Swapo vice presidential contender Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah is confident that she stands a good chance to become the party’s first female vice president, citing her long journey and experience gained in politics and government.
She says claims made that she was one of the instrumental members who lobbied underground to form the Rally for Democracy and Progress(RDP) holds no truth.
In an interview this week, with The Patriot editor Mathias Haufiku, she gave reasons as to why she is ideal candidate to occupy the vice president position in the party.
The Patriot (TP): Regarding your candidature for vice presidency. When did you decide to run for this, how did it come about?
NNN: Firstly, the Namibian people through the media have been posing these questions to me and some even went ahead to write articles over my candidacy. People have been asking me whether I would be ready for the position of vice president.
I remember saying I will not discuss this outside party structures because in SWAPO you do not just stand up and nominate yourself. Now that I am nominated, I stand ready to deliver.
I welcome this nomination and I am convinced that, if given the chance to be the VP, I will be able to efficiently and effectively assist the party president in executing the responsibilities of the party president.
TP: So you feel this is an opportune time to contest for the VP position?
NNN: When it comes to national responsibilities I do not take them as an opportunity but I take them as an assignment given, and when I am given such an assignment I have to perform to the best of my ability.
That will always be my reference point throughout my term.
TP: How has the time you spent in government and the party prepared you for this position?
NNN: The Namibian people see my career as an investment that they have made, by saying so I am saying I did not make myself, I was made by the Namibian people who have been giving me responsibilities and through those responsibilities I have gained experience.
I cannot be selfish or to claim it as my own, because that experience is all thanks to contribution of all Namibians. Now they must cement that by directing the delegates representing them at congress to vote for me. All the responsibilities they have given me when I was in exile, all the responsibilities given to me when I came back to Namibia I have executed to the best of my ability.
TP: There is so much bickering in the party, which most certainly affects party unity. Should you emerge as the VP of SWAPO, how will you tackle the unity element in the party?
NNN: I must emerge and I will emerge. I feel people are mixing things, when you have different views on a subject matter that should not be seen as disunity in the party.
When we were preparing ourselves for the last elections and before that when had comrade Hage, comrade Jerry and comrade Pendukeni contesting for the position for the vice president in 2012, people were saying that SWAPO is divided.
When we went to the elections in 2014 we got 80 percent of the votes from the Namibia nation, you cannot get that when there is no unity. Therefore, difference in opinion should not be construed as disunity.
We are currently in preparation for the congress where there’ll be positions to be contested, president, vice president, secretary general, deputy secretary general and central committee members, obviously you will have people who are voting for these people and if in one position for example like that of the presidency we have three candidates, then you will definitely expect three camps.
TP: Let’s talk about the perceived generational gap in the party between the youth and the elders, do you feel it exists?
NNN: It all depends on what one wants to say, what do you call a generation gap? If you look in terms of the political mobility, for example, our parliament today have many young faces. You look at the Chief Whip, Attorney General and others, this is evidence that the gap does not exist. The generational gap is widely viewed from a political point of view and not based on merit.
TP: How is your relationship with Pendukeni Ivula-Ithana?
NNN: We have no problem with each other, we are both recognised by the party members as some of the senior female members in SWAPO. We are doing everything within the frame work of the SWAPO constitution and rules of procedures and guidance. We are comrades like all other comrades in the party.
TP: So you don’t see it affecting your relationship in anyway?
NNN: Not at all. The president is teaching us good things and I am telling you I’m a good listener, when he says don’t play the person play the ball we understood that we are playing the ball. So once the game is over and the ball is gone we will continue and we took it serious.
TP: Would you say Honorable Ithana is a worthy contender for the position like yourself?
NNN: In fact there are so many SWAPO members who qualified to contest for this position but currently the members have only decided on three for the VP position. We are all qualified and that is why the members felt they should nominate us.
TP: You seem to be a proponent of one centre of power clearly saying that the president should be affirmed as the party president. Please explain the rationale.
NNN: Yes I am a proponent of that because I am a very principled person. As I said in the past, this thing of having two centres of power does not work anywhere, I have not seen it working. If you look into SADC you see that Angola, Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa all have one centre to ensure effective and efficiency coordination of the party and the government activities.
TP: You’ve mentioned that you are a principled person, fair enough. There are cries in the party that if democracy exists one should not have slates or say I want to work with candidate A, B, C. If your preferred candidates do not make the cut, how do you then work with candidates who you have initially overlooked?
NNN: That is another element which is unfortunately being brought in. This is not the first time that a president has a slate, we knew that when we were preparing for the previous congress there was a line which came in. President Geingob chose his slate because that has been the tradition in the party.
He said these are the people he could work with and he made it very clear that it was not easy to choose. He did not say there are people he does not want to work with.
TP: So this does not impact party democracy in any way?
NNN: No it does not, mainly because his slate does not prevent others to come in and that’s why they have come in. Now you have three candidates from the position of president, three candidates for position of VP, two candidates for position for SG and three candidates for the position of the DSG and that is democracy at play.
TP: Ever since the talks and debates since congress has started there been claims about your perceived allegiance to the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) when it was formed?
NNN: The nation knows it, there might be those individuals that are saying it but I have never ever been part of this[RDP political programme] and that is why when such allegations are made I leave them. There is no reason why I should make an issue when there is no issue.
I made it very clear to all SWAPO members that I have invested much of my life into this party and it’s the party that I have joined. I have been given duties to perform and I refuse to be derailed from my work. My loyalty is to the SWAPO party, to the Namibian people and it will continue.
TP: Can we safely conclude that part of your future plans is to become the first female head of state of Namibia?
NNN: The Namibian people must decide what plan they have for me. They have put me in this position and if they take the decision to make me the first female president, I tell you, I will take responsibility. It’s not my plan it’s the plan of the Namibian people and I will comply with their plan.
TP: Your message to all delegates.
NNN: I will talk to delegates, SWAPO members who are delegating these people to give them the right delegation to vote for me, I’m a candidate and remember also the president has a slate which is our slate.
So I want the SWAPO members in the regions to tell their delegates to vote for me.