Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) secretary Ephraim Nekongo says a call by party parliamentarian Jerry Ekandjo for Swapo to convene an extraordinary congress this year to nominate Swapo’s presidential candidate for 2024’s election could be considered gender-based violence (GBV) against women.
The Namibian on Friday reported that Ekandjo wrote to Swapo president Hage Geingob to request an extraordinary congress this year to nominate the party’s presidential candidate.
Swapo has since 2004 allowed its vice presidents to become automatic presidential candidates.
This applied both to former party president Hifikepunye Pohamba in 2004 and incumbent party president Geingob in 2014’s general elections.
“That to us is political gender-based violence. Has that been done before in the history of the party, or is it because a woman is the vice president now? So if it has not been done before, it cannot be done. We can’t allow gender-based violence against our women,” Nekongo says.
Swapo secretary general Sophia Shaningwa yesterday said that Swapo vice president Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah remains the party’s candidate for next year’s presidential election.
“The status quo has not changed,” Shaningwa said.
She said she doesn’t know whether anyone can organise an extraordinary congress without going through the party’s politburo and central committee first, and subsequently, the office of the secretary general.
Ekandjo yesterday did not answer phone calls.
He, however, sent a text message, saying: “SMS your message.”
No answer was received after sending an SMS.
‘THE DEATH OF SWAPO’
Former deputy minister of works and transport and staunch Nandi-Ndaitwah supporter James Sankwasa says if the extraordinary congress were to be allowed, it would be the death of the party ahead of 2024.
He says the pressure from Ekandjo is symptomatic of tribal challenges within the party.
“[Some] groups are creating disunity in the party and they need to find a common position,” he says.
“For us now to go and say let’s go for an extraordinary congress. that spells the doom of Swapo.
“Whoever is calling for an extraordinary congress now must know Swapo will not come back,” he says.
“Jerry Ekandjo competed against comrade Hage Geingob in the 2012 congress. He wanted to be the vice president, and he lost. At that time the founding president’s term of office in terms of the Namibian Constitution did not coincide with the Swapo party constitution’s term of office.”
Sankwasa says Nujoma remained Swapo’s president when Pohamba took over as state president.
He says at the time, there were two centres of power, but it was not an issue.
Deputy minister of finance and public enterprises Maureen Hinda Mbuende says it is frustrating that the call for an extraordinary congress is being made by a veteran party member.
“The timing is certainly not right, to say the least. It would have been best if the member could approach the central committee. Obviously as a party member, anybody can raise any issue, but there are structures on how to raise your concern,” she says.
Political science expert and author Rekkel Andreas-Kayoko says the move for an extraordinary congress shows symptoms of intra-party tensions.
“For the congress to even be called for, the decision needs to be agreed upon by many more than Jerry Ekandjo.
“He can make the call . . . but it’s up to the Swapo leadership to really decide if his call warrants an extraordinary congress or whether this is just a distraction from what they should be focusing on,” she says.
Andreas-Kayoko says it is unlikely that Ekandjo will have his way.
“When we look at Swapo’s history of succession from one president to the next, we have seen that whoever is voted in as vice president eventually goes on to be the standing candidate.
“A lot of Swapo’s campaign strategies so far have been very clear in putting her [Nandi-Ndaitwah] forward as the candidate.
“So she has nothing to be worried about, because even from just the rank and file of the party, everybody is aware that because of the outcome of the last congress, there is no doubt about who is going to be their next candidate,” she says.