Geingob’s popularity under test

03 August 2018 Author   Eliaser Ndeyanale

Analysts have predicted that President Hage Geingob likely will not maintain his record 87 percent electoral mandate he received in the 2014 presidential election because of several factors that will work against him, including the current economic crisis and divisions within the ruling party. Analysts have predicted that President Hage Geingob likely will not maintain his record 87 percent electoral mandate he received in the 2014 presidential election because of several factors that will work against him, including the current economic crisis and divisions within the ruling party. 

They cautioned that unless something drastically changes between now and next year’s election, Geingob risks getting fewer votes than SWAPO, a reversal in fortunes compared to the 2014 election where the president had more votes than his party. 
Analysts say that the country’s struggling economy, high unemployment rate and poverty are some of the disabling factors that will work against the president. 
However, Press Secretary and Presidential Advisor, Dr Alfredo Hengari, said the fact that 87 percent of Namibians overwhelmingly voted for the president in the 2014 elections as well as the fact that his slate won by a landslide during last year’s SWAPO party leadership contest shows that Namibians have faith in the president. 
“Last year, the president and his slate won the party leadership contest overwhelmingly, a forceful demonstration of the confidence the party rank and file have in his leadership and ability to take the party forward, and of course the country unless we are questioning the wisdom of Namibians and the party rank and file, which is not what you want to do.”
Hengari said the economic crisis facing the country is not Geingob’s fault as Namibia has been going through a difficult period of low economic growth occasioned by the global commodity cycle bust. “Even under those circumstances, the president has kept the country steady, cutting down on waste and seeking improvement in service provision. The economy is improving and there is light at the end of the tunnel.” He said the president’s achievements are many to enumerate such as fiscal consolidation to ensure that growth is sustainable and public finances can support future economic shocks, adding that the president has increased the old-age pension by 60 percent to N$1200. 
“The multiplier effect of that pension increase is known, leading to improvements in the quality of life of households since the elderly tend to look after many.
“All members and sympathizers of the SWAPO Party have an obligation to rally behind the party’s candidate for the Presidential and National Assembly elections,” he said.
Political analyst Ndumbah Kamwanyah opined that Geingob’s Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP) is not producing the desired outcomes it was developed for and is likely to affect his campaign for a second term. 
“The other factor is the disunity in SWAPO and country in general. I see a situation where some SWAPO members and supporters voting for the SWAPO Party, but abstaining from voting the president,” Kamwanyah said. 
He said the SWAPO Party Congress last November (and the aftermath events that followed) has inflicted a lot of harm in terms of party unity and inner democracy. 
“At the national level, we are also seeing people retreating back to their ethnic groupings because many feel left out. In fact, come election next year, we will see election outcomes that will mirror ethnic lines in terms of voting.  
“The outcome of the land conference will also add additional dynamics (positive or negative) that will also influence the election process,” he said.
Asked whether Geingob, who will be 79 years old by the time of next year’s election and one of the oldest presidents in the SADC region, will still have the stamina for a vigorous election campaign, the academic said the president looks healthy, fit and mentally-ready. 
“In Africa, age is just a number and does not seem to slow politicians.  He is a freedom fighter that has spent many years in the struggle. I would like to think that the long and bitter struggle has prepared him to endure even at that advanced age, therefore I don’t see age slowing him from campaigning next year.”
Hengari also said the president is a workhorse, who wakes up early in the morning and goes to bed late, working at all times.  “Anyone who works with the president cannot question his stamina and the amount of hours the president invests in the work of government.”
Outlining some of the president’s achievements during his tenure, Kamwanyah said Geingob’s HPP is an achievement in the sense that he was able to develop a vision of what his presidency would like to achieve. 
He said consultation with the community, where the president listened to their challenges, hopes and aspirations, is also a big achievement in itself. 
“But whether the plan is achieving its intended outcomes is a different matter,” Kamwanyah said. 
“Other achievements are the increase in old age pension scheme, the food bank, the assets declaration, and reform of the tendering system.”
Political pundit, Graham Hopwood, said while voters may be unhappy with some aspects of SWAPO's rule, they are still prepared to vote for the party at election time - probably in the hope that things will change for the better in the future.
On Geingob’s association with Chinese businessman, Jack Huang, who is facing charges of corruption among others, Kamwanyah said there is an anger or negative public sentiment (perceived or real) against the Chinese, especially the notion that many are viewed as being in bed with the politicians, including the view that they are given preferential treatment when it comes to state tenders.  
“Therefore in the court of public opinion, his association with Mr Jack Huang can be seen and interpreted in that way, even though there is nothing unethical between them,” he added.
Despite some of Geingob’s shortcomings, political commentator, Henning Melber, said he is not convinced that the leader of the official opposition party, McHenry Venaani, will make significant inroads with the electorate. 
“McHenry Venaani is a new type of opposition politician, but his party is not. I would be very surprised if he will make any meaningful inroads. I think his strength is also his weakness: he is able to play to the gallery and impress people with public stunts — which at times appear exactly like public stunts (such as the stay in a shack). I think as long as SWAPO remains the dominant party there is only change taking place inside the party.”
Hopwood added that in the past, any scandals or accusations of corruption that have been associated with SWAPO leaders have not affected voting patterns. 
“At the moment, there is little indication that voters are turning away from SWAPO.  The opposition is not presenting an alternative vision for the country, apart from the PDM which is articulating alternative polices and positions. However, many voters may be reluctant to switch votes to the PDM because of its historical past as the DTA.” 
He said the PDM is likely to scoop up some of the votes that previously went to failing opposition parties, but it is too early to say whether it can impact in any significant way on SWAPO's share of the vote.
Venaani on his part said his party has started with nation-wide campaigns which includes door to door aimed at luring people to join his party, but he could not say whether his party will eat into some of the votes that Geingob and SWAPO received in 2014.

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