Windhoek Observer (WO) journalist, Eliaser Ndeyanale, this week caught up with outgoing NUDO president, Asser Mbai (AM), who gave insights into the divisions in his party that have rocked the opposition political formation following a chaotic third elective congress late last month,
and the way forward.
WO: What have been some of the biggest achievements of your party since you took over as president in 2014?
AM: Allow me to give a brief history. It was not easy! I took over right after the untimely passing away of the late Paramount Chief and party leader, Kuaima Riruako. The party constitution states that whenever the president vacates office, the vice president will resume office of the party president and wait until the national council/congress adopts the elevation, which eventually was done accordingly.
First of all, the party gradually transformed from a cultural/political set-up to a fully-fledged national political party. For the first time in many years, the party re-aligned its organs such as branches, sub-branches, constituency and regional branches in line with its constitution.
Regular meetings have taken place since then as required by the party’s constitution namely, national secretariat, national executive committee, national council and congress.
We won two Parliamentary seats in the National Assembly after the 2014 national elections. We also won the three traditional party strongholds of Okakarara, Otjinene and Aminius during the 2015 Regional Council and Local Authority elections.
In addition, we won the Omatako constituency, a former SWAPO Party stronghold and this made NUDO the first opposition party since Independence to take over leadership in four constituencies.
WO: What would you say were the major challenges during your time as party leader?
AM: The transformation of the party from a cultural/political dispensation to a fully-fledged and inclusive national political party. Lack of timely financial contributions from party members hence the dependency on State funding. The country’s economic downturn has also contributed to the lack of sufficient resources for operational purposes.
WO: Why did you not contest for the party’s presidency after only four years in charge? What informed your decision?
AM: I have been in active politics since 1972 which makes it 46 years plus my additional two years of my current term which takes me to 48 years. I do not believe in the African way of treating political parties as a family business. I have no doubt in my mind that this is the best opportune time to hand over the mantle as “Elijah did to Elisha.
WO: Who is your preferred candidate for the party’s presidency and why?
AM: I don’t have a preferred candidate as such despite the accusations that are going around. Even if I had candidates for the preferred executive positions, my vote alone would not be enough to put them into power. This is entirely the responsibility of the national congress to elect the right candidates.
WO: To what would you attribute the infightings in your party which led to the suspension of some senior party members?
AM: Are we any different to any other political party within our country and beyond? With succession there will be competition hence casualties. With regard to the suspension issue, whomever is contravening the party‘s code of conduct has to face the consequences of answering to the allegations levelled against them.
WO: Did you anticipate something like this to happen?
AM: Yes, I anticipated a fierce competition between the rival groups, but not the breaking of the various rules of the party.
WO: What is your take on Joseph Kauadenge’s assertions that you are now an ordinary NUDO member, without any powers to discharge party functions?
AM: Until a due, legitimate and credible process has been concluded with regard to the elections of a new leadership, the status quo remains.
WO: The Muinjangue group says it has suspended you and Meundju Jahanika, as party president and secretary general, respectively, what is your take on this?
AM: The same as in the case of Kauandenge. Unless a due, legitimate and credible process has been followed, the status quo remains.
WO: Can you explain the events leading up to the 25 May elective congress where the party failed to elect your successor?
AM: In all honesty there is not much to be said except that as the president of the party I expected all the delegates to conform to party rules and procedures, however, that turned out not to be the case, hence I am not in a position to comment further pending the finalization of the internal process.
WO: In general, what do you think are the causes of division within NUDO?
AM: Misguided individual aspirations are the main cause.
WO: What does the next party president have to do to unite the party?
AM: The next president needs to lead horses to water ponds without forcing them to drink. In addition, the next party president has to promote the interest of the party at all times rather than imposing self-interests.
WO: What are your plans for your political career, should you leave the party’s presidency?
AM: It is my desire to retire gracefully, but if and when needed by the party, I will avail myself to assist wherever necessary.
WO: After the chaotic scenes during and after the ill-fated congress, do you think that the party is in any position to convince new members to join?
AM: What you are terming chaotic is a sign that democracy, freedom of expression, freedom of affiliation has its roots within the NUDO party hence a magnet to attract new members.
WO: Do you see the party winning more votes in next year’s elections, and why?
AM: Most definitely, because NUDO is not a one man affair, hence the party will grow from strength-to-strength by building on the party’s successes of the past elections.