Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters undecided on congress

Longinus ‘Kalimbo’ Iipumbu

Ten years after the formation of the Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters (NEFF), the party is struggling to host an elective congress to elect a new leadership.

NEFF deputy president Longinus ‘Kalimbo’ Iipumbu told The Namibian last week the hosting of an elective congress, referred to in NEFF as a people’s assembly, will be determined by the number of branches the party has countrywide.

Iipumbu said the party’s top 13 leaders will sit in March to decide when the party will hold its first elective congress.

“We cannot be rushed into the people’s assembly when we see that the base is not yet strong. One will come today and say I want to be the president of NEFF. Our constitution does not allow that,” he said.

Iipumbu said NEFF’s constitution stipulates that to contest the party’s presidency, members should serve in the party’s executive body, known as the ‘war council’, for five uninterrupted years, as well as having served in a branch for five years,” Iipumbu said.

This is because party leaders do not want NEFF to collapse, he added.

“You know, sometimes the majority can also be wrong, you go to a people’s assembly and two/five months later, the person is resigning. We want to do away with that system,” he said.

NEFF, a sister party to South Africa’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), was started by its incumbent president Epafras Mukwiilongo in mid-2014.

Mukwiilongo was a former Swapo and Congress of Democrats (CoD) member, who said NEFF was a “radical left” political, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist organisation.

Iipumbu said NEFF does not want to elect leaders through a democratic process.

“For us, democracy should be guided,” he said.

“We don’t want to be like other parties that have died, like the CoD and Rally for Democracy and Progress.”

He said before the party goes to congress, it wants to make sure that before the people’s assembly, it has a strong leadership.

“Our constitution says members to the people’s assembly should be drawn from branches and these branches should be actually constituted by branches from and beyond regions. We wdo not want to host the people’s assembly with people from one region only,” he said.

NEFF does not want to impose leaders, but to draw people from all the regions and then come up with the leadership of their choice, Iipumbu said.

NEFF was not able to hold an elective congress in previous years because the party did not have funds, he added.

He said he expects the party to grow and increase its seats in the National Assembly this year, following the presidential and National Assembly elections in November.

According to Iipumbu, NEFF grows every day.

He said he is proud of his party, which faced challenges immediately after it was formed. He said some young people joined the party with different ambitions and later on left.

Political analyst Henning Melber said the fact that the NEFF has never held an elective congress is a sign of a lack of reliable internal organisational structures.

“It is not reassuring that a party which aspires to representation in the National Assembly seems unable to get its act together in terms of internal democracy. This speaks not to a democratic culture, neither does it offer any evidence for transparency and accountability,” he said.

Political commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah said NEFF is not an alternative ideological party for Namibia’s leadership and governance challenges.

“It’s problematic for a political party. At a party level, it fails to organise a very important platform for its members and supporters. There is a problem there.”

The Namibian attempted to get comment from the EFF South Africa yesterday, however, party spokesperson Leigh-Ann Mathys was not reachable.

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