As Swapo’s congress fever heats up, party members are scrambling to position themselves well and those with the resources are set to take full advantage of the situation and turn it into their favour.
History and context are everything in the months leading up to the Swapo party congress later this year, but one thing that remains constant is the personality clashes that occur during that phase.
The history is the secretive formation of camps and dirty underground lobbying tactics adopted by campaign teams which includes money changing hands and well-kept secrets being exposed. The context is the never-ending cycle before each congress as party members on different ends pull in different directions which often leaves the party divided.
One of the names that has and will constantly feature during internal party succession debates is that of Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, a long time servant of both Swapo and government.
This week she came come out guns blazing to clear the air over rumours currently rife in the public domain that she intends challenge acting Swapo party President Hage Geingob for the party’s top position at the elective congress later this year during an exclusive interview.
She also spoke on the disciplinary measures of the party, conduct of the youth and perceptions that some Cabinet members are trying to sabotage her work by always opposing bills which she tables, despite such bills having gone through Cabinet.
“The Party Presidency is not vacant so how do I run for something which is not vacant?” Iivula-Ithana asked.
When it was put to her whether or not she intends to run challenge Geingob for the ruling party’s presidency, Ithana her response was: “I don’t know, maybe there will be those who want to contest for a post which is not vacant,”
“But as for me I am saying the Party presidency is not vacant, there are posts that are going to be vacant and those are the ones that will be available for anybody to contest,” she said.
“Some Namibians are rumour mongers, some Namibians like rumours because there is nothing that occupies our minds, we don’t read we only booze,” she charged. “While in the world people read things that are constructive, they, if you keep your mind idle then you will end up talking and collecting rumours,” Iivula-Ithana said.
According to the Minister, the rumour that she might contest for Swapo presidency at the highly anticipated Congress is premised on the fact that she contested for the vice-presidency position in 2012.
“People know that last time I contested for the vice presidency position, so if I could contest it that time what prevents me from contesting this time?” she questioned.
She also believes her seniority in the party is another reason why she is being linked to the party’s top positions.
“Moreover the party has a policy of 50/50, if the president is male then the vice president could be female and now when they look around senior female comrades within the party. They think there are very few of us (women) and I don’t blame anybody for to assume that I could be one of those contesting for the position,” explained Iivula-Ithana.
Iron fist needed?
There has been huge public outcry by some members of the party’s youth wing who feel they are being targeted unfairly.
When asked how she dealt with unruly youth during her time as the party’s secretary general: Iivula-Ithana said: “I used an iron fist which earned me the name Iron Lady.”
“When I was secretary general of the party I earned a very nasty name, and everybody felt that Pendukeni was a harsh person that’s why they called me Iron Lady. I don’t like the name but there is nothing I can do about it, they gave it to me because they felt that I was dealing with them with an iron fist,” Iivula-Ithana pointed out.
However, Iivula-Ithana was quick to point out that she was not “harsh”.
“I was just doing according to the stipulations of our constitution and the political programme.
If we as leaders are not dealing with members in terms of the party constitution, then obviously people will read between the lines,” she warned.
According to Iivula-Ithana, if the party leaders “consistently” refer to party members in terms of its laws and regulations then the chances of having a conducive relationship between party members will increase.