Hage Geingob’s road to the presidency was paved for him by a tightly knit group. But the members of that group have now turned on him like a pack of starving wolves.
More than half of the seven members who will compete against Geingob’s slate were ardent supporters of Geingob not so long ago, singing praises in newspapers and placing their heads on the chopping block as they expressed their unconditional support for him and explaining why he should be allowed to lead the party.
That narrative has since changed, with experts now fearing that the resolute attempt to defeat Geingob would send Swapo and the governance of the country into a downward spiral.
These include Nahas Angula, Helmut Angula, Petrina Haingura and Armas Amukwiyu, who are part of a seven-member coalition who is hell-bent on defeating the man they once only had praises for.
Long, long ago, when clichés were acceptable in the political world, the saying that there are no permanent friends or enemies in politics would have been appropriate to describe the love lost.
But from now until congress, they sit non-stop behind closed doors plotting the downfall of Geingob, one of the most powerful figures on the local political stage. On the weekend of the November 24, they will be hoping to plunge the dagger directly into Geingob’s political heart.
But until then, these very same people who in the past plotted each other’s downfall, are united in their bid to rule the party by turning on Geingob with the viciousness of a Cosa Nostra family when a deal has gone wrong.
At a press meeting held a day after Geingob and his supporters graced the Swapo headquarters, the seven candidates took centre stage and articulated their plans for the party.
The ruling Swapo party finds itself in a dangerous self-imposed position – one characterised by rampant violation of the Swapo constitution, corruption, elitism, personality cults while its core values and principles are being trampled upon by the incumbent leadership – and faces extinction if the situation is left unattended to, former Swapo secretary general Ngarikutuke Tjiriange has said.
Tjiriange made these remarks at the official campaign launch of one of the two Swapo factions trading under the banner ‘Team Swapo Party’ at the ruling party’s headquarters in the capital yesterday.
However, Team Swapo Party did not receive the best of receptions at the Swapo headquarters.
Prior to the commencement of the main event, the situation nearly got out of hand between Team Swapo Party supporters and Swapo secretary general (SG) Nangolo Mbumba.
This was after Mbumba had refused to welcome the candidates, like he did yesterday for Geingob and his slate.
Sources familiar with the Mbumba-fiasco indicated the Swapo SG received a joint letter from Team Swapo Party in which he was invited to welcome them to the Swapo headquarters, as per the Swapo tradition.
After refusing to welcome the candidates, Mbumba attempted to leave the premises, a move which prompted supporters to block Mbumba’s official vehicle. The supporters were chanting the words: “Why are you running?”, “You are a puppet” and “Swapo is not yours”. After a brief discussion and attempts by Mbumba’s personal driver to dissolve the scuffle, the SG then stormed out of the Swapo headquarters without a word.
‘Team Swapo Party’ is composed of former premier Nahas Angula, sport minister Jerry Ekandjo, immigration minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, former finance minister Helmut Angula, youthful Oshikoto regional coordinator Armas Amukwiyu, Parliamentarian Petrina Haingura and business personality Martha Namundjebo-Tilahun.
Ekandjo and Angula are both vying for the vacant party president position. Meanwhile, Iivula-Ithana and Helmut Angula are eyeing for party vice president.
Amukwiyu is vying for the position of secretary general while Haingura and Namundjebo-Tilahun are challenging for the position of deputy secretary general.
At this juncture, Tjiriange made it clear from the onset that Team Swapo Party was committed to the ethos on which the ruling party was founded and will work towards revitalizing, reviving and restoring Swapo.
Team Swapo Party’s campaign is premised on events that have transpired in the ruling party and Namibia as whole since President Hage Geingob took charge as Head of State.
“Our party has entered a dangerous phase which is self-inflicted. For the past two years, we in the Swapo party have observed with great concern the systemic degradation and the erosion of our party’s core values and principles that are being trampled upon by the current leadership, the top three[Geingob, Mbumba and Laura McLeod-Katjirua] to be clear.
“There have been blatant violation of our party’s constitution, which if allowed to continue, will pose an existential threat to our party,” Tjiriange said at the genenis of the joint Team Swapo statement. According to Tjiriange, if measures are not taken to address the current mess Swapo finds itself in, “the Swapo of Nujoma, Ya Toivo, Pohamba, Meroro, Witbooi, Simbwaye, Garoeb, Nanyemba, Mweshihange, Tjitendero and Chief Sitentu Mpasi” will be something of the past.
