…The rise of the underdogs
The choice of the DTA of Namibia’s next secretary general is the biggest political story in the party in the run up to this weekend’s elective conference.
On the agenda is the election of a secretary general (SG), deputy secretary general as well as 40 members, who will form part of the central committee. The new DTA draft constitution is also up for adoption.
The SG position has been vacant since August 2015 after Vinsent Kanyetu was chucked out of the party for illegal land dealings, which cost the party its headquarters in Kavango.
The party has since taken the buyer of its property and its former regional coordinator Boniface Kashera to court in a bid to reclaim its property.
Currently, youth chairperson Immanuel Shikongo, Charles Pieters – who serves as a local authority councillor in Keetmanshoop and Erongo regional coordinator Manuel Ngaringombe are the known candidates for the coveted position.
Ngaringombe was at ninth position on the party’s list for the 2014 National Assembly elections while Pieters was at position 13, if the list is anything to go by, Ngaringombe is set to be the party’s next administrator.
However, most of the party’s seats obtained in the Regional Council and Local Authority elections came from the south, a fete that could play in Pieters’ favour.
As for Shikongo, he was not on the party list but since the party has resolved to move its headquarters to Oshakati, Shikongo’s chances can also not be ruled out.
The successful candidate will be based in Oshakati.
Judging by how President McHenry Venaani redefined the organisation since taking over in 2013 into a more action-oriented party, party members will be wary of how the process is managed to avoid conflicts that may arise while others are hoping for a non-Otjiherero secretary general so that the party can show that it is indeed a multi-tribe party.
Both Venaani and his deputy Kazeongere Tjeundo hail from the Otjiherero group.
Considering what happened at its youth league convention whereby youth members were left divided after their elective conference in 2015, acting SG Elma Dienda said this week she is hopeful that the party will emerge from the convention as a unit despite the outcome.
“We will make sure the elections are as free as possible and that those who are contesting are not victimised,” said Dienda, who opted not to contest the position.
Nominations will be done from the floor, she said.
“I hope all the candidates will accept the outcome so that we can continue in peace. We do not want name-calling and gossip stories afterwards,” she cautioned.
So far, the campaign for a female secretary general seems non-existent, unless the party’s female cadres are campaigning underground.
Should a female candidate not surface, it means the entire top four positions of the party will be male dominated – unless, of course, if the party’s coordinator for Otjozondjupa Utshi Katjina, who is rumoured to be vying for the deputy secretary general position manages to eclipse her counterpart from Ohangwena, Hidipo Hamata.
The tribal vote
Tribalism is threatening to rip the country’s official opposition party apart, as party members from the country’s largest tribe – Oshiwambo – claim that they are mere “step-children” within the party’s ranks.
Some of DTA’s Oshiwambo-speaking party members, who spoke on condition of anonymity, made it clear that they want a non-Otjiherero secretary general at the party’s upcoming special elective congress.
A party source yesterday said for integration purposes, the post of SG must go to Pieters because of his contribution during the 2015 regional and local authority elections. This comes months after Venaani made it clear that candidates should be voted based on their capabilities and not necessarily their tribes.
The situation has left the party’s youthful leader Venaani in a political quagmire, but Venaani is not succumbing to the tribal political sloganeering just yet. During a wide-ranging interview with The Patriot earlier this year, Venaani admitted that there is indeed a full swing campaign aimed at side-lining Otjiherero party members from contesting for the SG position.Clearly irked by the tribal card being played by some party members, Venaani said “any capable party member can contest for the position”.
“I am aware of the fact that some of the party members would like to have an Oshiwambo-speaking secretary general. But all I want is an SG that can perform regardless of the tribe. I am not anti-Oshiwambo, I simply want an SG that will carry the party’s programme,” Venaani said.
Lamenting the emergence of this dangerous trend, he also dismissed claims that Otjiherero party members have been receiving special treatment over the years.
“As much as it is a good thing for the party to have an Oshiwambo-speaking SG or rather just somebody that is from a different ethnic group, the party needs to have an SG that is performing. They need to campaign in a manner in which they inform the leaders of their strategies on how they intend to grow the party,” said Venaani. Many political parties in Namibia, although not explicitly stated, continue to run along tribal lines with certain tribes dominating party affairs while the rest are left out in the cold despite analysts warning that the situation is not tenable.
Local analysts are seldom surprised by the tribal cards being played by some of the DTA members because “politics in Namibian has long been run along tribal undertones”.