Former SWAPO President, Hifikepunye Pohamba, has ducked confirming President Hage Geingob as president of the party in his response to an enquiry by the Windhoek Observer.
Pohamba avoided saying whether Geingob is SWAPO Party President or acting in that capacity.
Although he acknowledged that the question is important to the public, the former SWAPO Party President said he would rather answer the question at the upcoming elective congress scheduled for November.
Pohamba becomes the third high-ranking SWAPO member to cast further doubts on the hotly contentious issue of whether Geingob is the president or acting president of the ruling party.
This comes three weeks after SWAPO Secretary for Information and Mobilisation, Helmut Angula, said it did not matter whether Geingob was acting or not.
“When we reach the national congress, everyone steps down, there will be no president. Whether he is acting or he is the president, is immaterial. If he is elected, he is elected. If he is not elected, then he is not elected. It does not matter whether he is acting or not.
“So, it is immaterial whether he is acting or not. All we know is that when former President Hifikepunye Pohamba gave up the title, he gave all the chairmanship to the current president. When we go to congress, no one has time to question whether the person is acting or not acting,” Angula said recently in an interview with the Windhoek Observer.
In an exclusive interview with the Windhoek Observer this week, SWAPO Central Committee and Politburo member, Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, bluntly stated that Geingob was an acting president.
“The Central Committee has the right to appoint an acting person, pending the next congress and that next congress is the one to ratify [or not] that decision. So, under normal circumstances that is what ought to happen,” she said.
“The Constitution provides for an extraordinary congress to be called because this is not just a position which can be filled by the next person in line. It’s a position that was specifically voted for; a particular person went in there, was voted for and occupied it.
“As such, if we did not want to have an acting person, we could have called for an extraordinary congress, which should have looked at the scenario. That extraordinary congress should have decided that you no longer have somebody acting; you now have a substantive person in the position.”
Quizzed on growing concerns in some quarters that the party Constitution was violated after Pohamba stepped down from the party leadership, Iivula-Ithana, who is also the Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration, said the question should be directed to the former president himself to explain what actually happened.
“Comrade Pohamba in his own right, as a member of the party and as the president then, had all the right to declare his willingness to continue in that position or not. It is his right and nobody can take it away from him.
“What probably has caused some discomfort is what actually happened after he declared his unwillingness to continue as the president of the party. Because there is a vacancy that has occurred midstream between the two congresses and when something happens in-between the two congresses, obviously the Central Committee sits to look at the situation.”
She admitted that the decision not to hold an extraordinary congress to decide on the party’s top position when Pohamba stepped down has become a thorny issue in the party.
“There has always been that person who was occupying that position, who was nominated and there was no other person nominated during the time of Nujoma and Pohamba. When Nujoma stepped down, it was at the congress and there was a vice president who was ready to fill that position and that’s how it was.
“And this time, there were some of us, who were of the view that Comrade Pohamba, who was leaving, should step back and take a sabbatical, but remain as the titular holder of the position of party president until congress, where he could technically resume his position and lay the groundwork for the next person to assume office. That could have been normal. Another option was that, he could call an extraordinary congress and table the name of the next person to fill the position,” Iivula-Ithana said.
“But, the way things were done has caused consternation among party members, and it is not nice...The unconstitutionality of it is that the person who stepped down recommended the vice president to take over, but maybe it could have been left to the members of the Central Committee to express themselves on how to proceed, and this did not happen.”
Iivula-Ithana added that despite numerous amendments, the ruling party’s Constitution remains a key guiding document on how SWAPO conducts its business.
“The SWAPO Party Constitution is what differentiates the SWAPO Party members from members of other political parties. Without it, we are just like every other person. So, that is what constitutes us as party members. And to me, the SWAPO Party Constitution is a document that has evolved for many years.
“I don’t know how many times we have amended this Constitution, and we amend it deliberately to cater for those instances where we found it lacking. We don’t do anything outside the framework of this document. To me, [doing] without it and violating it is a serious thing and I do not want us to be found wanting in that respect,” she said.