Analysts say that jockeying for the SWAPO Party top four positions has started ahead of the party’s elective congress later this year after the SWAPO Party Youth League, the ruling party’s Kunene regional coordinator and the NUNW president all made pronouncements on their preferred candidate in recent days.
They say that at the surface, the pronouncements appear to give SWAPO Party Acting President, Hage Geingob, an advantage over any potential candidate in the race to become the party’s leader in the next five years, but a closer look reveals a desperate attempt by Geingob to try and put a spark into his campaign given that he has lost the support of his foot soldier and chief architect of his 2012 elective congress victory, Armas Amukwiyu.
The Windhoek Observer understands that Geingob called the SPYL nominees to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary positions over the weekend to congratulate them despite their highly contested nominations.
The fact that big guns such as the Founding President Sam Nujoma and his predecessor Hifikepunye Pohamba have not committed themselves to endorse Geingob, according to media reports, has made Geingob desperate.
Leading political analyst, Henning Melber, feels that Geingob, who for the second time running, snubbed Nujoma’s birthday last weekend, might have lost an opportunity to get the founding president’s blessings.
“He (Nujoma) did not do so (endorse Geingob) at his birthday party, which would have been a golden opportunity. But why should he endorse a successor, who is not even there to congratulate him in person?” he said.
Analysts say that the SWAPO Party under the leadership of Geingob and Secretary General Nangolo Mbumba tried to downplay and “downgrade” the founding president’s birthday by making it a low-key event this year despite promising last year that the party would organise future celebrations.
On the eve of the celebrations, Mbumba informed the public that there would be no celebrations, but only a small ceremony to hand over a clinic and school.
This is despite the fact that the Sam Nujoma birthday celebrations have become key SWAPO gatherings where regional coordinators, district mobilisers, Cabinet ministers and governors meet and interact. Last year, the event was successfully hosted by Amukwiyu, who was recently barred from visiting other SWAPO structures in other regions.
Melber said the SPYL endorsement of Geingob over the weekend counts little given the current controversies.
“Who really can claim to speak for the branch, given the ongoing contestation over the (SPYL) leadership?” he said.
He added that internal strife is threatening to rip the SWAPO Party apart, with differences in opinion quickly forming clear lines of divisions.
“While team Hage claims that he holds the party presidency not in an acting position, this seems not to represent the party-internal uniform opinion and is indicative of different factions.
“Those stressing that he is only acting president clearly want to avoid that he gets an undeserved advantage, since he has never been properly elected into this position. This suggests more than merely differences in opinion on how the party statutes are applied. It has to do with the positioning for the start of the race for party and state presidency.”
Deputy Director of the University of Namibia’s Centre for Professional Development and Teaching and Learning, Ndumba Kamwanyah, said the decision by Nujoma not to publicly pronounce himself on who he is supporting is fuelling mistrust in the party.
“That’s why you are seeing the scramble for his influence playing out because every camp wants to show that they have the old man on their side.
“That also speaks to the big influence Nujoma is still having on the party. If there is anyone that can unite the party it is him by publicly declaring his support to the incumbent and rallying the party behind him. His (Nujoma’s) silence is fuelling the speculation that is pushing the party deeper in the mud,” Kamwanyah opined.
Commenting on developments in SWAPO, DTA’s Treasurer General Nico Smit, said it has become abundantly clear that the run in to the 2017 SWAPO Congress and the SPYL Congress will be characterised by factionalism, in-fighting and creative political manoeuvring.
“The decision by various senior politicians with significant clout and sway - including the Founding Father - to keep their cards close to their chest (at least publicly) for now is therefore not surprising.
“Historically the endorsement of the Founding Father has been decisive within the SWAPO Party.
“Aside from the SPYL which has endorsed Geingob (albeit from a disputed CC Meeting), it would appear that at this stage the real opinion-shapers within the SWAPO Party have, at least publicly, decided to keep their cards close to their chests.
“In the interest of self-preservation, this is likely because they are first waiting to hear from the Founding Father before pronouncing themselves and ending up on the losing side and becoming post-congress casualties.”
Analysts further said that Geingob must show less desperation in his attempt to become the party president and avoid making hasty decisions that will haunt him such as the expulsion of Elijah Ngurare, Job Amupanda, George Kambala and Dimbulukeni Nauyoma, and the recent disciplinary hearing against the youth leaders, which has since collapsed.
Although Geingob sympathisers will claim that these decisions were taken by the Politburo, a senior party official who spoke to the Windhoek Observer said that the Acting Party President was emotionally blackmailing Politburo members by accusing them of not doing enough to campaign or to defend him against any criticism. The Politburo member cited the example of the recent disciplinary charges against Amupanda and company, in which the Politburo under strong instructions from Geingob pushed for the youth leaders to be charged, only for the party’s legal advisors to advice against such a move in the absence of a complainant in the matter.
Analysts said the whole episode brought to the fore the party’s ability to respect laws and processes, which were being side-lined for personal interests and political expediency by the party leadership.