… “The playing field was not level”
Team Swapo blamed its Congress defeat on what it claims to be an uneven playing field during the months leading up to congress.
President Hage Geingob’s Team Harambee were the biggest winners at the Swapo elective congress – after a brutal campaign characterised by name calling, character assassinations and countless rebuttals.
Team Swapo feels that the Congress was marred by a host of irregularities, namely the nullification of regional conferences; court battles; violation of party constitution; a shorter campaign period; barring of candidates from meeting congress delegates; delegates been held hostage on a private farm and lack of access to party resources. This made the race to congress unfair for Team Swapo. In their view, this is the reason why the outcome emerged the way it did.
On face value, both camps looked confident and convincingly claimed the majority of delegates on their side. Namibians were in for what was to be tightly and fiercely contested Swapo internal elections.
However, when lawyer and returning officer for the Swapo elections, Sisa Namandje read the results after nearly 7 hours of waiting early on Monday morning, Team Harambee annihilated Team Swapo.
Geingob’s team proved to be too strong for their opponents, the numbers suggested.
So what went wrong for Team Swapo who until the last minute were a force to be reckoned with?
Speaking to The Patriot this week, Amukwiyu said the playing field in the run up to congress was not “level”.
“It is indeed true that the ground was not level. In terms of accessing the delegates, we found it very difficult. And we know that the Congress atmosphere was characterised by a number of issues (booing and whistling of Team Swapo candidates). But at the end of the day, I am a party leader and I should not put a blame on that. But it’s a fact we cannot deny,” said Amukwiyu.
Avoiding to cry foul, Amukwiyu said “had I won, I would have won under the same political climate that surrounded the campaign environment”.
“Despite those challenges, I went ahead and campaigned, knowing how tough the situation was, because we were not operating in a conducive environment,” Amukwiyu added.
Amukwiyu further noted that he has accepted the Congress outcome.
“I accepted the results. I mean it. I pledged that I will give support to the elected leadership as they are, the President, VP, SG and deputy SG and the central committee members,” he said.
He said Swapo must draw lessons from the mistakes of the just ended Congress.
“The bigger picture is to try and improve the situation. So I think we really have to move on. But it’s a lesson learnt in terms of how we conduct ourselves as leaders and also the processes to be followed leading up to the Congress. I think we will find time as leaders to correct what is wrong. Because as Swapo we have to self-correct. Nobody has to come from somewhere to do that,” he said.
Echoing the words of Amukwiyu was presidential candidate of the now disbanded Team Swapo and former premier Nahas Angula who lamented the use of money to bribe delegates.
“Of course the playing field was not level. We even said it during our campaigns. But more seriously, the use of money to contract people to vote for someone is not part of the Swapo culture. For me, those were contracted votes. People entered into a contract to vote in a certain way,” lamented Angula.
It is surprising that each camp accuse the other of bribing delagates to vote for them.
He warned that Swapo could face extinction should the status quo remain.
“An organisation, let alone a political party which selects its leadership through other means other than competency is not likely to last long, simply because there is nothing that will bind the people together apart from the money. The day you don’t have money, (then) there is no common denominator. That should be a matter of concern,” cautioned the 74-year-old politician.
To further back his case, Angula pointed to his interview with national broadcaster NBC which never saw the light of day.
“I was abused by NBC. They invited me to their studios. I never asked them to invite me there. It might have been an agenda. It was a trap,” charged Angula.
On whether or not the Swapo elections were free, fair and impartial as was being purported, Angula said: “Namandje was only describing the process of voting. But some of us are concerned about the whole process and how we were denied access to delegates. But of course, we decided to ignore those things and move on.”
Angula got 39 votes in the Swapo presidential race out of the possible 766. This is equivalent to 5% of the total vote.
Vice presidential aspirant Helmut Angula, who lost out to Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, bemoaned Namibia’s “shallow democracy”.
“Our democracy is too shallow. It is not based on true choice and the feeling of the people. There’s that fear in people and suspicion in people. If you side with other comrades, then you are seen as being antagonistic to this person,” said the former fisheries minister.
He went to say the nation cannot “continue to cry, we must just improve. We must just strengthen our inner party democracy”.
To Angula’s dismay, supporters and members of Team Harambee are still intimidating those who sided with Team Swapo at Congress.
“It is regrettable…we have been told to look forward but there are still reports coming foot soldiers being intimidated, shouted at which shows immaturity among our members that they consider this democratic process as antagonistic. They think that since you have lost, you lose forever until death. And that’s not what we have fought for zduring the revolution. We fought for real democracy that the people should express (themselves freely) without being intimidated,” he lamented.