While Founding President, Sam Nujoma, seemingly took a backseat in Namibian politics, the party’s presidential candidates know all too well that despite his passive involvement in local politics, he still commands huge power and influence.
The trio of Hage Geingob, Nahas Angula and Jerry Ekandjo all flocked to Nujoma, to “seek blessings”, inform and consult him ahead of the November 24 Congress polls in the party. This was confirmed by Nujoma’s personal assistant John Nauta this week.
Vice presidential candidates Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah and Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana also confirmed that they informed Nujoma about their intention to run for the position. Secretary general hopeful Armas Amukwiyu also affirmed that he also sought audience with Nujoma over his candidature.
Nujoma has not publicly announced who he is supporting between the three candidates, with analysts indicating that his silence could be a sign that he does not want to meddle in the party affairs.
Nauta said Nujoma was approached by Geingob at his residence to be informed about Geingob’s preferred candidates at the congress. It remains unclear whether or not the Geingob slate was endorsed by Nujoma as was being purported.
Although Geingob is going around telling party members that he consulted with Nujoma regarding his slate, Nauta indicated that there is a difference between being “consulted and seeking input”.
Nujoma was just told about the individuals whom Geingob was willing to work with, said Nauta.
When it was put to Nauta whether indeed Nujoma had been consulted and what his stance is regarding Geingob’s slate, he retorted: “He[Nujoma] was called (by Geingob) for consultation but I don’t know what the consultation was about.”
A ‘slate’ is defined by the Cambridge dictionary as the group of people who are chosen by a particular party to take part in an election.
Nauta said the consultation between Nujoma and Geingob took place “before he[Geingob] announced his line up,” before adding that “I don’t know (whether the line-up was endorsed or not)”.
Apart from Geingob, several other candidates from the opposing camp, Team Swapo, also flocked to Nujoma to seek his blessings while also using the opportunity to inform him about their candidature, Nauta said.
“They all came to the founding father to inform him of their willingness to participate. They all did the same. Starting from Jerry Ekandjo, Nahas Angula, Armas Amukwiyu, Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana) long even before (Geingob). I think the only person I am not sure of is Sophia Shaningwa and Marco[Hausiku]. Those ones they haven’t,” said Nauta.
Nauta added that the reason as to why candidates from Team Hage failed to show up at the Nujoma’s residence was because “Hage probably spoke on their behalf except Netumbo. Netumbo briefed the founding president about her willingness to stand”.
Nujoma’s right hand man added: “But the others Jerry, Nahas and Amukwiyu, they personally came to seek his blessings.”
Nauta confirmed that the engagement between Nujoma and Geingob was not done via a phone call. It was a “one-on-one” encounter between the two, he said
Nauta was quick to note that: “Remember the difference of somebody briefing you on what he (has) decided and somebody seeking someone’s input. Do you see the difference?”
Nujoma’s PA emphasized that: “If I call you and say this is what I have decided, what do you expect me to say? You have made your decision already.”
This is to say, Nujoma was merely informed by Geingob about his slate and did not make an input as the decision as to which Swapo members the former prefers to work with should he assume Swapo’s top office were already on the table at the time of the meeting. “I think for Hage, he just briefed the old man[Nujoma] on his decision. “This is my team that I want to go and work with”. The same thing that he told the Politburo,” Nauta stated.
Nauta went on to say: “If Hage is saying his team was endorsed, well everybody could also say I was endorsed because you don’t know what the founding president said to others. They were never chased away.”
In an interview with this publication this week, Amukwiyu confirmed having met with Nujoma several times in the run-up to congress.
“I’ve had several consultations with him in the past and at the moment we are doing that. And in the future, even more so if I get elected as SG I shall continue to do that,” Amukwiyu said.
He added: “In terms of the nature of our consultation, that remains between myself and Uncle founding President. I basically just go there seeking for wisdom and to tap from that rich fountain in the person of our founding father.”
At this stage, Nujoma, one of the most influential figures in Swapo and in the Namibian political space is yet to indicate which camp he is siding with ahead of congress.
“I can’t say (which camp) but I don’t think he probably wants to get involved,” said Nauta when asked whether Nujoma had a preferred candidate for Swapo’s top job.
As things stand, the faction trading as Team Swapo is led by former Premier Nahas Angula and Ekandjo as its candidates for Swapo’s vacant presidency position.
Meanwhile, Iivula-Ithana and Swapo secretary for information Helmut Angula are both vying for the vice presidency position on Team Swapo’s ticket.
Oshikoto regional coordinator Armas Amukwiyu is Team Swapo’s candidate for the position of secretary general.
For deputy secretary general’s post, the Angula-Ekandjo-led camp has Parliamentarian Petrina Haingura and businesswoman Martha Namundjebo-Tilahun.
On the other hand, Geingob’s team of choice is composed of President Geingob as its presidential candidate, international relations minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah as vice president, urban minister Sophia Shaningwa as secretary general and Marko Hausiku is the vying for the deputy secretary general’s position.