The succession debate for the SWAPO Vice-President unofficially kicked off shortly after the last SWAPO Congress in 2007, amidst attempts by the leadership to curtail such public debates. Rightly or wrongly, intentionally or not, there have been some few fundamental “flaws” that fuelled the succession debates albeit only through media forums, discussions over a braai, at shebeens and even within the confines of homes.
Firstly was the confusion as whether the “guided democracy” on the succession issue was to start immediately after the 2007 Congress or only after the 2012 Congress. The second issue that nearly ignited ethnic tension was the call from certain quarters of the Namibian society that it was time for a non-Oshiwambo President.
We all agree that as much as this is a very sensitive matter, it is an issue which is supposed to be irrelevant to the succession race. It however remains potent as it can potentially derail all our gains of fostering an all-inclusive society if not handled with the required political maturity.
History has taught us that ethnicity should never be the yard-stick for selection of the top political leadership, much so in a polarized society as Namibia coming out of a long history of racial and ethnic segregation. The leadership should be chosen primarily based on competence and know-how, unfortunately the race or ethnic undertones are real.
The third fundamental “flaw” was declaring the position of SWAPO President not to be contested at the 2012 Congress, thereto endorsing the incumbent un-opposed. This in itself demonstrates a motion of confidence in the incumbent to lead the Party for a second term as President of the Party. This was indeed commendable move.
One would have expected that if the President needed another mandate, the same should have applied to those that have supported him in delivering on the SWAPO Manifesto of 2009. Failure to reconfirm the VP, SG and Deputy SG could be interpreted as they did not fully fulfil the mandate given to them at the last Congress. President Pohamba has been a man who believes in the collective. His performance can therefore be measured in tandem with the performance of his lieutenants in the Top Four hierarchy of the Party leadership.
In a young and developing democracy, presidential succession can be a “curse” and blessing alike. Party politics in Namibia is slowly transitioning itself from ‘political independence’ rhetoric to real butter and bread politics. We have started seeing the political paradigm shift, where socio-economic interests are taking centre stage in our political discourse. .
Unquestionably our political leadership has laid a very strong political and sound economic foundation during the past two decades, amidst mountains of challenges of correcting the economic imbalances of the pre-independence era. The economic struggle in this decade can no longer be business as usual.
What the three contenders for the VP position have in common besides being long and tested cadres, is the fact that all of them are the generation of “yester-years”. It is a generation that unfortunately is still needed for the gradual political transition to a younger poli-technocrat leadership of post-2020. All three candidates are also well-known for their firmness and no-nonsense approach.
The three contenders are politically capable of managing the affairs of Namibia post-2014. Namibia however, doesn’t only require a leadership that is only politically strong and decisive, but a leadership that understands the modern dynamics of globalisation, a leadership that will ensure that Namibia can compete economically on equal footing with the rest of the globe, a leadership that will bring us closer to an industrialized state as per Vision 2030 aspirations, a leadership that will put the interest of all Namibians first above anything else.
Namibia can no longer linger on political oratory of yester-years. The born-frees want certainty that the economic struggle that the current leadership has embarked upon post-independence will eventually start paying off significantly in terms of job creation, poverty reduction (if not poverty alleviation), increased standard of living, quality education, quality health-care, etc.
That is what distinguishes the characters, personalities and strength of the three contenders for the SWAPO Party Vice-Presidency. It is undeniable that the three contenders have diverse qualities and personas. It is unfortunate that we are not going to compare oranges to oranges, but oranges to banana or sorghum to maize. Depending on what criteria and the type of a leadership we want post-2014, any of the three can emerge victorious.
The question that has been frequently thrown around at informal public debates is who among the three contenders is best-suited to assume the mantle of the highest office in Namibia.
Geingob has demonstrated his leadership abilities for having being the Prime Minister for two terms and is currently the VP of the SWAPO Party. Ithana has been a Minister since March 1990 and served in various Ministerial portfolios and currently is the SG of the Party, whereas Ekandjo is also a long-standing Minister who also served in various Ministerial portfolios is currently the Secretary of Information and Publicity of the Party.
Having spent 22 years in consolidating our political independence, those gains should translate in a new economic agenda that will take us to 2030 where Namibia is set to have reached the status of an industrialised state. The Founding Father and the current President have delivered in laying a strong foundation, and it is now time to have a new leader who will meander through the challenges of attaining economic prosperity.
Namibia now requires a leader who will put his undivided attention in driving our economic agenda. Namibia needs to start competing in the global arena as an economic force to be reckoned with through the economic exploitation of our resources. Namibia needs to start competing to attract the required capital and foreign direct investment necessary in achieving our desired state of an industrialised nation by 2030.
Namibia requires a leader who will meaningfully address the scourge of poverty among its citizens. Namibia requires a leader who will still be able to balance the politic and the economic realm. If Namibia has to marshal closer to Vision 2030, then we require an uncompromising strong leader with the qualities necessary to take Namibia closer to an industrialised state.
Unfortunately, as painful as it might be to those that think otherwise, and with due respect and humility, in this race, only the incumbent VP can stand up to that mantle. The current race is painfully a race of un-equals. In that context, one can not but agree more with President Pohamba, that his deputy deserves another mandate as VP.