Moderates prevailBy: SHINOVENE IMMANUEL and SELMA SHIPANGA
THE victory of Hage Geingob in the Swapo vice presidential race has been seen as a win for moderates and inner-party democracy.
His victory puts him in the running for the country’s presidency after President Hifikepunye Pohamba steps down in 2015 when he completes his second term.
Geingob and his running mate for the secretary general position, Nangolo Mbumba, prevailed over their challengers.
Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana and Jerry Ekandjo battled it out with the ultimate winner.
Ekandjo, Utoni Nujoma and Abraham Iyambo ran as a team for the vice president, secretary general and deputy secretary general positions respectively.
All three did not make it. Iyambo lost by 15 votes to Laura McLeod-Katjirua’s 300.
Geingob won the race with a vote count of 312 against Ekandjo’s 220 and Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, who only managed 64 votes.
Mbumba defeated Nujoma with 352 votes, who only managed 244 votes.
Geingob was Namibia’s first prime minister and current trade minister.
He told The Namibian before he jumped into his black Range Rover yesterday that the congress showed that Swapo is mature and have the spirit of working together.
“You saw me there with comrade Ekandjo and comrade Pendukeni Ithana. It’s not my victory but a victory for Swapo,” he said.
“I’m happy that I won,” he added.
He later told the media outside the Swapo headquarters that “I’m here today because of Nujoma who made me vice president of the party,” he said, criticising those trying to drive a wedge between him and Nujoma.
Geingob, the man now supported by President Pohamba described the current party leader a “silent giant”.
Geingob’s victory came despite him not being endorsed publicly by both President Pohamba and Sam Nujoma at the opening of the congress on Thursday.
Geingob spent around 12 years in the political wilderness he was given the boot by Founding President Sam Nujoma, after he turned down an offer to become the minister of regional, local government and housing, the position currently held by Ekandjo. He returned to Pohamba’s Cabinet as trade and industry minister.
He also thanked all the regions that backed him to his victory.
“You have worked very hard, especially the northern regions, a sign that debunked the question of tribalism of an Oshiwambo-speaking president,” he told Nampa.
Geingob said he was pleased with the support he received from contenders Ekandjo and Iivula-Ithana.
“I told Iivula-Ithana when she came to congratulate me that she will not be left out in the cold outside. We will be together,” the Nampa report says.
President Pohamba described the election victory of Geingob, Mbumba and McLeod-Katjirua as a win for “the whole Swapo Party”.
“I was thinking it was going to be like 2004. This time in the fifth congress of the party, repetition is no longer there. We did it once and we completed the job,” Pohamba said, referring to the 2004 elections, which were concluded only after two rounds, and resulted in Hidipo Hamutenya forming his breakaway party, the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP).
Hamutenya was defeated by current President Hifikepunye Pohamba.
Efforts to get comment from Ithana were unsuccessful as she was in a meeting when called for comment. She could not be spotted at the congress.
NO RADICAL CHANGES FORESEEN
Political analyst Graham Hopwood says a Hage Geingob presidency means that in terms of issues concerning economic transformation and land distribution, there will be changes, but not the radical kind the SPYL talked about, had their candidate, Ekandjo, won.
“It seems the congress rejected the more radical approach of the SPYL. I think Hage’s approach will be moderate and gradual. He is a known mediator and somebody who approaches people and in terms of implementing decisions, instead of just doing, he will bring many parts of society on board to take part in the process, which is good for unity,” said Hopwood.
Hopwood said the victory of Geingob is good for diversity in the ruling party, adding that this is indeed good for Swapo to continue its international appeal.
“There was a danger delegates only elect a leadership from one area of the country, now we have diversity which is good for unity,” he said.
Phanuel Kaapama, also a political analyst, said the win for Geingob means something about the inner party democracy of the ruling party.
He also said Geingob is a “tested cadre” who will bring fourth his diplomatic and international experience which stretches back in the 1960’s.
Like Hopwood, Kaapama also said the vice president is also a proven administrator whose experience will be of great use to the success of the country.
“I believe he has a lot to bring on the table. Look at how he worked as the first prime minister of the country. He was part of the team that set up the entire civil servants team,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ekandjo told The Namibian on the sidelines after the congress that they will support the new leadership and wished them well in taking the country forward.
“The people have decided, we wish them luck. Especially the top for leaders of the party,” he said.
“The future is bright. It’s a victory for Swapo and we are united,” said Ekandjo.
Utoni Nujoma, on the other hand, said: “Everyone has the right to contest. I just did my part. There is always next time.”
Nujoma also said the elective congress was democratic.
The loss of Nujoma junior could is a blow blow to what has been seen as the former president pushing his son in order to ensure a ‘Nujoma dynasty’ and the influence of the family over Namibia’s political life.
The secretary general position that Nujoma junior contested is one of the most powerful positions in the party and it gives the winner the opportunity to gain political influence and work himself up to the top seat in the party.
Mbumba vowed to step down if elected into the SG position, meaning that the position of safety and security minister might become vacant soon.
According to new rules and procedures adopted by the Swapo Central Committee this year, if the vice president of the party is not available to stand for election as State president, then the secretary general is the next automatic choice.
Andimba Toivo ya Toivo was awarded permanent membership of all structures of the Swapo Party, making him the second to Sam Nujoma.