…Ruling party’s newspaper on comeback trail
The ruling party’s newspaper, Namibia Today, has not been in circulation since June 2015 due to alleged “outdated equipment and high production costs”, but the paper’s editor believes the party’s reluctance to revive the paper is a plot to get rid of him.
Asser Ntinda, who continues to get paid despite the paper going into hibernation, has been at the helm of the Swapo media house since 1999, a job he took up after quitting his job at the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) where he worked as Senior Controller: News and Current Affairs at the time.
The party’s spokesperson, Helmut Angula, this week said the paper had to close temporarily because “we had technical problems, issues of ICT and computers that were out of date and because the production became very expensive due to outdated machines”.
Angula was quick to point out that Namibia Today will be back in the near future because new machinery was acquired to resume production.
He could not say whether Ntinda will be the editor once operations commence.
“The board is still pending with the appointment so I cannot pronounce myself, the politburo has to pronounce itself first,” added Angula.
Due to the absence of Namibia Today, Swapo was left with no choice but to resort to private and government-owned media to disseminate information – a practice which has cost the party thousands of dollars, said Angula.
“Of course, it’s a concern [not having its own paper], because we are not able to put forward our views without huge cost or without restraint, because we use other media that are privately owned. The absence of the paper has affected us, particularly the editorial part because we can’t say what we want to say, we cannot deny that,” added Angula.
The ruling party has often accused private media houses of colluding against it by siding with opposition parties, a situation made worse now that the ink of its own newspaper has run dry.
Contrary to Angula’s explanation, Ntinda has a different story to tell because he feels the party wants to get rid of him but is stuck on who to replace him with.
“From what I could sense, the issue now is not about the computers. The computers were bought last year by Kalahari Holdings. They are there in the office. The issue now is to find the editor they are prepared and comfortable to work with. And it’s obvious I am not that editor. The current leadership seriously needs Namibia Today, but not with me as editor.
That is where things are stalled. They are looking for reasons to send me home, and they don’t know how. A week or so ago, I read in Confidente that Cde Helmut Angula, who is my immediate boss, wants to stand for the Swapo Party Vice Presidency position at the elective congress later this year. It’s obvious he is possibly looking for someone who can pursue and advance his presidential ambitions,” said the veteran newsman.
Ntinda acknowledged the existence of technical problems at the time, saying he has written several reports to the party’s leadership outlining the challenges facing the paper, adding that those reports are yet to be unacknowledged.
“I had a meeting with the Secretary General, Cde Nangolo Mbumba at the end of last year about Namibia Today. That was the last time I discussed Namibia Today with the leadership. You may recall that last year, Cde Angula gave an interview to Namibian Sun in which he said Swapo Party was looking for a ‘very young, energetic and more enlightened editor for Namibia Today’, as if he is young himself. But be that as it may.
I told Cde Mbumba last year that if that was the case, they should just tell me to go home, instead of skirting around the issue. It’s going to be two years now without the newspaper being published,” he said.
Ntinda said he stands ready to end his 18-year relationship with Namibia Today if he is not wanted.
“I am also not prepared and comfortable to work with people who don’t want to work with me. There is life after Namibia Today. This is just a passing cloud and it’s not dark anyway. I have survived bigger challenges than this one,” he said.
Recalling his early days at the paper, Ntinda said it was not easy to leave “my good-paying job with all its benefits, but I had to leave it because the Swapo Government was faced with three major challenges and the mainstream media did not want to give favorable coverage to the government”.
The three main challenges, according to him, were the third term for Founding President Dr Sam Nujoma, Namibia’s involvement in the Democratic Republic of Congo war and the formation of the Congress of Democrats (CoD), by former trade unionist Ben Ulenga.
“From day one, CoD received extensively positive coverage from the mainstream media and this worried Swapo. Mind you, we had the Presidential and National Assembly elections in November 1999,” he said.
He revealed that the Swapo leadership was not comfortable to get into those elections  without a newspaper that would put the party’s agenda across.
“Namibia Today did all it could to put that agenda across and quashed negative publicity against the Swapo Party government. The government was really at the receiving end. Former President Hifikepunye Pohamba, then Swapo Party Secretary General, approached me and convinced me [to] leave my job at the NBC to revive the paper,” he narrated.
As Editor of Namibia Today, he said, serving under two consecutive Swapo Party governments – first with Dr Sam Nujoma and later with Dr Hifikepunye Pohamba – was not easy. “Politics is politics. We knew how to swim. At the end, both were pleased with what we had done.
“When the time comes for the leadership to tell me to go home, I will leave a happy man. As Editor of Namibia Today, my team and I have helped Swapo Party to crash its political opponents in all the elections Namibia has held since 1999. Today, CoD is dead. The Third Term for Founding President Sam Nujoma came and passed successfully. The DRC war came to an end. The Swapo Party government had emerged victorious in all these challenges. And Namibia Today played a pivotal role in overcoming these challenges. Then came the formation of the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) in November 2007 by former Foreign Affairs Minister, the late Hidipo Hamutenya,” he said.
He described RDP as “one of the biggest threats, if not the only, that really posed a challenge to Swapo Party’s power base” mainly due to Hamutenya’s popularity across the country.
“At some point, the party leadership nearly panicked and really thought its two/thirds majority would be upset by RDP. We took on RDP right from day one, constantly and vehemently exposing it and its leaders for what they truly were. We succeeded in this regard. There is nobody in RDP today who does not tremble and sweat whenever Namibia Today is mentioned. Today, RDP is a wreck of its former self. The late Hamutenya eventually rejoined Swapo Party,” narrated Ntinda.
Ntinda is one of the many Swapo insiders who was seen as the force behind Ananias Nghifitikeko, an alias seen by many as the ruling party’s underground dirty tactics to discredit its political challengers.
Ntinda vehemently denied such links.
“I do not know who Ananias Nghifitikeko was and how he worked. I also do not know whether he was a Swapo controlled character. I was never Ananias Nghifitikeko, never ever in my life, nor did I know under whose instructions he worked. But it certainly was not me.”
A local monthly magazine, Insight Namibia, reported in the past that since the Swapo Extraordinary Congress of May 2004, Nghifitikeko had issued several email letters targeting former Foreign Minister Hidipo Hamutenya, his political and business associates, various media figures and an assortment of political commentators.
Changes in the writing style indicate at least two authors for most of the letters, which spread like wildfire among Namibians hungry for political gossip even if inaccurate and malicious.