He has been called names – Masalad Boy, Afro-Armas, Mr. Tobacco and Kingmaker among others – but his mettle, clear vision and excellent oratory skills are what puts him a cut above his peers.
This week, in an hour-long conversation with The Patriot’s Edward Mumbuu which covered a spectrum of issues, chiefly, his candidature for the Swapo secretary general position at the upcoming congress, the fallout with President Hage Geingob and his vision for Swapo, the youthful Oshikoto regional coordinator Armas Amukwiyu made it clear, he cannot be underestimated.
From the onset, Amukwiyu revealed that he is a post-graduate student of Swapo politics and that there was very little that “anybody can tell me about Swapo, from branch level, district level, regional and national level since I joined the pioneers movement”.
The Patriot (TP): Last week, you spoke about the importance of the secretary general of the Swapo Party. You described it as the engine of the party. As a candidate for the position at the upcoming congress, what do you bring to the table?
Armas Amukwiyu (AA):
I will create a conducive environment by providing leadership that will attract all Swapo Party members, from top to bottom to feel that they belong to the party. To have that sense of belonging and ownership of their party. And I will make sure I provide that environment. I will make sure that the supreme law of the party is adhered at all times without fear or compromise. Here I am referring to the party constitution, rules and code of conduct. We will provide leadership that will be considering the demand and fulfilment of the Swapo party manifesto. This[manifesto] is the social contract between the people of our country and the party. And we will also make sure that the political programme of the party which defines the ideologies of the party are fully implemented and promoted at all levels of the party, without fear or favour. So I will be guided by those instruments of the party. And if elected, I will make sure that even those that did not support me will be treated equally. There will be no first, second or third class in the party. Every party member will feel very, very important and they will be treated with respect and dignity. For me, although I will be the man who is going to be in charge of the party affairs, for me it’s about all of us. It’s going to be a collective leadership. A leadership that will listen to the voices of those who are being disadvantaged. It will be a leadership that will listen to the views and advise of our members in the remote areas.
TP: What is lacking from the office of the secretary general at this point in time?
AA: As a person who is involved in the day-to-day affairs of the party at all levels, I think the office lacks leadership quality. A leadership that attracts new members or people of Namibia to join the party. I think we have slowed down in terms of recruiting new members. What is lacking is the implementation of the party constitution. The constitution is not respected. We have an emotional leadership where those who are in charge of the engine room are applying emotional leadership as opposed to a leadership that is guided by the principles of the party. And the moment we have that, then you create room for confusion, there’s chaos. The current situation that is prevailing is not healthy to the party, not healthy to the country and that is because the leadership has allowed it. Had we followed the procedures or structures, there would be no confusion. So when you go against certain provisions of the constitution because they do not fit your situation, then to me it’s a serious violation of the constitution. And whoever, irrespective of the position they occupy in the party, whoever is found to be contravening the constitution should be held accountable. Just an example, when you have a leadership that is in the engine room and they are allowing the violation of the constitution, knowingly, for instance the situation of district and regional conferences where certain leaders assigned to regions were allowed to go and represent the region at congress; this was deliberate and was done with a purpose. First, people disregarded the constitution. Absolutely there is no respect or observation of the party constitution. Because you are so and so or you are friends or you dine and wine with this and that, then you are allowed to go to congress disregarding or by-passing the constitution of the party. That type of situation must not be allowed. It must be discouraged and discontinued.
TP: Why are you not siding with the acting Swapo president Hage Geingob, like you did in 2012?
AA: First and foremost it must be understood on record by each and every Swapo member and by each and every Namibian, irrespective of whether they are members of Swapo or not that when I supported the candidature of comrade Hage Geingob, I did not support an individual…the persona of Hage Geingob. I supported him because I had an expectation for him to deliver. To deliver the leadership that I thought he would. Leadership that has no favour. Leadership that is based on transparency, honesty. Based on those principals. But, I have not seen it. According to what is happening, I am not satisfied. I cannot associate myself with a leader who promotes factionalism. For him[Geingob] to say this is my slate, this is the group of people that I want to work with. A Swapo leader? A senior member and a President of the Republic of Namibia and he is saying he is only prepared to work with some and not the others from the same party, unfortunately I cannot support that type of leadership.
