Legal loophole allows Nandi-Ndaitwah presidential candidacy

Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah

The decision of Swapo’s central committee (CC) to sidestep an extraordinary congress and to endorse Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah as presidential candidate has been met with criticism.

Some party leaders claim the party’s constitution was interpreted to suit the current leadership.

Swapo politburo member, lawyer Sisa Namandje, on Saturday explained what the party’s constitution says about an extraordinary congress when a president dies.

“The constitution simply requires the calling of an extraordinary congress by the central committee within a period of three months if the position of president becomes vacant.

“It does not require or direct that both the calling and holding should occur during the same three-month period,” the central committee’s document on the decision, which The Namibian has seen, says.

The words “called” and “held”, which seemingly created a loophole for propelling Nandi-Ndaitwah to become Swapo’s presidential candidate for the November elections, were explained to party members in a two-hour presentation on Saturday.

Some members allegedly asked why Namandje was given two hours while Swapo’s secretary for legal affairs, Pohamba Shifeta, was present.

“You media are saying that she was endorsed. There is no endorsement in Swapo. At the meeting, Nandi-Ndaitwah was the chairperson, the vice president and only presidential candidate. Is that not a conflict?,” a disgruntled CC member said.

Before the meeting, Swapo formed a committee to consider succession plans after party president Hage Geingob died on 4 February.

Committee member and deputy minister of gender equality, poverty eradication & child welfare Bernadette Jagger said the outcome of the CC meeting corresponds with the findings of the succession plan committee.

Some CC members were not happy with these findings.

Sisa Namandje

“I thought we were being called to deal with the constitution, but it ended up being a lecture . . . We aren’t even fighting for positions, we just want the constitution followed,” another CC member said.

The ruling party is now being threatened with legal action.

Party member Reinhold Shipwiikineni on Thursday wrote Nandi-Ndaitwah a letter through his lawyers Titus Ipumbu Legal Practitioners, saying an extraordinary congress should be held within three months due to Geingob’s death.

Shipwiikineni yesterday said he believes the constitution was violated at Saturday’s meeting.

“The explanation Namandje gave was that of a comedian. People should not just interpret the constitution for the sake of it and for protecting their own interests,” he said.

Another CC member said Namandje is conflicted because he is part of the politburo.

He said Namandje never brought the particular legal opinion before the CC to scrutinise.

“It was unfair. It should have been presented a week or two before so we could have different legal interpretations.

“In the meeting, we were told to just agree for the sake of unity – no votes, no raising of hands.”

Namandje did not respond to questions yesterday.

At a press conference at Swapo’s headquarters on Saturday, Namandje said those who think the party’s constitution obliges it to hold an extraordinary congress within three months after a vacancy arises in the party presidency are wrong.

“The party’s constitution rather requires that it calls an extraordinary congress in three months and not to hold one in that time,” he said.

Political analyst Ndumba Kamwanyah yesterday said the party is focusing on semantics.

“I think the central committee meeting discussed the wrong agenda item. They were not supposed to discuss the endorsement of Nandi-Ndaitwah as a candidate.

“They were supposed to discuss ways to hold the extraordinary congress within three months,” he said.

Kamwanyah said the constitution is clear.

“Calling means that within three months you must call for an extraordinary congress so that it can take place and that’s where the holding comes in. Semantics and legalistic approaches are just manoeuvres not to call an extraordinary congress,” he said.


Despite these concerns, Nandi-Ndaitwah on Saturday became the ruling party’s candidate for November’s national elections, possibly paving the way for her to become Namibia’s first woman president.

The party also resolved to have an extraordinary congress on 19 April 2025.

Former Swapo secretary general and home affairs minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana rallied behind Nandi-Ndaitwah as the party’s sole candidate.

Founding president Sam Nujoma also asked that Nandi-Ndaitwah be endorsed as presidential candidate.

Nujoma’s speech was read on his behalf by Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.

“Everything went well,” Nandi-Ndaitwah told The Namibian shortly after the CC meeting.

The endorsement has spared Nandi-Ndaitwah the trouble of going through an extraordinary congress where she would have been challenged for the party presidency.

“I stand with pride today and tell you that the central committee of Swapo today has decided we only have one single candidate.
That is Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah,” Swapo secretary general Sophia Shaningwa said this weekend.


Swapo’s CC has also moved swiftly to avoid having two factions in the top four structure.

“The central committee confirmed there will not be an election for the position of the vice president at the extraordinary congress (in 2025). It is limited to electing a person to complete the term left unexpired by the former president,” the CC’s decision document says.

The document says if Nandi-Ndaitwah makes herself available for an electoral contest for the position of Swapo president, she is not under a legal obligation to resign from her position until elected as president at the extraordinary congress.

Due to challenging circumstances, including financial constraints and the impracticality of organising both the electoral college and an extraordinary congress shortly before the November election, the CC meeting decided to schedule the congress for 19 April 2025.

This aims to prevent potential disunity and disfranchisement among party members.

“I am so grateful to the central committee who spoke with one voice,” Shaningwa said.

“This unity will definitely spill over to the rank, file, supporters and sympathisers of the Swapo party . . . Come 27 November we are going to rally behind that candidate.

“That is the happiness as a secretary general I am enjoying this afternoon,” she said.

Shaningwa said the extraordinary congress will be held on Swapo’s birthday next year at a town yet to be determined.

“We called an extraordinary congress because our constitution tells us the central committee should call for an extraordinary congress. We have called that today, because we want to give ourselves the time and stamina to go and campaign for our party and presidential candidate,” she said.

Political analyst Erika Thomas believes the outcome of the CC meeting was the right decision for Swapo as a political party.

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