Tjiriange said the upcoming congress should serve as an opportunity to reflect on where Swapo came from and where Swapo in its current state was headed to.
He said Swapo was among other things established to oppose colonialism; promote patriotism; promote Pan-Africanism and economic emancipation.
“Swapo was not created as a club for a few or to be an elitist organization nor a personality cult,” Tjiriange said unapologetically.
According to Team Swapo Party, there has been “well-orchestrated campaign and efforts” to divert Swapo from its core values and principles by Geingob and co.
“Our party is in trouble. The party’s constitution is being violated and the rules and procedures are being ingored. This can no longer be tolerated. And we all know who is at the forefront of violating and vandalising our constitution. Let us not allow our party to be weakened through selfish interests,” Tjiriange concluded.
Angula not ‘bitter’
Responding to media queries at the event, Angula declined to be drawn into the debate that his bitterness towards Geingob inspired him to contest for party president against the latter.
“There are no sour grapes within Team Swapo. Team Swapo is there to safe Swapo from collapse. We have stated in our statement that for the last two years, we see a party without ideological and political content. A party is normally established to achieve certain social and economic goals. And you must have an idea of the type of society that you want. But if you don’t have that, then you are not a party. As of now, there is no political guideline or a value system or an ideological line around which you have to mobilise the people. That’s why you had all these problems during the regional conferences,” said the man known among his peers as ‘Katusha’. According to Angula, he and other senior members of Swapo cannot allow the party to fall apart whilst they stand aside and watch. “The elders, I am also an elder, they know what they went through during the struggle.
There is a lot at stake. The sacrifices of comrades with whom we shared trenches call upon us to defend this party. We are only doing this in defence of the party,” charged Angula.
Team Swapo added Namibia was faced with serious economic problems while the Presidency has not been forthcoming about the true state of the Namibian economy.
When asked what he did to protect Namibia from being downgraded to junk status, Angula said: “We cannot continue to be called a junk state.”
When pushed further, he retorted after being asked: What did you do when you were there? In response he stated, “When we were there Namibia was not in a junk state. I can tell you, from junk status, the next step is failed state.”
Sharing similar sentiments with Angula was former women’s council secretary Haingura who likened Swapo’s current state to a human being in an intensive care unit (ICU).
“We need to revive and restore the party. We cannot watch as our party is thrown into the dustbins while we are here. Swapo is in the ICU. Our children will ask us one that what did you do (to revive Swapo) when the party was in the ICU?” Haingura questioned.
Of late, Swapo presidential hopeful has come under heavy criticism for his decision to challenge acting president Geingob for party president.
Those who criticise Ekandjo argue that the fact that he was appointed at the prerogative of the President, “Ekandjo should be grateful and not challenge the hand that feeds him[Geingob]”.
However, the 70-year-old politician made it clear yesterday that the violation of the Swapo party rules and regulation cannot be allowed to continue.
Ekandjo suggested that the weakness in the current Swapo leadership has contributed to demise of the country’s economy.
“We want to build Swapo. For example, you have a tree. This tree has branched and fruits. This tree is the government. The roots is Swapo. If the roots are weak and you don’t water the roots, the tree will fall.
Meaning that if Swapo is weak, automatically, the government will fall…the economy will fall. So we don’t aim at strengthening the tree[government]. We want to strengthen the roots[Swapo],” a combative Ekandjo stressed.
With both teams launching their campaigns as one, information coming from the two camps is that they are pushing for a rerun during the votes after which some of the candidates would then withdraw to make way for one slate.
If everything goes according to plan, talks are that Martha Namundjebo-Tilahun will step aside to allow Petrina Haingura to challenge Marco Hausiku for the deputy secretary general position while Helmuth Angula will make way for Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana. Nahas Angula is also expected to clear the way for Jerry Ekandjo. Nahas has however indicated in an earlier interview that he will by no means withdraw from the race.
Angula and Ekandjo have in the past been side-lined by the party’s leadership to make way for other candidates.
The grand plan, it seems, is for Ekandjo to be the party president for the next five years while Iivula-Ithana will likely be deployed by the party to be its presidential candidate during the 2019 national polls.