30. August 2014

Surprising results of internal SWAPO elections

THE emergence of new faces on top of Swapo’s ‘pot’ list sent shockwaves through a packed hall at the Safari Hotel in Windhoek, Saturday night.
The hall came to a standstill when the election presiding officer, lawyer Sisa Namandje, read out the first four names topping the women’s list. The delegates did not know whether to celebrate or whether Namandje made a mistake as he read the list.

Windhoek Mayor Agnes Kafula topped the list followed by former SPYL leader Lucia Iipumbu. Local government deputy minister Priscilla Beukes came in third place followed by MP Lucia Witbooi.

Not one of the four women have participated at that level before.

Witbooi and Beukes are currently part of President Hifikepunye Pohamba’s six appointed non-voting members of the National Assembly.

Only at number five was a familiar name called out, foreign affairs Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah. But even this position was unfamiliar territory of recent times for Nandi-Ndaitwah whose political fortunes seem to be coming back after living on the brink of political extinction since 2004, when she supported Hidipo Hamutenya at the extraordinary congress which saw Pohamba beat Hamutenya.

Hamutenya and his supporters later left Swapo to form the Rally for Democracy and Progress. Although she never left the party, she carried a ‘hibernators’ label until the 2012 congress, when her fortunes started turning.

While it was the emergence of younger faces on the top of the male list which is noteworthy, deputy environment minister Pohamba Shifeta topped the men’s list. Traditionally, this position has been reserved for the likes of youth minister Jerry Ekandjo, Nahas Angula or even Ben Amadhila who topped such lists since independence. State House staff member and former Kavango governor Sebastian Karupu, SPYL deputy secretary Veikko Nekundi, SPYL secretary for education Natangwe Iithete and Law Reform and Development Commission chairperson Sacky Shanghala, were some of the new faces who made it higher on the men’s list.

At least four party stalwarts, who were part of founding President Sam Nujoma’s first government, have been out-voted by the electoral college which favoured younger candidates who could be described as novices.

National Assembly speaker Theo-Ben Gurirab (144 on the list), Ben Amathila (142 on the list), youth minister Jerry Ekandjo (88 on the list) and home affairs minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana (86 on the list), are members of Nujoma’s first government in 1990.

Other members of the current government who did not do well at the college are education minister David Namwandi, information minister Joel Kaapanda, mines minister Isak Katali, health minister Richard Kamwi, presidential affairs and Attorney General Albert Kawana, gender equality minister Rosalia Nghidinwa, environment minister Uahekua Herunga.

agriculture deputy minister Lempy Lucas, defence deputy minister Peter Iilonga, veterans deputy minister Hilma Nicanor, mines deputy minister Willem Isaacks and health deputy Minister Petrina Haingura. Home affairs deputy Elia Kaiyamo and gender deputy minister Angelika Muharukua also did not make the cut.

The infusion of a host of newer and younger faces is pointing towards a generational shift, which many in the party blamed on President Hifikepunye Pohamba.

Pohamba allegedly encouraged the shift, calling on delegates not to vote for people who cannot even stand up right.

While many of the old guard lost out, some questioned Pohamba’s move to call on seniors to retire while people like Nickey Iyambo, Erkki Nghimtina and Immanuel Ngatjizeko, seen to be close to Pohamba, made it higher up the list. Iyambo is currently the oldest member of Cabinet at 78, apart from Pohamba who is 79.

Defence minister Nahas Angula and deputy Prime Minister Marco Hausiku, heeded Pohamba’s call and opted not to contest, with some of their supporters praising them for retiring with dignity and avoiding humiliation in the pot.
While the outcome took many by surprise, the mood at the Swapo gathering was characterised as tense. From the word go it was clear that there was not going to be a clear-cut outcome since the party was split two ways. There was a faction looking at making sure that Prime Minister Hage Geingob gets some of his own supporters and those he wants to be part of his government next year, to make it high up on the list.

Pohamba also had his own group of people he wanted to secure positions in government and the National Assembly. It would appear that Pohamba won the battle with most of his faction making it high on the list.

According to newspapers reports, some quarters within SWAPO want to challenge the results by using some clauses in the SWAPO constitution against factionalism. (The Namibian, Windhoek)

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