role, including discouraging Jerry Ekandjo not to contest against Geingob for the vice presidency position in 2007.
Sources say Geingob’s decision to release his PhD thesis in which he compared Nujoma to former Malawian dictator, Kamuzu Banda, is what strained their relationship.
Geingob’s failure to attend the Founding Father’s birthday celebrations and his alleged refusal to sign the SWAPO congratulatory message for Nujoma on his 88th birthday in May this year, a position confirmed by Nujoma’s personal assistant, John Nauta at the time of the event, were cited as a sign of the strained relationship.
The alleged tension between the two is said to be behind the failure by Cabinet ministers to attend the Founding Father’s birthday celebration this year, fearing reprisal from Geingob.
Sources say Geingob has of late taken a position not to recognise Nujoma’s legacy, with his speech during the late hero Toivo ya Toivo’s sendoff cited as an example. Geingob was accused of deliberately leaving out Nujoma’s name on the list of those who formed the ruling party.
Hage and Pohamba have a deal
Another person who played a major role in Geingob’s team is former President Hifikepunye Pohamba.
The former president personally called regional coordinators and regional governors to support Geingob for the position of SWAPO vice president and subsequently, the presidency of the country, a position which he confirmed in an interview with the Windhoek Observer in 2012.
Party sources claim that when Pohamba ‘handed over’ the SWAPO acting presidency to Geingob last year; the two leaders had a conditional agreement, where Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah was to be nominated for the position of vice president at the upcoming congress.
Despite the agreement, insiders say Geingob wants SWAPO Secretary General, Nangolo Mbumba, to take up the position.
Sources says that SWAPO Regional Coordinator, Erginus Endjala, who was made Omusati Governor, while other Team Hage members were left hanging, is alleged to have been roped in to fight Netumbo’s ascendency at the elective congress, come November.
The Omusati Governor was recently at the centre of a tribalism storm after a leaked audio emerged, where he labels Oshindonga-speaking Namibians as “pathologically power-hungry and traitors.”
Party sources say the move by Geingob to renege on his agreement with Pohamba is the reason why the former president has been hesitant to announce his support of Geingob’s candidature at this year’s congress.
Team Hage fading away
SWAPO Party heavyweights, Kazenambo Kazenambo, Armas Amukwiyu, Ambrosius Kandji, Pendukeni Ivula-Ithana and Angelika Muharukua, have also been credited with ensuring Geingob’s ascendency to the country’s presidency.
Kazenambo is well documented in his push for a non-Oshiwambo speaking person to take over from Pohamba, while Amukwiyu, the Oshikoto Regional Coordinator, is recognised for spearheading the campaign which handed President Hage Geingob SWAPO’s vice presidency at the 2012 elective congress.
Contacted for comment, Kazenambo told the Windhoek Observer that ‘Team Hage’ as it was called, had been dismantled and he is not aware of any new team that has been created.
“I worked with him on a professional level. I was part of the team that campaigned for him. I do not know whether he has acknowledged or appreciated that, but that is up to him to say, but he is not indebted to me,” the firebrand politician said.
“I am not aware of any new team that has been created and I am only hearing this from you now. I am not part of it and I have not been asked by anyone to campaign or be a part of this new group. As of now, I am just Kazenambo, a SWAPO delegate to congress.”
SWAPO Party Regional Councilor for Katutura Central Constituency, Ambrosius Kandji, also played a huge role in campaigning for Geingob, by mobilising the masses in Katutura, while SWAPO chief whip in the National Council, Lebbeus Tangeni (MP), Cletius Sipapela, Bonifantius Wakudumo (who is the SWAPO Regional Information and Mobiliser for Kavango East) and Phillipus Katamelo, also played a part.
Kandji confirmed to the Windhoek Observer that he campaigned for Geingob in 2012. He, however, said that he was not part of any new group and has not been approached to do so.
“I supported the old man then and to be honest, I just want to take a break from being on the frontline of things. I have also not been approached to be part of any group of his supporters. I have not changed any teams; I am just hearing that there are teams in newspapers. I am comfortable where I am now,” he said.
“Campaigning requires money and some of us are on the ground, so perhaps they will need us at a later stage.”
Katamelo downplayed any rift, saying his relationship with Geingob remains cordial.
“I think we are fine and there is no problem. I am still a SWAPO member and supporter of the party, that is all I can say,” he commented.
Wakudumo confirmed being part of Geingob supporters in 2012, and maintained that he remains one of the president’s biggest fans that will campaign for him at this year’s congress.
“Yes I am a part of his new group that is campaigning for him. I did this in 2012 and I am still loyal to him to date,” Wakudumo confirmed.
Despite being called back from retirement by Geingob to serve as the Director General of the Namibia Central Intelligence Service, Philemon Malima, is reported to have fallen out of favour with the president.
This comes amid reports that Lucas Hangula, who retired in June 2015, had been secretly brought back to the agency.
Local business persons Desmond Amunyela, Lazarus Jacobs, Vaino Nghipondoka and Knowledge Katti, who also played a leading role in the president’s rise to power, have been accused by Geingob supporters of being bitter because they had fallen out of favour.
They have been accused of almost anything, from bribing SWAPO regional coordinators to being corrupt individuals without integrity.
Geingob, according to sources, has almost successfully made Namibians believe the original ‘Team Hage” was dismantled because he did not want to be associated with so called ‘corrupt business people’ but the credibility of the current list of “100 percent supporters of Hage” members has raised eyebrows.
Interestingly, the new outfit going under the banner “100 percent supporters of Hage”, is being driven by his inlaw, Tashia Kalondo, rape convict Vincent Lukoro, Tobie Aupindi, who still has a pending fraud case before the courts, Hoze Riruako and Chinese national, Jack Huang, who is Geingob’s business partner.
Huang was arrested for his alleged involvement in the N$3,5 billion tax evasion, fraud and money laundering case that is currently playing out in court, after months of police investigations targeting a string of various companies owned primarily by Chinese business people.
Party sources say, after ascending to power, Geingob has distanced himself from most of the people who campaigned for him in 2012.
Only former Team Hage members such as Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, Margaret Mensah-Williams and Professor Peter Katjavivi, are now largely enjoying the trappings of power after Geingob became president.
What has emerged, according to party insiders, is that whether it’s the old ‘Team Hage’ or the “100 percent supporters of Hage”, Geingob only wants to serve his interests and not that of the party or country.