As the race for Swapo’s heart takes shape, three men have anointed themselves as the one with the blueprint to solve Swapo’s problems – they are current acting President Hage Geingob, Nahas Angula and Jerry Ekandjo.
However, there is a bone of contention, one which could either make or break the party; the possibility of Swapo having a party president who is not the Head of State.
More so, the consternation in the Swapo corridors is further fuelled by the fact that for the first time in its 57-year history, Swapo is going into congress without a president. The position is vacant.
This made it possible for candidates aspiring for Swapo’s highest offices to vie for the office of party president.
According to analysts and pundits alike, the real concern for Swapo at the upcoming congress is that a Swapo President might be elected and that person might not be Geingob, who happens to be the Head of State, hence the two centres of power narrative.
This is to say, after congress, there might be an individual who’s calling the shots at the Swapo headquarters while another individual will be in charge of the state’s affairs.
Further into this political paradox, President Geingob is contesting for a single position at congress: party president.
In the event that Geingob loses out to either Ekandjo or Angula, it will mean Geingob will lose out his spot in the Swapo central committee (CC) and the Politburo, two of the party’s highest decision making structures.
As a consequence, political analysts converged to unpack the two centers power narrative in the Swapo context and the possible repercussions thereof.
Responding to questions sent to him, political scientist Dr. Charles Mubita argued that the two centers mantra was being used for political convenience, branding it a “scare tactic”.
“I do not subscribe to, nor encourage scare tactics in a democratic exercise. The impression being created by this debate, and deliberately so, is that there are centers of power in the SWAPO Party and centers of power outside the jurisdiction of the party. That is a feeble assumption, it is false and meant to scare people from exercising their right to vote and be voted for in a fair and transparent manner,” Mubita charged.
He goes on to say: “The power of the Swapo Party is vested in its membership and exercised through the structures of the party which elect leaders to execute that power in implementing the decisions, resolutions, policies, programmes and constitution of the Party both at Party and Government levels. Trying to divorce the Party from the Government elected on the ticket of the Party is mischievous, short-sighted and disingenuous.”
He added: “The debate is attempting to put, by hook or crook, the two centers of power issue as a major agenda point for Congress delegates. This is not the first time that the SWAPO Party Congress will be electing a leadership.
When put to Mubita what the future could hold for Geingob in an event that he loses out on Swapo presidency, Mubita retorted: “We have been there already. Founding President Dr. Sam Nujoma completed the mandate given to him by Congress for two solid years as Swapo Party President during which time the second President of the Republic Dr. Hifikepunye Pohamba was President of the Republic. I do not recall any two centers of power then, or a meltdown of the Party or Government. I am therefore baffled by such talk now.”
Mubita said the possibility for the ruling party to have two centers of power was inevitable and unavoidable due to the fact that the Swapo party congress and the Presidential and General Elections do not fall in the same year. There is a two-year gap.
“Such realities cannot be wished away, even if they seem impractical to others. One thing should be clear. Swapo has managed this situation before and it is more than capable of managing similar situations in future,” Mubita maintained.
A lasting solution to this predicament is for Swapo to “harmonise and synchronise” the two year gap between the holding of its ordinary congresses and the National Assembly and Presidential elections so as to ensure that “they fall in the same year or are not too far apart”, Mubita further suggested.
“As I said earlier, all party positions become vacant at Congress. Congress reserves the right to confirm, amend, repudiate or revoke any decision made by any organ of the Party prior to Congress if such action is found to be at variance with the constitution or other legal instruments of the Party,” he said.
Unlike in South Africa where an ANC President can be recalled by the ANC, that is not possible here because here the President is directly elected, albeit on a Party ticket.
Speaking to The Patriot this week, Constitutional Law expert, Professor Nico Horn said the position that Swapo finds itself in was not an “unusual one”.
According to him, two centers of power can coexist in the Swapo context and is not always a negative thing as was being purported by certain quarters.
Horn, however, acknowledged that a conflict in a two centers of power set-up was imminent particularly if the party president and the Head of State were from opposing factions, which is currently the case in Swapo.
“It’s[two centers of power] not always negative. It can be accommodated in one way or the other. But it is always difficult. You can imagine the person is president of the country but in some way or another, he is also subjected to the caucus of the ruling party,” said Horn.
The law professor suggested a remedy to this confusion, he said: “One of the possible solutions is for the president to then resign from the ruling party. It would have its own problems because then he will rule without the majority support in the National Assembly which can be extremely difficult especially in a country like Namibia were we don’t really an opposition. You can imagine, the National Assembly goes one way and the president goes the other way. It can be untenable for the President to rule.”
Some pundits argue that if Geingob fails to emerge victorious in November, it would be tantamount to a vote of no confidence in the Geingob-led administration.
To this, Horn said: “The fortunate thing is that the separation of powers are very well defined in Namibia. For example, if you have a president who fell out of favour with the majority party, he cannot sort of boycott the whole process of the National Assembly and the National Council. The constitution is very clear. He[Geingob] can defer legislation back if he feels it is unconstitutional but in the end, when it comes to legislation, National Assembly will win the day.”
Horn added the best way for Geingob in an event that he is defeated at congress is to stay in good standing of the party and try to work with the party leader as well as possible.
However, Horn maintained that losing the party presidency will put Geingob in an undesirable position.
“Who is the main man then? Is it the president of the party or the state president? Can the president of the party institute disciplinary action against the president of the country if he doesn’t follow the Swapo manifesto?” Horn further pondered.
He went on to say: “It is very difficult but not impossible. It is practical. If the President totally falls out with the ruling party and they can’t work together even in the National Assembly and in Cabinet, the President always has the privilege to appoint eight members. He can change them and get eight people who support him. And then get some ministers from the opposition parties. It’s not impossible, even if he falls out with the ruling party, he can still govern.”
Sharing similar sentiments with Horn was deputy director at the University of Namibia’s Centre for Professional Development and Teaching and Learning Improvement, Ndumba Kamwanyah who believes that Swapo having two centers of power was entirely not a “bad thing as it creates room for checks and balances”.
“People actually think two centers of powers are bad. I don’t see them like that. They aren’t necessarily bad things. What if you really mean there will be a balance (of power). Because sometimes you don’t want to put all the power in one person. He is the president of the country and he is the president of the party,” Kamwanyah stressed.
He further noted: “What the two centers of power do is (to create) checks and balances. And it helps that there is that separation. Because sometimes, too much power in one person’s hands can be a bad thing.
People should not freak out that when congress comes, we end up having a different person leading Swapo and a different person leading the government and think we have a problem. We will not have a problem. It is actually good for democracy.”
The humanities lecturer, however, was quick to note that the problem in two centers of powers arise when animosity exists between the two centers[presidents].
“That can hamper progress especially at the government level because, the president of Swapo would want the president of the country to implement the Swapo manifesto or if these two people cannot work together for some reason, progress and implementation of some policies might suffer because obviously the people in Parliament might listen more to president of Swapo than to the president of the country. But all in all, it’s good for democracy. We don’t want a situation where you only have one person that controls all the top positions and have all this power at government and party level,” briefly noted Kamwanyah.