…Swapo congress another acid test for Geingob
As the date for Swapo’s elective congress draws nearer, analysts have weighed in on the party’s acting President Hage Geingob’s ability to stand on his own politically, especially after claims that he always needs an extra force to propel him.
The debate on whether or not Geingob is his own man stems from a number of incidences where senior party members had to take a backward step to make way for the current Swapo acting president.
At first glance, Geingob’s 87% overwhelming victory at the polls in 2014 cannot be overemphasised, but political experts hold a different view.
Speaking to The Patriot over a telephonic interview, Political Science lecturer at the University of Namibia, Professor Ndumba Kamwanyah said President Geingob should have used his electoral mandate to “craft his own agenda”.
“In a way really, he[Geingob] hasn’t been his own man. I know that partly it’s because he’s a politician. He has to try to create blocs and coalitions. But I personally thought that when he got that overwhelming mandate, he could have used it to his advantage to craft his own agenda,” Kamwanyah charged.
Kamwanyah went on to say “the problem is that when he came in as the new president, he was trying to (honour) those who supported him in the background. I think he allowed that, which is actually haunting him because he got the overwhelming electoral mandate and he should have used that electoral mandate to be himself instead of compromising and trying to please certain sections within the party,” said Kamwanyah.
Kamwanyah further noted that deals and promises was nothing in the ruling party. “That’s why (when) Hidipo Hamutenya wanted to stand (in 2004), Sam Nujoma had already made deals with Pohamba. It’s a culture and it is haunting Swapo now. That’s why when he presented his three preferred candidates, the knives are already out for him because he did not follow the pecking order,” he explained.
Another political commentator, Phanuel Kaapama holds different sentiments to that of Kamwanyah.
Kaapama argued that there were no politicians who are their own man due to the nature of politics.
“There are very few politicians, if any, who have been their own man or woman. Because politics by its nature is a mechanism for dealing within possibilities and challenges to make it possible. So in the political process therefore, forging alliances, engaging in horse-trading, give and take is the natural course of politics.
“If you go into the history of Namibia and Swapo, I think there weren’t politicians that were their own man…including many others that may think they are perhaps strong. If you want to succeed and forge alliances that can bring about success, horse-trading is a normal practice in politics.
Political horse-trading is a concept used to describe an unofficial discussion in which politicians make agreements that provide both sides with advantages.
Furthermore, Kaapama added that the fact that Geingob has managed to forge strong alliances with other party cadres speaks to his strong political credentials.
“One conclusion can perhaps be that Geingob is a good politician because that’s how politics is supposed to be played. And many of those who are trying to challenge for positions, not only the presidency but others, I don’t think there is any who has not engaged in any horse-trading at this late stage,” he stressed.
In 1997, Geingob relied on the support of founding President Sam Nujoma for the party’s vice president, but the late former deputy Prime Minister Hendrik Witbooi emerged victorious.
In 2002, Geingob was back again vying for the party vice president. Surprisingly, unlike in 1997, Nujoma nominated former President Hiﬁkepunye Pohamba who was the Swapo secretary general at the time to contest the vice presidency.
To throw the race beyond Geingob’s reach, Nujoma demoted Geingob from the position of prime minister, a move which prompted to the former’s resignation.
At the 2007 congress, Geingob had returned from the political wilderness and for the third time vied for party vice president. This time around, Geingob faced competition in the form of Jerry Ekandjo who was Swapo’s secretary for information at the time.
However, Ekandjo was asked to step down and allow Geingob to run uncontested for the position. This was seen as a ‘welcome back’ present from Nujoma to Geingob, for having sent Geingob into the political wilderness in 2002.
At the height of his popularity in Swapo at the 2012 elective congress Geingob narrowly beat his rival Ekandjo at the time by 312 votes to 220. According those in the know, long-time Swapo servant Nahas Angula had to back down to smoothen the competition for Geingob.
In 2017, sources close to the Geingob-Pohamba relationship have it that Pohamba has pledged his support for Geingob on condition that deputy prime minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah is Geingob’s candidate for vice present.
If Pohamba has it his way, Nandi-Ndaitwah will be in pole position to take over from Geingob in five years’ time, should she emerge victorious at this year’s congress.
More, this year, Nujoma is allegedly in Geingob’s corner in the name of saving the party from imploding and ensuring that Geingob gets his second term as Head of State.