- Namibian politics to largely focus on Swapo Party’s succession struggle in 2017
- Calls for Geingob to stand unopposed at congress
- Can natural succession and democracy coexist in politics?
- Economic debate cannot be ignored
Analysts say a large portion of Namibian politics this year will be focused on the ruling party and how it manages its succession struggles and internal affairs.
But while political analysts expects much attention to be shifted to Swapo’s in-house affairs, economists are of the view that the country’s precarious economic position could eclipse Swapo’s watershead congress as Government robustly pursue ways to cut spending, increase revenues and tighten the fiscal screws to avoid any resource wastage.
Many believe international perceptions of Namibia’s investment climate has wavered this year due to the various economic challenges that have engulfed the once-attractive investment destination.
Last year saw, among others the credit rating agencies changing Namibia’s outlook from positive to negative, Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein cutting the country’s budget by N$5.5 billion and blocking new state tenders, freezing of all government vacancies and a ravaging drought that has continued to keep farmers on their knees.
The spotlight has also fallen on President Geingob numerous times.
The local perception of good governance in Namibia has plummuted due to a key number of policy and governance shortcomings.
Discussions on who should be elected president of Swapo later this year continues to be confined underground, despite murmurs that former prime minister Nahas Angula could challenge Geingob.
Angula last year brushed off talks that he plans to challenge Geingob.
There is also support from party seniors who want the party to explore the possibility of avoiding slates and contestation for the top seat at the party’s congress later this year.
The dates for the congress remains a mystery for now, but without explicitly saying Geingob will stand unopposed, the party’s secretary general Nangolo Mbumba is adamant that Geingob will get a second term.
The prospect of having a State President who is not party president is a reality, but many hope it becomes a fantasy sooner than later.
When former Swapo president Hifikepunye Pohamba unceremoniously stepped down in 2015 he said there was need for the State President to be at the helm of the party for coordination purposes.
At the time Geingob served as Pohamba’s deputy.
Some party insiders, names withheld, have questioned the party’s unwritten natural succession policy.
“Democracy and natural succession cannot coexist. People must be allowed to choose whoever they want,” said the insider.
It is tradition in Swapo that the vice president will automatically become the next party president.
Swapo has struggled to shrug off the 2012 fights that literally tore the party into two as Geingob and his then competitor Jerry Ekandjo had their knives out after the watershed congress that elected Geingob as vice president.
Divisions continue to simmer in the party and claims of victimisation are the order of the day, especially among the youth members who were divided between Ekandjo and Geingob.
This is evident in the social media war that has erupted between Swapo Party Youth League members that have established groups with names such as “Namibian Peacemakers”, “Forward Namibia” and “Namibia Youth Engagement”.
The SPYL congress is slated for August.
The camps of acting SPYL Secretary Veikko Nekundi and axed SPYL Secretary Dr.Elijah Ngurare’s are expected to battle it out for the national executive committee positions.
Geingob has started to sound like a broken record as he sings the unity song in the party. It’s clear his calls for party cadres to unite is falling on deaf ears.
Veteran academic and political analyst Professor Joseph Diescho says the lack of a succession plan could hit Namibia hard should current Namibian and acting Swapo President Hage Geingob fail to emerge victorious at the party’s Elective Congress later this year.
According to Diescho, the congress that is slated for November 2017 could be fatal for the future of Namibia because for the first time in the history of the country, “it is not clear” whether the incumbent party president will retain his position.
“For the first time it’s not very clear that the current president (Hage Geingob), who’s the acting party (Swapo) president will get the presidency of the party,”
“And this is where the consternation is, it really traumatises him (Geingob), that an idea exists that they (Swapo) may not make him president (and) that’s why he doesn’t like the acknowledgement that he is acting president,” noted Diescho.
Diescho suggested that despite calls from Swapo to refer to Geingob as the party’s “party president”, the reality remains that he is “vice-president”.
This suggests that Swapo are without a permanent president leading to this year’s congress since 2012 according to Diescho.
