Former Cabinet minister Jerry Ekandjo has requested Swapo president Hage Geingob to convene an extraordinary congress this year to nominate the ruling party’s presidential candidate for the 2024 national elections.
Ekandjo’s latest move could be interpreted in various ways, including the possibility that he is positioning himself to run for the party’s leadership position, which could affect Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah’s ambition to be Namibia’s next president.
Ekandjo wrote a letter to Geingob four weeks ago, stating that last year’s congress did not name a presidential candidate for the 2024 elections.
At last year’s congress, Geingob announced deputy prime minister Nandi-Ndaitwah as the party’s presidential candidate.
“Elections took place, we have the results that we are going to have one candidate only, that will be Nandi-Ndaitwah and we will campaign and we have a person who will lead us,” Geingob said.
It appears Ekandjo wants a congress to formally endorse the party candidate, however, Geingob is reportedly still examining Ekandjo’s letter.
Ekandjo’s circle has been promoting the idea that he is not interested in the presidency since 2017, but rather in restoring Swapo to its “former glory”.
The only sticking point is that for Ekandjo to successfully remove Geingob as party president, he needs an extraordinary congress.
With Swapo secretary general Sophia Shaningwa in Nandi-Ndaitwah’s corner, it appears an idea of a congress is unlikely to be entertained.
Ekandjo refused to comment when approached for comment yesterday, citing the abuse he has endured at the hands of The Namibian.
“You depicted me [Dudly’s cartoon] with red eyes slitting a woman’s throat as if I am the epitome of gender-based violence. Why didn’t you draw two men having sex? Now you make me look like I abuse women,” he said.
Homosexuality and bedroom politics have dominated ruling party discussions over the past two months. Geingob’s failure to strongly condemn same-sex marriage is seen as opening him up to criticism from factions in the ruling party who wanted to remove him since he ascended to the party throne in 2012.
Nandi-Ndaitwah and Shaningwa’s faction appear to have ganged up on Geingob’s team to push through Ekandjo’s private members’ bills in parliament.
Ekandjo grabbed national headlines by tabling two private member’s bills that are widely known as anti-gay, and include various clauses that could be unconstitutional. The bills were in response to the Supreme Court’s directive to recognise same-sex marriages legally concluded outside Namibia.
The first bill defined the term spouse to contradict a decision of the Supreme Court of Namibia on same-sex marriage, while the second bill aims to amend sections of the Marriage Act, including definitions for the terms marriage, same-sex marriage and spouse.
The bill further seeks to prohibit same-sex marriage, prohibit the solemnisation of same-sex marriages, and to deny the recognition of same-sex marriages. The same bill appears to criminalise the solemnisation, advocacy and propagation of same-sex marriage, as well.
It reads: “Any marriage officer who purports to solemnise a marriage which he or she is not authorised under this act to solemnise, or which to his or her knowledge is legally prohibited, and any person, not being a marriage officer, who purports to solemnise a marriage or witness, promote or propagate same-sex marriage, commits an offence.”
The bill further states that anyone who violates the law against same-sex marriage faces a fine of up to N$100 000 or up to six years in prison.
Some members of parliament were concerned that the clause criminalises the solemnisation, advocacy and propagation of same-sex marriage.
The bill is currently being reviewed by attorney general Festus Mbandeka, who will examine whether it complies with the Constitution before passing that information on to the president to make a decision.
There is a sense within Swapo that Geingob is not interested in signing off on Ekandjo’s bills due to various unconstitutional clauses.
At this point, some suspect the bill could be returned to parliament.
Geingob said last week that Ekandjo jumped the gun.
“We have assigned [Albert] Kawana to prepare the law to make the amendments. While we are on that, so-and-so bills come in,” Geingob had said.
“He is a member of Swapo, someone who is on my list, bringing that bill without consultation.”
Some politicians aligned to Nandi-Ndaiwah, such as the Swapo Youth League, shot back at Geingob saying Ekandjo represented the ruling party when he tabled the anti-gay bills.
Ekandjo and his supporters are said to be pushing and threatening to recall Geingob in order to pressure him into signing the bills.
Last year, Ekandjo was part of a group of party leaders who petitioned the two former party presidents and the party politburo calling for a vote of no confidence in Geingob’s leadership.
Geingob has, since taking over the party leadership in 2012 as party vice president, faced an internal onslaught from various factions from the dominant northern regions.
Geingob has benefited from the non-Oshiwambo candidacy narrative that propelled him to the throne of politics in Namibia.
TYRANNY OF NUMBERS
Political commentator Rui Tyitende said the stakes are against Ekandjo.
“The tyranny of numbers is not in his favour, as the central committee is dominated by Nandi-Ndaitwah loyalists,” he told The Namibian this week.
The Swapo constitution states that an extraordinary congress can only be initiated by the central committee or at the request of at least two-thirds of all regional executive committees.
“Therefore, the question becomes: Does Ekandjo think or believe that he has the support of members of the central committee or a majority of the regional executive committees?” Tyitende said.
“It is important to note that Ekandjo has lost the contest of Swapo vice president in 2012, 2017, and 2022, scoring a hat-trick in an interrupted defeat.”
Tyitende said Ekandjo might be hoping that the tide has turned in his favour.
“Perhaps Ekandjo is of the opinion that the tide has changed as a consequence of his anti-homosexual tirade that has received overwhelming support from both houses of parliament, the general public and Swapo key power brokers, such as the traditional authorities of north central Namibia,” he said.
Tyitende described Geingob as politically weak because he is exiting the corridors of power.
“Alliances have turned to Nandi-Ndaitwah, who stands a better chance of ascending to the Presidency should Swapo win the 2024 national elections.”
According to him, with the current wave of restructuring of districts, allegiances may shift and compromises have to be made before the 2022 congress may be reneged on.
He questioned whether prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila’s supporters may throw their weight behind Ekandjo in the event of an unlikely extraordinary congress.
“Notwithstanding these possible scenarios, I am of the opinion that Ekandjo is fighting a losing battle and will meet another humiliating defeat,” he said.
It’s unclear if Geingob will call for an extraordinary congress.
In a way, his position as party president could be in danger of being challenged by Nandi-Ndaitwah, who has increased her grip on the control of Swapo.
Geingob indicated last year that he intends to serve his term until 2027.
There is speculation that Nandi-Ndaitwah’s camp are leaning towards working with Ekandjo. Some have said this was part of Nandi-Ndaitwah’s plan to unify the party.
Efforts to get comment from Shaningwa were not successful as she is out of the country.
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