This is not a Netumbo issue – ex-campaign manager on calls for congress

Kaire Mbuende
. . . Kaire Mbuende linked to vice president position

Kaire Mbuende, a former campaign manager for vice president Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, says people should not reduce the calls for an extraordinary congress to “a Netumbo issue”.

Mbuende, a close ally of Nandi-Ndaitwah, has since become one of the candidates linked to top jobs in Swapo and in the government.

Some party sources say Nandi-Ndaitwah’s camp is pushing for the ex-Namibian ambassador to the United Nations to be appointed as Swapo vice president, while others speculate he is being linked to the country’s vice president position.

This move is reportedly aimed at balancing tribal representation in top positions.

Mbuende’s potential rise could, however, be blocked by the so-called Helmut amendments which require those aiming for the Swapo top-four positions to have persistently and consistently been members of the central committee and a party member for 20 consecutive years.

Swapo’s succession plans were disrupted by president Hage Geingob’s death on 4 February. The Swapo constitution notes that the party must host an extraordinary congress within 90 days to elect a president to finish Geingob’s term.

However, Swapo’s politburo last week endorsed Nandi-Ndaitwah as presidential candidate for the November national elections.
This decision has irked some Swapo members.

“The primary issue is that of Swapo winning the elections. People want to reduce this to a Netumbo issue. It is not. This is a Swapo issue,” Mbuende said yesterday.

He denied rumours linking him to senior positions in the party and in the government, particularly the vice president position.
“I don’t know about that one. The position of vice president is not vacant . . . so we cannot speculate about a position that is not vacant.”

At the 2022 Swapo congress, Mbuende delivered a victory that propelled Nandi-Ndaitwah to the Swapo vice presidency position, which has paved the way for her to possibly become the country’s next president. Mbuende yesterday said he was not assembling a team for an extraordinary congress. “The congress is of course over. That process is over. The presidential candidate at the time was, of course obvious. Now a decision to reaffirm will have to be made. We are waiting for the central committee meeting to decide on the way forward.” The central committee, which is responsible to call for an extraordinary congress, will meet on Saturday.

It is dominated by Nandi-Ndaitwah’s faction, who is expected to endorse her as Swapo candidate for national elections and move the extraordinary congress to 2025.

Some central committee members are concerned over a lack of time to host an extraordinary congress. They also want to save money for national election campaigns, rather than spend on the logistics for an extraordinary congress. Other Swapo members believe a congress shortly before the November elections could cause internal divisions in the party.

Former Cabinet minister and Swapo veteran Jerry Ekandjo last month said the party should host an extraordinary congress to avoid any possible constitutional violations and possible legal challenges.

Political analyst Erika Thomas yesterday said she agrees that this is not a “Netumbo issue”.

“I don’t know why some people like to personalise issues. The late president Geingob used to say, ‘play the ball, not the person’.

Those that are not in leadership positions, why are they expressing themselves through the media?”

She encouraged disgruntled members to approach the Swapo head office to express their dissatisfaction.

“What are they benefiting from complaining in the media? They have elected those leaders who can make decisions on their behalf. The leadership have analysed and realised that there is a time limit and challenges to host an extraordinary congress. People are not fair when it comes to Nandi-Ndaitwah.”

Political analyst Ndumba Kamwanyah yesterday labelled it a catch-22 situation.

“If they host an extraordinary congress, there will be people who will challenge Nandi-Ndaitwah. If they don’t hold an extraordinary congress, it is also going to divide the party.

“Either way . . . the party seems to be in trouble.” Kamwanyah said the decision should be taken within the parameters of Swapo’s constitution.

“Yes, Nandi-Ndaitwah’s camp also has an interest in that because they want a process managed in a way that will end up with Nandi-Ndaitwah being elected as a party president.

“That’s why they cannot just say it’s a party issue or decision. That decision should be taken at a party level following the structures of the party, but they have a big interest in that by thinking of ways that make sure that their candidate comes out on top.”

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