And there is this perception that apparently I am sour and I am angry. Let me tell you, there is nothing personal between comrade Hage and I. I did not support him wanting to get anything or to benefit anything from his leadership or from his presidency. He[Geingob] offered me many things including leadership positions in his government. I am saying, he offered me many things that would have benefited me personally including positions in his Cabinet. And I said told him thank you comrade President. I am not going to take it. So those things of me being sour are not true. The same Armas of 2012 is the same Armas of today. It’s only that now, I was requested by my comrades to stand and I am going to stand for the secretary general’s position and if elected I am going to do the best that I can.
TP: You said the President offered you many things including a position in Cabinet. Tell us why you declined the offers? Were you not ready for a Cabinet position or what are the grounds on which you declined the offers?
AA: Well, I have principles and I cannot trade my principles with material. So I wanted to prove a point that you can sacrifice your service, you can volunteer to offer the best you can to your party and for your country but not necessarily expecting to benefit personally. But rather, you are doing it for the love of your party and country. And this is exactly what I do and what I stood for. Even as I am standing for the position of SG of our party, I am not going in there seeking for employment or a greener pasture. No. I am going in there because I think there is a lack of leadership and I think if given an opportunity, I will try my level best and with the help of the fellow comrades within the party to try and bring back shape and new look of our party. We need to move on without compromising the ideology of the party.
TP: Describe your relationship with Geingob?
AA: I am man enough and I don’t want to talk about issues of relationships between two men. But there is nothing personal, at least from my side .There is nothing personal. I see him as a comrade. I still love him as my uncle. I respect him as my leader. But I differed with him on issues of principles. Especially on the principles of the party that have been disrespected at all levels. I don’t buy into factions. I cannot be part of a faction.
TP: When you say you do not support factionalism, yet Team Swapo – the camp, faction or group – if may put it that way is one of the two factions contesting for power at congress. Can you explain?
AA: Well, there is a difference between Team Swapo and the President’s Slate. Team Swapo is
us. We all are Swapo members because we subscribe to the core values and principle of the party. And we believe in a united Swapo. We don’t profess to be team anything. When you say, these are the people that I want to work with and therefore elect them, that means those who are not in your slate or those who you are disagreeing with, what will then happen to them after the elections? We commit ourselves to work with all Swapo members including him[Geingob] the president of the republic and his slate.
TP: How is your relationship with Sofia Shaningwa?
AA: I don’t remember ever call her by her name. I call her mother. She’s my mother and my comrade above all. So the only difference at this moment is that I cannot vote for her because we are running for the same position. I will vote for myself. Other than that, she’s my very good mother, my comrade. When we meet, we talk and make jokes and we move on. I don’t have anything against her, not yesterday, not today and not in the future.
TP: There are talks that Team Swapo is a tribal team as it is composed mainly of the Owambo tribe. What do you make of these claims?
AA: [Laughs]. You know what, whoever is making those remarks, whether it is coming from a person of high position in our country; that person must be suffering from inferiority complex. That person maybe does not have self-confidence. That must person must be scared of the situation that he sees coming and cannot cope with. That person must be undemocratic and also ungrateful especially when it is coming from a person of such a high office in the country. Because, it is a Swapo culture that each and every five years, there shall be a congress of the party. And the congress has a constitutional mandate to elect the leadership of the party. The top four, including the central committee members. That’s a constitutional mandate. And we say people must subscribe to the constitution of the party in totality.
Some of us are nationalists. We don’t know tribes. We do not know a thing called tribe. We mingle with everybody. We are friends with everybody. We are Namibians and only Namibians and Swapo and only Swapo. When you victimise other people and at the same time you are playing victim, due you seek to continue occupying the office? Do you deserve the votes of the patriots of this country and this party? I think no!