Die is cast for Swapo congressBy: SELMA SHIPANGA
REGIONAL and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development Minister Jerry Ekandjo has officially entered the contest to become the country’s next President, joining Swapo’s Vice President Hage Geingob and Secretary General Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana in a race which insiders are convinced he could eventually win.
Ekandjo’s nomination as a candidate for the position of the ruling party’s vice president was sealed at the Swapo Party Central Committee (CC) meeting which took place in Windhoek over the weekend.
He was nominated by Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) Secretary Elijah Ngurare, as expected, and drew tumultuous applause that many say dealt a body blow to Geingob’s status as the presumptive frontrunner.
Next stop is the party’s watershed congress from November 29 to December 2.
Whoever is elected vice president of the party at the congress is expected to take over from President Hifikepunye Pohamba, who remains Swapo president, but must step down after the 2014 national elections as he would have served the constitutional limit of two terms as Head of State.
The race for the party’s secretary general position, a post currently held by Iivula-Ithana, is on between current Deputy Secretary General Nangolo Mbumba and Foreign Affairs Minister Utoni Nujoma. Nujoma, who was also the favoured candidate of the SPYL, was nominated by Ekandjo as a candidate for the secretary general position.
Education Minister Abraham Iyambo will face the governor of the Omaheke region, Laura McLeod-Katjirua, in a contest to become the ruling party’s next deputy secretary general.
Iyambo, who is also the SPYL’s favoured candidate, was nominated by Matheus Mumbala, Swapo’s Karas regional co-ordinator.
Environment and Tourism Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, who was also nominated for the deputy secretary general post, withdrew from that race because she allegedly wanted to give room to younger people.
The SPYL, whose preferred candidates all made it into the race, expressed joy at the fact, adding that this was an indication that the SPYL “remains a critical body of opinion in the Swapo Party”, said Job Amupanda, SPYL spokesperson.
In addition to the nomination of candidates for the top positions in the party, insiders say Pohamba also used the platform to caution Youth Minister Kazenambo Kazenambo and the SPYL Secretary Ngurare, who over the past weeks have engaged in public mudslinging, to refrain from doing so.
“He [Pohamba] said that fighting in public did not look good. He said it did not paint a good picture when people read about it in the newspapers,” said a source who attended the meeting.
The spat between the two culminated in Kazenambo declaring he would expose Ngurare’s origin and allegiance, and Ngurare in turn likening the youth minister to a “chicken on drugs”.
The Namibian is further informed that during this private address, Pohamba remained neutral, not taking any sides as observers thought he would come out in support of Geingob’s candidature.
“He said that the nominations meant that there will be new leaders and told those contesting that if they lose, they should accept it. He said he did not want a repeat of 2004 when some members left to form an opposition party,” a source told The Namibian.
In his speech at the opening of the CC meeting on Friday, Pohamba cautioned members to “learn from the lessons of history and ensure that the Swapo Party remains resilient and emerge stronger than ever before to face future challenges”.
At a press conference yesterday, Iivula-Ithana said the Central Committee underscored the need for a united Swapo Party and called on all its members to work towards unity at all cost and at all times.
“We will therefore withstand all ill wishes for division and disintegration within our ranks. I call upon every Swapo Party member to heed to the call of our CC to work towards unity of purpose and to shun detractors as they are unable to display the maturity in governance, planning and democracy which we have repeatedly done so as a Swapo Party,” she said.
The CC meeting also looked at the finalisation of the names of delegates to the congress, and analysed draft reports to be presented for discussions.
The issues raised in the draft reports include education, housing, and access to affordable land, which are to be worked into new policies at the congress.
The meeting also resolved that the Otjozondjupa Region, the only region which did not have its regional conference to date, should have its conference on October 27.