…“We knew every move of our competitors”
The President Geingob-led Team Harambee made a clean sweep at the just ended 6th Swapo elective congress – clinching Swapo’s top four leadership positions and banked at least 52 places out of a possible 58 in the central committee (CC) – leaving much praise to its campaign strategy.
Team Harambee’s campaign strategy was not immune to shortcomings and criticism.
In the run-up to the Swapo Party 6th Swapo elective congress, the two camps had their knives at each other’s throats and deployed robust campaign strategies.
Chief amongst the campaign methods that characterised the 6th Swapo congress include: social media campaigns; mass rallies; rumour mongering; intimidation (political patronage); character assassination; tribal card; door to door campaigning; public endorsements; late night meetings; captured media houses and bribery.
In a brief interview with The Patriot, former environment minister and new CC member, Uahekua Herunga, one of Team Harambee’s chief campaigners said the team wanted to set a trend for Swapo beyond the congress from the word go.
“Before the campaigns, before nominations of candidates and even before the ‘slate’ was announced, we wanted to set a trend in Swapo so as to avoid confusions in Namibia in the future. That trend is that, a Namibian president (on a Swapo ticket) who has not committed any crime or has an economic omission which makes him a totally poor performer, he should be allowed to get his two terms in office as per the constitution,” said Herunga.
Herunga attributed his team’s astounding victory to the hard work they put in during the campaign.
“We travelled countrywide. We informed people how to vote and what was at stake for the future of this country. And that all individuals must be treated equally,” Herunga noted.
He added: “I am proud that this spark began in Kunene. The first endorsement of the national leaders started in Kunene. This is where it all began.”
After the visit in Kunene, which coincided with the burial of the region’s former governor, Angelika Kazetjindire Muharukua, Team Harambee would go on a national crusade, visiting each of the 14 regions to parade its leaders and seek approval from delegates.
“We have been everywhere…in all the villages to convince the Namibian people that this is not about Hage as an individual but a preservation of Namibia’s history. Yes, he[Geingob] is the strongest candidate that we have in Swapo but setting the trend was paramount. That in the future, if there comes a Witbooi who is the president, he should also be treated the same way (getting two terms),” he said.
According to Herunga, Team Harambee was always a step ahead during the campaign and knew almost every detail about their rival camp, including financial details.
“We knew about the envelopes that were being distributed among the delegates. Some envelopes contained N$2000 and N$5000 in them. Some of our delegates reported this to us. We told them to take the money but their vote should remain here,” Herunga charged.
Also speaking to this publication was another Team Harambee loyalist, Jenelly Matundu who said their campaigned was founded on “trust and belief”.
“We didn’t have rallies. Mainly, we had meetings where we discussed pertinent things which would ensure that we emerge as victors at the end of the day. Firstly, it was instilling belief in delegates by building trust in each other. Because, without trust, we knew that it might lead to some delegates turning against us…which was not the case,” explained Matundu.
Even during congress, Team Harambee members did not have to spend sleepless nights trying to convince delegates as the two elements, trust and belief were already in place, according to Matundu.
“As for our delegates, there was really no tension amongst us where one would feel unease just because the delegate had gone to the toilet or to the dining hall and that they would come in contact with whoever that would convince them to vote otherwise. That was not the case. They (delegates) came with one objective which we all agreed on from the first day,” she said.
Herunga and Matundu were delegates from Kunene at the just ended Congress.
Amid rumours that some candidates struggled to get their campaign message to delegates, the same cannot be said about Team Harambee.
“These (11) regional coordinators gave us lists of all delegates to Congress and where they stood in terms of their support. We were told of each delegate, and for those who were not with us and we were told to approach them cautiously due to the sensitivity of the issues. We did that, and we were able to convince those who were doubting. We went from delegate to delegate. In the other regions, we still had foot soldiers” he said.
More so, Herunga stressed that Geingob had warned his team to guard against bribing delegates.
“One thing we didn’t do as per the directive from the President[Geingob] was to discredit and de-campaign the other team, especially in public. The other thing is buying votes. The President said “I know that some of you might have money (but) never do that. We have to go with our moral values and we stand by our principles. If we have to lose because we are not buying people, let it be”. And we stuck by that,” Herunga said.