In addition, the analyst further pointed out that the way Geingob has handled human relations within the party and by extension the government made it difficult for Swapo to “anoint” him as its next president.
“He is too driven to make his legacy and he is doing it at the expense of the party,” “He really needs to learn how to manage human relations, people are hurt because of Geingob, many people don’t see him to be fair,” added Diescho.
Moreover, Diescho stressed that any leader in history who was seen to hurt his own people never succeeded and this was the case with Geingob.
“There are too many voices that are hurting because of Hage Geingob which is not helpful,” lamented Diescho. In addition, the seasoned writer said one of the key things that might lead towards Geingob’s downfall is his team of advisors, the dubbed A-Team.
“If the advisors are there by the time congress comes, we have a problem because they (advisors) will not be at the meetings (Central Committee), in other words the president will be forced to have two meetings, we can’t afford that,” lashed Diescho.
‘Geingob going nowhere’
On the other hand, responding to questions put to him by The Patriot, Swapo Secretary-general (SG) Nangolo Mbumba said he had no doubts that Geingob would emerge victorious come November.
According to Mbumba, discussing about the possibility of Geingob losing at the congress was as “waste” of time.
“I do not anticipate such an outcome, so I will not waste my time discussing it, this is real politics and not high school things,” said a clearly confident Mbumba.
Work before campaigns
Furthermore, fears have emerged that high ranking government officials, especially Ministers and Deputy could be too busy campaigning for positions within the party structures in the said congress thus turning a blind eye on their day-to-day duties.
When approached this week, Mbumba did not sound all too worried about such a scenario saying “all ministers and Swapo MPs alike will give 100 per cent to their work. “
The Swapo SG the elective congress does not interfere with ministerial duties and as such all ministers must be in “charge” of their respective ministries.
“The ministers have signed performance contracts and should perform accordingly and behave like ministers,” said Mbumba.
Mbumba said he will not “defend” any Swapo member that fails in the execution of their duty.
At the last Swapo elective congress which took place in 2012, the party president position was not contested for, paving the way for Pohamba to maintain his seat.
As a consequence, the candidates in 2012 only vied for party vice president position. Those competing then were Hage Geingob, Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana and Jerry Ekandjo. Geingob came out on top which subsequently made him the party’s automatic candidate for the 2014 presidential elections.
Moreover, before his presidential term came to an end Pohamba relinquished his role as party president paving way for Geingob to takeover the party in an acting capacity, a position that he holds until this day. This will remain the case until Swapo’s next elective congress (2017).
According to Swapo laws and policies, a congress should have been held within 90 days after Pohamba vacated the position to either “endorse or elect” his successor. Such a congress has not seen the light of day.
Late last year, Swapo Deputy Secretary-general Laura McLeod-Katjirua told reporters at a media briefing that Geingob should be referred to as the “president of Swapo and not vice-president”.
Corruption, land and reparations
When asked about issues that will dominate Namibian headlines in 2017, political analyst George Mayumbelo pointed out that land question, reparation talks of the 1904-07 OvaHerero and Nama; corruption and the country’s melting economy will be among the hottest topics.
According to Mayumbelo, the City of Windhoek has focused too much on servicing residential plots and consequently turned a blind eye on “the much needed” land for business purposes.
“We (City of Windhoek) have focussed too much on providing plots for residential purposes to such an extent that we have neglected the much needed servicing of plots for business purposes,” Mayumbelo pointed out.
Moreover, as corruption in Namibia continue unabated as government has for long been known to dishing out state tenders and contracts lift-right-and-centre to individuals that are well-connected to those in leadership positions.
On the corruption front, Mayumbelo said it will be a topical issue for as long as it exists. Therefore, In order to eliminate corruption in the country efforts and attention will be required from the highest authority in the country.
Muyumbelo further added the tribalism and ethnicity in present day Namibia has been handled with baby gloves.
According to Mayumbelo, Namibian leaders have failed to call “it” (division among Namibian tribes by its name) by its name and that the time is now ripe for the country to unite and tackle the issue head-on.