A detailed analysis of the results of the pot emerging from the 2019 Swapo Electoral College is still evolving. But two clear points have emerged.
First- Former Team Swapo leader, Jerry Ekandjo’s acceptance of the jaded hand-out of a high place on the list of party nominees for parliament courtesy of Geingob, reflects a base level of hypocrisy and betrayal of those who supported him.
Second – The places on the party list for those who campaigned for offices as a part of Team Swapo at the 2017 party congress affirm their political death. Their marginalized political state is the ancient Roman public crucifixion of state criminals whose dying bodies were planted along the Appian Way as a warning to all others who may try to go the same route. The message is clear: toe the party line or this will happen to you.
Jerry Ekandjo (72) is an experienced comrade. He has achieved important milestones in his long career before and after independence. However, his acceptance of the political crumbs from Geingob’s table while his allies and supporters starve is disappointing.
Recall that former British Prime Minister David Cameron, after losing the Brexit vote in 2016, resigned immediately. He articulated and advocated for a position that the people voted against. How then could he remain in office to implement a policy he firmly opposed? He kept his honour, scorned hypocrisy and expressed political maturity. He walked away from high office, undaunted. Ekandjo should take note.
The president, in a politically clever act, placed the final nail in the coffins of his rivals and offered Ekandjo one of the 10 appointment places the president is allowed. Contrary to the analysis of some pundits, we see this not as a gesture of unity, but as a victory dance that seals the deal of Hage’s complete control over Swapo. All independent or contrary thinking is squashed.
Hage has not offered a political lifeline to Ekandjo. The party leader’s well-known penchant to never forget a slight or insult is the reason that the bone was tossed to the defeated Team Swapo leader. This employment lure ensures a parliamentary paycheck for another five years. It has been royally granted to the prostrate Ekandjo who has been a pain in Geingob's side for decades. From now on, when Ekandjo eats, he knows it is from Geingob’s hand. It was not a gesture for unity, but a brilliantly executed power play. It has been said that it is cold outside of Swapo, but it is an artic chill to be muzzled and rendered politically irrelevant while inside Swapo. Ekandjo will eat courtesy of Geingob’s largesse and with each bite, will be reminded that “I appointed you.”
We would wonder how the brave internal activist who challenged the Boers during the struggle, accepts such an offer. He articulated positions challenging government policies and criticizing the poor performance. He formulated a platform of ideas that need to be implemented to correct the errors plaguing the country. This is how a healthy democracy works.
Ekandjo brought many to his side. Some in the party and leadership posts heard his message and joined his efforts. They honestly thought sought to strengthen the party by integrating better ways of bringing the nation forward.
In the end, after the landslide vote, Team Swapo lost. These are political realities in the real world. Contesting for office was the right qualified internal candidates. Articulating a different platform is a part of that. However, the members spoke via the ballot box. The power center and the direction of the party’s programs were decided.
They stood together and lost together. Ekandjo’s partners who did not get a juicy bone from Geingob, now languish at positions on the list that were laughed at by some at the Electoral Congress. Those people left behind can justifiably complain, “We have shown faith and support to you – and this is the result? The next time you seek support, how do we respect you?”
Many have commented on whether Ekandjo’s acceptance of Geingob’s token is about salary or income. The former minister declined to comment on the matter until after he is sworn in next March (assuming Swapo wins the appropriate number of seats). There is truth in the sentiments of former premier and Swapo Party stalwart, Nahas Angula. He lamented that “Competent people don’t go to Parliament. It is people who cannot get jobs [elsewhere] who go to Parliament.”
Party voters were urged by Hage to purge those who did not support him. Pot outcome settles the final score. The list and rankings do not show party unity. We note that the constituencies of other leaders are also ‘out.’
Team Harambee showed cracks. Key supporters of the Deputy Prime Minister and party vice president, Netumbo Nandi Ndaitwah suffered defeat. Eunice Iipinge, Veikko Nekundi, and Ephraim Nekongo received unfavourable placements on the list and dimmed Netumbo’s hopes for the 2022 congress. Nandi-Ndaitwah has suffered a political wounding to the extent that some have wondered what her real number on the list would be had she not been wheelbarrowed into an un-earned (at the ballot box) number one slot.
The pot has yielded a great outcome for the party president. Geingob has marginalized all opponents and consolidated his position as granter-of-favours. It begs the question of whether diverse views within Swapo will ever be articulated again.
Some time ago, there was a cosmopolitan Swapo. The heavyweight political thinkers like Nujoma, Nahas, Gurirab, Geingob and Hidipo were all under the same umbrella. And, they all pulled hard for varying points of view. That type of push-and-pull power structure is gone with only one voice, one point of view holding sway. Does this make the ruling party and therefore, the nation, stronger or weaker? Time will tell.
The bottom line is that Team Swapo has been completely vanquished and now sits in the dustbin of Namibian political history. The slogan on the front door of the new Swapo Party Headquarters should be: “Abandon all ideas different from the leaders, ye who enter here.”
Finally, let there be no doubt that Hage Geingob is in a much stronger position, moving ahead to the Swapo 2022 congress as he passes the 80-year-old mark.
The next power hurdle lies in the November elections where Swapo stands poised to affirm the supermajority of the ruling party. The results of that vote will confirm the utter weakness of the Opposition. It will also indirectly punish the errant masses of eligible voters who sacrifice their democratic voices by staying away from the polls.