Succession was eventually a traumatic event and process with many comrades having been suspected until recently as ‘hibernators’ – individuals who remained in the party, but with claimed intent to cause grave harm to the body and soul of the party. Toward the end of this year, Swapo will face another litmus test in its political life with an elective congress at which the party will have to choose the face (and not necessarily the content) of its presidential candidate for the next presidential elections in 2014. While the road to Congress appears challenging and murky, with accusations and counteraccusations of ill-intent on the part of this or that leader or group rearing their head, the faces of potential candidates appear to be the country’s closely-guarded secret.
If both Hage Geingob and Pendukeni Ithana have been fighting their political battles through proxies, the entry of Nahas Angula created a new front and new dynamic in Swapo’s succession politics. Angula’s entry is not only courageous and chaotic, but it also speaks about the nature of the man and the manner in which he exercises his metier of politics. In light of its own dynamics created, Angula’s second speculative entry in the presidential nomination deserves scrutiny and closer analysis, perhaps even more than the undeclared candidacies of Geingob and Ithana. You may ask why we should pay special attention to Angula?
First, his availability for higher office deserves closer scrutiny because Angula had made it known to Namibians that he would be retiring from politics at the end of Pohamba’s presidential term. While certain politicians are prone to flip-flopping, changing their positions when the weather permits, the choice of language used by Angula in his declaration was even more worrying for a man seeking the presidential nomination and higher office. Angula informed Namibians about two weeks ago that he would, if requested, consider running for the nomination and eventually higher office. What this essentially suggests is that Angula’s heart and ambition does not lie with higher office, but that he would only do so as a result of ‘popular demand’. Which in itself should be an extremely worrying proposition when you consider Angula’s performance in state administration. Understandably, his tenure at education was tenuous as a result of the difficulties of running such a complex operation. However, over the past seven years that he has served as Prime Minister and chief advisor to the President, we have seen a leader who has been hesitant, incoherent and inconsistent.
Second, when you are Namibia’s third Prime Minister, with 22 years of uninterrupted service in Cabinet and government, the choice of wanting to become Namibia’s third president is not one that you should take lightly. Namibia is going through an exceptionally difficult and challenging period, both in terms of its politics and economy. To be Swapo’s presidential candidate and eventually a leader of this country would demand other qualities that we did not necessarily see over the past few years. Namibians did not see a vision, they did not see competence, nor did they see the chief advisor to the President mobilising Namibians towards a greater goal. Namibians saw rare flashes of brilliance from their PM, while everything remained in draft form, never cogent or programmatic. In light of these, when you are a sitting PM, you should ask yourself what it is that you can do for Namibians with their multiple demands for a better life in all its different manifestations. You should also ask yourself what it is that you could not do and why you could not do it in the different positions you occupied, including Prime Minister and chief advisor to the Head of State for the past seven years. All things considered, you should, of course, ask yourself if you perhaps did not squander an opportunity to influence and shape the direction of this country under a kind President whose two terms you could have impacted positively.
Last, Angula’s entry deserves closer debate than what has been the case because of Namibia’s unique needs at this point in history. Namibia is in need of a leader who can mobilise Namibians in their diversity. Namibia is in need of a man or woman whose experience of this country and its cultural density makes him or her naturally understood by all Namibians. After all, the danger exists that demand for a candidate to run for office could emanate from the unfathomable wheels of partisan tribal egoism and the insatiable appetite for power of tribal entrepreneurs. These vices go against the path of nation-building that should be pursued in a new phase.
To make yourself available to lead Swapo’s presidential ticket and eventually this country must be based on a lucid assessment of what you are as a leader and what you can offer the country. Importantly, it must be a choice understood by many Namibians, and not just those who feel that you as a senior political personality within your community stand the best chance of winning the nomination. For Angula to be the right man, he must unpack this luggage, and also ask whether he is the right Angula for the top job in the land.
* Alfredo Tjiurimo Hengari is a PhD-fellow in political science and researcher at the Centre for Political Research at the University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, France.