Pohamba left behind a mess - Job
Featured

03 April 2017 Author   Sonja Smith

Firebrand youth politician, Job Amupanda, has launched a scathing attack on former President, Hifikepunye Pohamba, saying that the elderly statesman had “left the party in a mess”, when he resigned as SWAPO president in April 2015. Amupanda, who has expressed an interest in running for either the SWAPO presidency or vice presidency posts at the upcoming ruling party congress, also accused Pohamba of being a “president in absentia”, during his ten years as Head of State from 21 March 2005 to 21 March 2015.

His remarks came after Pohamba was quoted by the media recently, berating youth leaders who go around insulting others by labelling them “zombies”.

Amupanda coined the word “zombies” to describe those in SWAPO he disagrees with. He is also among a group of youth leaders who are agitating for a Geingob defeat at the upcoming SWAPO congress.

During his recent public lecture, titled ‘The Role of SWAPO Party School’, Pohamba appeared to claim ignorance of some of the challenges faced by the country during his tenure as Head of State, when he said, “Being an observer you see a lot and hear a lot. I question why was I not told all these things (problems) when I was in the office (as president). Perhaps, I would have made corrections.”

Pohamba, who recently hit the campaign trail, in a bid to secure the SWAPO presidency for Geingob at the upcoming ruling party congress, resigned as SWAPO president on 19 April 2015, which resulted in Geingob being elevated to the position of acting president.

Geingob’s loyalists have in the run-up to this year’s SWAPO Congress, been clamouring for him to be recognised as party president, and not as the acting leader, as this would ensure that he is an automatic candidate for the ruling party’s presidency post.

No incumbent SWAPO president has ever been challenged at an elective congress, a tradition that Geingob’s supporters want to rely on, in order to quash any pretenders from standing against him.

Amupanda said SWAPO was “riddled with confusion” about what Geingob’s current SWAPO status was, because of the actions of Pohamba.

“Although he was slow, one thing about President Pohamba is that he is a fair and kind man. He is not a dictator, nor is he angry all the time.

“Pohamba didn’t use national platforms to attack his former personal friends or use national days to attack imaginary enemies. His SWAPO vice president (Geingob) is now claiming to be a full president. Everyone is terrorised into accepting that.

“The question that is not answered is that, if the vice president expropriated the position of president, claiming to be president, who is the vice president? Better yet, who is the acting vice president?

“I think he (Pohamba) is between a rock and hard place. He left the party in a mess. Because of his resignation the party is riddled with confusion,” Amupanda said.

When contacted to clarify his comments on Pohamba, specifically about the former president’s comments regarding his lack of information about the country’s challenges while he was Head of State, Amupanda said Pohamba should have apologised for his inaction.

“The best he could have done is to say sorry for the inaction during his time. How can he say he was not aware of our problems for ten years? Who exactly didn’t tell him? Is it his prime ministers (he had two) or Cabinet? I still can’t believe it.

“He (Pohamba) was a president in absentia. He should have listened to the youth and not the self-serving people who surrounded him,” Amupanda said.

The Windhoek Observer contacted Pohamba’s personal assistant, Mathews Andreas, this week, who asked to be sent questions, to which he failed to respond, at the time of going to press.

SWAPO Secretary for Information and Mobilisation, Helmut Angula, denied Amupanda’s assertion that SWAPO was in a mess.

“The former president never ruled by decree, but according to regulation. He was elected and supported by all members. What mess? There has not been a mess in SWAPO in the past, and there is no mess as we speak either.

“People must stop interpreting things. What Comrade Pohamba said was that when you are in leadership, you don’t get to see everything, even those around you will not really explain the negative things going around, but once you are out and decide to take steps on your own, problems are out there.

“So this is natural for everyone and there is nothing wrong with what he said,” Angula said.

Political analyst, Ndumba Kamwanyah, said that Amupanda’s criticism of Pohamba was unfair, adding that the land activist is attacking the former president because of his support for Geingob.

“Pohamba is being criticised, especially by the youth, for seemingly still supporting Hage, his fellow elder, at the expense of young leaders. So this has an intergenerational conflict component.

“You also have to know that some people are not happy with Pohamba, because the reason he resigned from the party president position was to retire from politics, but it does not seem so. So the anti-Hage camp is seeing his action as a pre-planned move to advance Hage.

“But I think it is unfair to attack him (Pohamba) on the point of retiring from politics. He is a citizen and he has opinion,” Kamwanyah said.

The political commentator, however, added that the admission by the former president that he was not fully briefed on the extent of the country’s challenges is not good for his legacy, because he is admitting that he was out of touch with what was happening on the ground.

“The truth is that some of the problems facing the country are his legacy, so he cannot use the ‘not knowing’ defence. It is just impossible. Was he living in a State House on Mars, away from Namibia?” Kamwanyah quizzed.


Elected by congress

Extraordinary Professor at the University of Pretoria and the University of Free State’s Centre for African Studies, Henning Melber, said SWAPO’s constitution clearly stipulates that its president is elected by congress.

“From this, it is clear that the current party president does not have the necessary electoral mandate, and hence can only be considered having been appointed in an acting position, until the next proper presidential elections by the congress,” Melber said.

“The resignation of party president, Pohamba, and his proposal to appoint State president and party vice president, Geingob, as his successor is unprecedented and no provisions for such a handover are found in the party constitution. Therefore, this interim solution cannot be considered a legally valid substitute for the party president being elected by congress,” Melber said.

The professor argued that Geingob’s supporters desperately want him to be known as SWAPO president and not as an acting party president, as this “might offer him a comparative advantage over potential other candidates/competitors for this position, by claiming that he legitimately holds the position and only seeks re-election”.

“He would then not be seen ‘only’ as an interim caretaker, but a legitimate office holder, whose authority is based on a proper party decision-making process. This plays into the ‘old men ruler’ mentality.”

Pohamba’s former speechwriter, Dr Charles Mubita, argued that there is no provision in the SWAPO constitution that addresses a situation where a party president resigns.

“There is a general assumption, rightly or wrongly, that should the president resign, for whatever reason, an extraordinary congress may be required to elect a successor, until the next congress. It can also be assumed, that in the event that an extraordinary congress is not deemed necessary, the next person in line steps in the position of president,” Mubita said.

“Those with divergent views on the matter should point to a constitutional provision, which states that the vice president cannot step into the position of president, when the president resigns or is incapacitated. We have had no such experience in the past to serve as reliable precedent in tackling this issue.

“That is why it is really a non-issue. It is of no consequence. Simple logic dictates that if this issue was very contentious in SWAPO, to the magnitude it is rendered on social media, the SWAPO structures, through the central committee, would have invoked Article 5 (12) which states inter-alia that: (12) ‘The central committee may on its own initiative, or at the request of at least two-thirds majority of all regional executive committees, convene an extraordinary congress of the party”. (13) The agenda of an extraordinary congress shall be proposed by the initiators of such a congress. Currently, there is no two-thirds majority within the party that sees this as a major issue to the extent of calling for that extraordinary congress.

“In other words, the majority are content with the way things are, that the party has a president who happens to be the vice president at the same time. The term ‘acting president’, pre-supposes that Comrade Geingob is acting on behalf of someone. Is that the case in reality?” Mubita said.

 

WINDHOEK OBSERVER

The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

Contact Us

Windhoek Observer House
c/o John Meinert & Rossini Street
Windhoek West
Namibia
Tel: +264 61 411 800
Fax: +264 61 226 098
www.observer.com.na