‘Hage should earn second term’

25 August 2017 Author   Sonja Smith
Political analysts and commentators say it is myopic to suggest that President Hage Geingob should serve two terms in office simply because that is what his predecessors did. 
The commentators also said that it will be good for Namibia’s democracy to have two centres of power in order to prevent the political legitimacy of a single point of view that may dominate party and State when power is vested in one person.
They further argued that a sole candidacy for SWAPO’s presidency must not be imposed from the party leadership down to the members, but be subjected to democratic processes within the party structures.
Leading Professor at the University of Pretoria, Henning Melber, said competition should not only be tolerated in SWAPO, but encouraged to achieve the best possible performance which benefits the party.
“It is a silly argument. Presidents are elected for one term and have the opportunity to be elected for a second term if the party and the voters decide so. There is no entitlement to two terms. Elections should be based on merits and achievements. A president needs to earn a second term and cannot simply claim it.
“A sole candidate means automatically being elected the next party president and by implication, the presidential candidate to be elected as Head of State. That is the simple reason why Geingob supporters call for it. It would be the ticket for a second term as State president if health matters do not become an issue.
“Those arguing in favour of it might claim it provides continuity and limits internal disputes and factionalism. But I don’t see it that way. In my view, there are only negatives. Disputes and factionalism are a substantial part of democratic contestation in a party, as long as the factions agree that being on the losing side of the vote, does not mean people should opt out of the process or the system,”Melber said.
He added that competing factions in a party are an integral part of democracy, as long as they stand for different political programmes or strategies.
“Imposing a sole candidate on party members stifles political debate and exchanges.”
Political Analyst and UNAM Director, Ndumba Kamwanyah, argued that two centres of power prevent political unilateralism in which the party political power and the national presidential powers are vested in one person.
“It has some matching effects in terms of checks and balances, whereby each leader will have some measure of influence over the other and may choose to challenge the actions of the other. So in that way, it is good for our democracy because the ruling party needs to check itself in order to prevent political unilateralism,” Kamwanyah said.
He, however, warned that having two centers of power may paralyze the party and country if the candidates are from different factions.
“It can be a paralyzing situation, especially if the two centers of power are from different factions in the party, in which the two centers of power might compete and be at loggerheads with each other. That way, governance will suffer.
“This we have seen in South Africa when then President Thabo Mbeki was ousted from his position as party president by Jacob Zuma. The ANC’s solution to the two centers conundrum was the recall of Thabo Mbeki in which he was replaced by Kgalema Motlanthe as a caretaker national president,” Kamwanyah said.
Nonetheless, Kamwanyah said consistency is an important stabilising factor in politics.
“The party must have a good reason to deviate from what it has been doing for a long time. There is an American proverb that says, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.  However, I think this process of wanting Geingob to serve two terms must not be forced or imposed from the top. It must be subjected to the democratic processes of the party.”
He said the transition from the Nujoma presidency to Pohamba’s presidency did not create any discomfort as Pohamba was Nujoma’s preferred candidate and was from the same camp.
“But there are those who argued that Nujoma was in charge because Pohamba could not bite the hand that fed him.  I have no evidence of that. I think their transition was managed and worked well.
“The simple reason why the Geingob supporters are calling for it (single candidacy) is to prevent a scenario where the president will be challenged and possibly defeated. It is also a sign of vulnerability on their part because they are uncertain or unsure of what will happen if the field is opened.
“Sole candidacy is very limiting because it prevents potentially good candidate from contesting. It also hinders democracy because voters are not presented with choice. So it is an imposition on the will of the members,” he said.
IPPR Executive Director Graham Hopwood said that the fact that no alternative candidate has emerged from the anti-Geingob group within the party three months from Congress, suggests that their strategy is unlikely to be successful.
Hopwood said SWAPO should not impose a sole candidate on congress.
“In the case of Nujoma still being head of the party while Pohamba was in office this was a transitional arrangement which had consensus backing within the party. The situation presently is somewhat different.
“With President Geingob in the middle of his first term and widely expected to seek a second term, it would be logical for him to have both posts - the head of the party and the country. If he was to serve as party president until at least 2022 this would indicate that the ruling party has a unified leadership.
“At the moment, the anti-Geingob group within the party appears to be mulling putting forward a rival candidate to the president. However, the fact that - three months from Congress - the name of a credible alternative candidate has not emerged tends to indicate that this is unlikely to be a successful strategy.
“Instead, it would seem likely that those who are unhappy with Geingob’s leadership will seek to have their candidates elected to other posts, for example, vice president and secretary general - and to have their supporters on the CC.
“If SWAPO is to maintain its internal democracy, there needs to be the option of having a contest if more than one candidate has been nominated for a top post. So I don’t think a ‘sole candidate’ should be imposed on congress. It would strengthen the president’s position more if he was able to defeat any alternative candidate in a fair vote,”Hopwood said.


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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