The single-minded drive for power by the Acting President of the SWAPO Party, Hage Geingob, may be a medicine with serious negative side effects.
If those voting at the upcoming elective congress give Geingob the absolute power he is avidly seeking, he may well self-destruct and damage the party at the same time. It is one thing to give power to someone who can handle it, and quite another to give it to someone who may implode under the weight of responsibility.
His actions over the last week and particularly during a recent politburo meeting have underlined the reservations against Geingob’s leadership that we have noted before. What the spate of veteran SWAPO leaders have said in recent days, is what we have been saying all along.
His latest major political missteps have exposed his need for obeisance from party members.
The resultant negative backlash from various senior comrades in the party who have previously been silent or leaning in support of his candidacy, echoed our previous comments regarding Geingob.
Last weekend, the acting party president called the Politburo to his home. Of the 24 members, he did not invite Kazenambo Kazenambo, Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, Helmut Angula, Jerry Ekandjo, Nahas Angula, and Ben Amathila. This is disturbing.
As a leader, you cannot misuse membership-elected, party structures by picking and choosing who you want to be involved with. It appears that if Geingob believes someone has an opinion different from his or will ask a question he does not want to hear, he will override the rules and exclude them. Could it be that he only holds audience with those who are his devotees or who feel grateful to him for their positions or jobs?
Sources have told us that he referred to Nahas Angula as ‘selfish’ during that meeting. And yet, his own behaviour in subverting party rules time and again, is nothing else, but self-serving.
The SWAPO Party does not belong to one individual, but to all its members. SWAPO is not Hage Geingob’s property. Its structures exist to serve the party and its members, not one person. If there is an official Politburo meeting, then all who are elected by the party to that organ, must be given the chance to attend; to exclude select people for personal reasons is divisive.
Geingob’s action in opening an official meeting that had an existing agenda fixed in advance that did not include nominations for party offices with his slate of candidates as the “only people I will work with”, is pre-emptive and dictatorial. What happened to a democratic SWAPO Party with rules that dictate how leaders are elected? Does the acting SWAPO president know the rules of the party?
An opening statement on the agenda is no place to insert your ‘choices’ for the various offices and speak as if the election process is over before it has started. We are compelled to ask, ‘Is Geingob’s hubris out of control?’
This move was not subtle or clever, but brash and destructive, like a bull in a china shop. Telling Politburo members that there will be “consequences” if they do not toe the line and support him and his list, may well be the final straw.
Geingob’s actions show his level of intolerance to any opposing viewpoints. The Harambee House says that no one will be left out. But in the SWAPO House, led by Geingob, that seems not to be the case. ‘Support me or you’re out’, seems to be the message.
Over the last several years, we have witnessed how he has dropped those who helped him win election and supported him even when he was not in Government. And now in his precipitous announcement of his list of people who must be in various party offices, we see how he made double promises to varying individuals for the same posts.
Sources have indicated that the office of vice president was promised to several party stalwarts, and yet, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah came up with the baton. Did she get the nod because she bows the lowest to Geingob or because she has support from a political power-house that even Geingob dares not refuse? We are unsure.
Is it a characteristic of a visionary and unifying leader with integrity to tease, titillate and manipulate supporters, using them when they are needed and discarding them when you are finished?
In a mature democracy, free speech must be respected even if it is hard to bear. Geingob’s long memory and desire for vengeance against anyone who has spoken or acted in a way that he feels is ‘against him’ will drag him down. If he is head of the SWAPO Party, he may well drag it down with him.
We think that Geingob’s determined drive to achieve the presidency of the party is a drive for total control, an impossible goal that may well destroy him in the end. Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.