…Urges delegates to vote with their conscious, not bellies
In the aftermath of the nominations of those vying for top positions at Swapo’s elective congress in November – Helmut Angula, one of the three contenders for Swapo’s vice presidency position- has urged delegates to apply their conscience and vote candidates based on merit, rather than allegiance.
Angula will square it off against fellow Politburo members in the form of Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana and Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah to become the person second, in charge of the party
This week, The Patriot’s Edward Mumbuu Jr sat with the 71-year-old politician-cum-businessman to hear why he thinks he is the best candidate for the position.
The Patriot (TP): Firstly we want to talk about your candidature for the Swapo vice presidency. When did you decide to vie for this position?
Helmut Angula (HU): This has been on and off. Initially I wanted to stand in 2004. But after consultations with senior comrades, I was told it’s not yet time as there were other senior comrades around who would not take it lightly. I was told to queue like everybody and that my time would come. I also believed that I would not stand a chance then. However, this time around, I should be given the opportunity to participate in this contest.
TP: Tell us, do you think this is the opportune moment for you to vie for this position (VP)?
HA: Yes. I believe it is the right time. But not only is it the right time, I think there are a lot of contradictions which need to be managed carefully by experienced individual leaders who have the historical knowledge of the inner party life. The current state of affairs is of great concern. As a mass movement, we have opened the door for a lot of people. A lot of them who belonged to other political parties. And because of our liberal policies, they think they can also aspire for key positions. But of course, there is that fear that if somebody comes from another party, it’s not that they have vested interest like others who have been in the party for a long time. Will they be able to withstand the internal dynamics of the party? Will he/she be able to manage and direct the party in the direction for which it was fundamentally created. That direction is the unity between the workers, the peasants, the rural communities and the intellectuals. These relations are very delicate.
TP: Perhaps a follow-up question on that one. What makes you different from the other two candidates? What do you bring to the table that’s different?
HA: Well, firstly the position is vacant. It’s there for the taking. Secondly I have been working in the party for the last 10 years on a voluntary basis. I’ve been having connections with different people in our party at different levels. Those who in government, those who work in the private sector and those who don’t work at all. And of course, in terms of basics I have managed the business of the party affairs compared to others. My latest achievement is the establishment of the Swapo Party School which has been spoken of for many years since independence. Many who have been there, whom I preceded had the same task, but they failed to deliver. Of course I cannot praise myself and say I did it alone but I managed the people who were able to set up the system. But today, the school is running. The school is training our cadres and surely, we will have better Parliamentarians, better mobilisers and better administrators from the Swapo party in the future.
TP: With less than two months left before Congress, would you say you have sufficient time to campaign and garner support?
HA: It is not really sufficient because things went out of control because of the struggle for positions at the different structures. But as leaders we did emphasise on the delivery of time of the restructuring process. But on the other hand, if we could have started earlier, two things could have happened. Firstly, we could have seen the Government coming to a standstill. Because people would be out there on their political campaigns as this includes ministers…so you don’t expect government to deliver services if the campaign could have started in July. Secondly, the resources are scarce. So if you are given so much time, you wouldn’t be able to hold it up for three months.
TP: Another challenge facing the party is the generational gap. What plans do you have to bridge this gap?
HA: Actually, this is over exaggerated, but nevertheless we need to talk. We must continue to talk to the young people and impart political skills in them. Currently we have a lot of young people in Parliament and that is a ladder to leadership. The young have opportunities in Swapo but they must not come as if they are entitled to positions. Meaning, don’t expect that because you are young and energetic, then someone needs to step down for you. You must prove yourself in terms of loyalty to the party. In terms of skills of human management and also in terms of managing human relations. It’s not enough to think just because you are young today, then you step up. Those people are in those positions after having been mandated by the electorate.
TP: What do you think is the cause of the friction between the youth and elders of the party?
HA: The youth are impatient. They lack understanding of the rules governing the positions in the party or the promotion in the party and electoral processes. And maybe, in our country another factor is unemployment. A lot of young people complete school and most of them have skills but they cannot find jobs. So they now turn to politics. But then you have those entry points to politics of which many of them think are hurdles.
TP: How is your relationship with Hon. Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah and Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana?
HA: Well, if you are talking about the historic relations, I can of course tell you that we a very good historic relations. Comrade Netumbo and I were in the Swapo Youth League together in the 70s. We came together to the Central Committee on the youth league ticket. We have no real political differences. But of course, I won’t say we don’t have management differences which is the basis of our contestation for this position. The way I see how things should be managed is not how I see her managing matters. With Comrade Iivula-Ithana, I must say we met much later. But we have close family relations. In fact, in my first marriage in Lusaka, Zambia, I was hosted by her and her husband in exile. She and her husband acted as my parents. I must also say, in the first government, we were appointed at the same time as deputy ministers. We were also promoted on the same day as full ministers. So, therefore, we call each other twin brother, twin sister because that’s the background of our relationship. But for now, we are contesting for the same position, and of course I hope I will be the best candidate considering my experience. And they are also younger than me and they can wait.
TP: How will this battle affect your relationship with Hon. Nandi-Ndaitwah and Hon. Iivula-Ithana?
HA: We have agreed at the Politburo and Central committee that we must stay away from character assassination and personal attacks. We have to have an informed debate, a gentleman’s debate, respecting one another. We’ll just have to pronounce ourselves in terms of what we can do and what we can do better than the other candidate. And on my part, I will never be engaged in this personal vendetta and character assassination. I don’t believe in those shallow politics. I believe in well researched and mature political debates.
TP: Tell us, do you think the other two candidates are worthy contenders for the position of vice presidency?
HA: Yes they are. They have been serving Swapo in different capacities and at different times. They have the competency to aspire for the office in question I would say.
TP: Who is your preferred candidate for party presidency and why (which camp)?
HA: The three comrade aspiring for the position for me are all comrades. And let the best candidate win.
TP: Since you’re vying for the VP position, can we safely conclude that your future plans include becoming party and State President one day?
TP: What is your message to all Congress delegates?
HA: My message to delegates is that they must choose the most tested, the most able and the most ideologically acceptable candidate or candidates. When you see the candidates, try to rate them in their performance, in their experience and in their aspirations. What they are saying they can do? What type of change can they bring about? How they are going to unite the country?
The delegates must never allow themselves to be subjects of intimidations. Either by someone who has got better power today or either someone who is coming from the same village (as you are). They should resist that pressure of not succumbing to pressure based on power or local relation or even for material gain. Because the fact of the matter is that, when you elect somebody in that position, he or she will make decisions that you will have to live with. So if you doubt (the candidate), don’t gamble. Don’t guess. Delegates must cast their votes to the candidate that they mostly trust will deliver the services.