As the race to the 6th Swapo Party elective congress hits top gear, analysts have weighed in to discuss a possible Cabinet reshuffle by President Hage Geingob should he clinch Swapo’s top position later this month.
There are firm indications that Geingob marked November 27 on his calendar as the day on which he will reshuffle his Cabinet.
Geingob recognised the contribution of the duo in the party in Gobabis this week, but he was quick to express disappointment in their decision to contest.
Geingob said Jerry Ekandjo told him earlier this year that he will not be standing, but now it is clear that Ekandjo reneged on that promise.
As for Iivula-Ithana, said Geingob: “She informed me that she will be standing for the vice president position.”
Geingob also went at length to explain why he chose Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah as his preferred candidate.
Sources close to Geingob say a spirit of unease and animosity exists between Geingob and his two opponents in the form of sport minister Jerry Ekandjo and his running mate and home affairs minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana.
Talk is rife in the streets among pundits and protagonists alike that Geingob should get rid of both Ekandjo and Iivula-Ithana on the grounds that the two are challenging Geingob and his ‘slate’ for power at the upcoming Swapo congress.
Those who hold the view that Geingob should get rid of them have premised their argument on the basis that the two are “ungrateful and are biting the hand[Geingob] which feeds them”.
Antagonists of the planned move have however remained steadfast that the two are merely exercising their democratic right to compete during internal elections, therefore, they should not be persecuted for doing so.
The argument stems from the fact that in 2014, both Ekandjo and Iivula-Ithana failed to make in on the list of candidates that Swapo sends to ‘the National Assembly.
Despite this, Geingob opted to include Ekandjo and Iivula-Ithana in his Cabinet at his own prerogative.
More so, recently, President Geingob indicated that he will not be “hugging after congress”.
This is to say, he is not in the mood to reconcile with those challenging him and his ‘slate’ for Swapo’s top positions.
Speaking to The Patriot this week, political analyst Uazuva Kaumbi was of the view that Geingob will consider reshuffling his two comrades.
“This is an internal democratic process that anybody in Swapo is entitled to contest. So Jerry Ekandjo and Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana are entitled to contest. In fact, they were nominated at the Central Committee which means it’s a legitimate electoral process. It’s not about backstabbing or someone wanting to unseat the President[Geingob],” briefly explained Kaumbi.
He added that “the position of the party president is vacant” and that “President Geingob is only country president and not party president. He[Geingob] is actually vice president of the party and acting president of Swapo”, something which has caused confusion among Namibians.
Kaumbi, however, was quick to note that the situation could have been different had Geingob been the incumbent Swapo president.
“It would have been different if he was the incumbent Swapo president and he would have to serve his full five year term before congress. But now here, the position is totally vacant and those two guys are entitled and it is within the party constitution for them to contest,” he charged.
Another possible scenario that could prevent Geingob from booting his two Cabinet minister is if he fails to emerge as Swapo president after congress, according to Kaumbi.
“It’s possible that Jerry could win the party presidency. And then in that case, president Geingob will remain country president and we will witness the so called two centres of power. In that case I don’t think it will be easy for President Geingob to reshuffle Jerry…unless of course Jerry decides that he is now president of the party and asks to be recused (from Cabinet) because he wants to focus on being party president on a full time basis,” Kaumbi noted.
He added: “President Geingob should not feel as if he did those guys a favour. He is as a country’s president represents Swapo. And as Swapo, you must look at those comrades as being entitled.”
“There should be no vengeance. The people are not at his mercy. He[Geingob] must show a bigger heart. He must show that he is as big a democrat as he purports to be,” Kaumbi further charged.
Furthermore, Kaumbi said Geingob could still go ahead and reshuffle his Cabinet, but acknowledged that it will be difficult to remove Iivula-Ithana if her performance is anything to go by.
“If he reshuffles based on the feeling that Jerry is not performing, that is something else. But with Pendukeni, she is almost one on the best performers in Cabinet. The President even singled Pendukeni out in the State of the Nations Address for performing at the ministry of home affairs and everybody can attest to the fact the ministry of home affairs is very efficient,” concluded the seasoned analyst.
The Patriot also caught up with the director of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), Graham Hopwood, who said it was premature at this stage to say whether or not Geingob would consider reshuffling his Cabinet.
“If the President’s hand is strengthened, he may look at a more radical Cabinet reshuffle. But on the other hand, he might feel the need to reconcile the party and therefore keep people in positions as he did after 2012,” he said.
Hopwood added: “I think it’s impossible to tell what will happen. It all depends on the nature of the campaign and the nature of the results.”
In the past…
Like in 2017, rumour mongering; tribalism (a call for a non-Oshiwambo president[Geingob]); late night meetings, calls for the first female[Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana] president and incidences of pure character assassination characterized the run-up to the 2012 congress.
The then Swapo SG, Iivula-Ithana, Ekandjo and Geingob squared off for the party vice-presidency position after Swapo had resolved that the party’s presidency would not be contested to see the then President Hifikepunye Pohamba complete his second term as both party and state president.
That year, Geingob narrowly won the 2012 race with 52% of the required 51% votes while the remaining 37% and 11% went Ekandjo and Iivula-Ithana respectively.
In essence, this meant that the victor in the vice presidency race would automatically be Swapo’s presidential candidate in the 2014 national elections.
At the 2014 Presidential election, Geingob had the lion’s share of the votes with an overwhelming 87%
On being reshuffled
In the midst of the campaign, talk is rife that President Geingob is considering to remove Iivula-Ithana from his Cabinet in the congress aftermath.
Ithana downplayed the reshuffling talks saying “the public is entitled to its opinion” and that she could not speak on behalf of the President.
“The public is entitled to its own views. I cannot blame the President unduly unless he himself has told me that is what he wants to do,” she said.
The Swapo stalwart was quick to note that those spearheading such talks were sowing seeds of division between her and Geingob.
“For people to start speculating already that since I have been nominated by the Central Committee to stand for a position of vice president of the party and hence I must resign, that’s just ridiculous,” said Iivula-Ithana before adding that Swapo is based on principles and guidelines.
“I don’t see any qualms (as to) why I should resign. It is not in our policies. And standing for a position in the party is not a crime,” she stressed.
The former Swapo SG then went to rubbish claims she was disrespectful and ungrateful towards Geingob by standing for the position of party vice president.
Already in August, Iivula-Ithana had described her relationship with Geingob as a “cordial discussion” with the Head of State.
At this juncture, she informed the President about her willingness to stand for party vice president.
Narrating the meeting with Geingob, Iivula-Ithana said: “There are a lot of things that are happening behind the scenes. Sometimes, when we give interpretations of what we think had happened, we just mislead and poison relationships unnecessarily.
“I know where I stand on many things…probably because of my age and my experience. I would not have allowed myself to be nominated before my appointing authority knows where I stand on a certain issue. Therefore, I took out a date and went to brief my President that I am being encouraged to stand for the position of vice president. And we had a very cordial, a very warm discussion. And he[Geingob] thanked me. He assured me that I was the first person to approach him…to tell him of my intentions.”
She added: “Now, if the president does not want me to stand for the position, probably, he could have discouraged me from advancing that interest (but) he did not. Although he did not give me his support, which I was not looking for. I was just informing him because he is the appointing authority. I don’t want to do something behind his back.
“I know that my telling him was not conditional for him to give me support or not. And I got satisfaction that he received me. He listened to me. He thanked me for having told him. That for me was very important.” Ekandjo when approached, refused to comment.