Political analysts have warned that the SWAPO Party November elective congress has already been rigged in favour of the Acting President of the party.
Political analyst Professor Joseph Diescho said the leadership vacuum created in the party following the stepping down of former President Hifikepunye Pohamba had created a platform for blatant abuse of the party systems for the benefit of the status quo.
“The 2015 abdication of power by the elected president of the party in the absence of a similar procedure to manage succession produced an unpleasant vacuum that was abused by those with influence to affect people’s lives,” Diescho told the Windhoek Observer.
He said the chaos that characterised the ruling party regional elective congresses, with some being nullified, amid allegations of influence peddling by the party Acting President Hage Geingob and Secretary General Nangolo Mbumba was clear evidence of the manipulation of the democratic rights of party members.
“There has been too much manipulation of the process of selecting congress delegates from the districts and regions such that when people went to their supposedly regional jurisdictions, they were already told what the desired outcome was and who would effect such outcomes,” he said.
“In this process, democracy was undermined and freedom was taken away from people to select based upon their own conviction. In the end, most of the regional elections were no longer free and fair, but massaged to suit certain individuals.”
“There is evidence that regional elections that were considered unfavourable to the Acting President were either questioned or nullified, thus creating unfair and an un-free atmosphere.”
Diescho said continued imposition of a sole candidate for the ruling party presidency before the official nomination process has opened has already tainted the party elective processes.
“Democracy is about fair and transparent processes, which is not the case here because people were manipulated to endorse a single candidate before there was a pronouncement of the names of the candidates from which to endorse. Therefore an endorsement without candidates is like asking a person who has been deaf all his life to teach you the national anthem,” he said.
“There has been lobbying and campaigning for one candidate before the campaign was officially declared open by the party. This dishonest violation of clear rules is definitely rigging because you are declaring a winner before the race has even started.
“You rig if you win a race before there is a competition that has a starting point and a finish line, not even lanes. You jump in the middle of the field and scream that you won a marathon!”
“The SWAPO constitution prescribes the party nomination of three candidates, and to massage public opinion that it is party history to have only one candidate is very dangerously manipulative and dishonest.”
Diescho said State machinery and resources were also being abused to ensure the election and subsequent re-election of President Geingob.
“The use of State resources to campaign for one candidate long before the campaign had started is rigging the process. It is rigging when State officials go around the country ostensibly paying courtesy visits to traditional leaders and other opinion makers in the regions with some nice messages from the State House, when other people do not have the same access and resources to do so,” he said.
“There have been reports of invitations to certain selected individuals to the State House when other persons do not have the same privilege to do so and in so doing influencing the electoral process dishonestly and unfavorably prejudicial to other aspiring candidates.”
He said the continued delays in opening the party nomination process by the Central Committee which is chaired by the acting president, who is also an aspiring candidate, was a direct violation of party members’ rights.
“The undue postponement of the nominations of the three candidates seem deliberate and in bad faith, to prevent the public from knowing the other candidates properly on the one hand and to disallow the other candidates adequate time to campaign. This is worse in the context where the only self-declared candidate has State resources at his disposal,” Diescho said.
He said confusion regarding Geingob’s current designation in the party is beneficial to his ascendency to power.
“The one candidate who is requiring endorsements from governors and other Government appointees has already abused his role as acting president to feed the nation that he is [SWAPO Party] President and in so doing rearranged the desks in a manner prejudicial to others, rendering the whole process un-free, unfair and rigged,” the Professor said.
Another analyst, Henning Melber said the November congress “is orchestrated in a way, which imposes decisions on the party in violation of any basic minimum standards of party internal democratic procedures.
“As acting president (with the emphasis on acting) Hage Geingob should indeed be running for office with other candidates allowed to contest. That’s the one issue. The other is the election of delegates for the congress. From what I observe, this is a matter of manipulation from the party headquarters and of concern.”
He said the scheming was now putting the party unity at risk.
“Much will depend on how the internal camps deal with this on the higher levels of the party, since we know that the ordinary members usually have little to no say in the party matters. I am not sure if ‘Team Hage’ (whatever remains of it) is able to pull it off without major frictions and tensions, which might put the party unity at risk.”
Concerns by the political analysts come as party insiders have likened the manipulation of the SWAPO election outcomes to those of dictatorial regimes of Malawi’s Kamuzu Banda, Mobutu Seseko of Zaire and others.