Venaani ready to give PDM job to whoever gets 40% at congress

McHenry Venaani

Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) leader McHenry Venaani says he will hand over power to any party presidential candidate who scores over 40% at the upcoming congress in August.

Venaani told The Namibian in an interview yesterday he is still within his term limit to lead the PDM and he will still contest as party presidential candidate, but he is ready for anyone who will contest against him.

Last week, PDM announced that the central committee will meet on 7 June at Opuwo to convene a party congress planned for August, to elect the party’s leadership after the November national elections.

“I am ready to hand over to anyone that challenges me at congress with at least 40%, even if I have 60%, I’ll leave,” he said.

According to PDM’s constitution that was adopted in 2017, the party president is elected for a five-year term by the national congress and is eligible for re-election, but this is limited to three consecutive terms per individual.

Venaani was elected as PDM president in 2014 and was re-elected in 2019. He further said he will train three to four people before he leaves office.

“I need to prepare my successor before my time lapses. The selection will depend on who is interested, I am not going to choose since it might seem as if I have favourites, which is not good for democracy.”

Venaani further said there is a mood of unity in the party and people want a stable organisation.

“Of course there are oppositions here and there within the party, which is normal in politics,” he said.

Vipua Muharukua

Last month, PDM member of parliament (MP) Vipua Muharukua resigned from the party and the National Assembly. The move, Venaani said, had nothing to do with the party.

However, it is believed that Muharukua was interested in contesting for the party presidency.

A PDM source said Muharukua was promised the party leadership, but this never materialised.

“Muharukua was trying to fight power with someone who is politically experienced and a person who is the centre of the party. I told him to get the numbers, which he couldn’t unfortunately. He doesn’t even have a stronghold within the Kunene region, where he comes from,” said Venaani.

Muharukua, following his resignation from the party in April, described internal PDM matters as trivial.

Yesterday, he told The Namibian he could no longer convince people to vote for the PDM, nor does he believe the party could be the best alternative to the ruling party.

“I am not concerned about what happens in PDM, congress or what, contested or not. I want to hear what they will do for Namibians,” he said.

MP Inna Hengari said she’s looking forward to a congress to elect “capable leadership” to ensure a united front.

“We are faced with a lot of challenges as a party. Recently we saw the party’s prominent member Muharukua resign as party member and as MP and the withdrawal of United People’s Movement members from parliament,” said Hengari.

She said she wants a leadership that will solve internal issues, move forward and save the party from dying a natural death, as has happened to other parties in the past.

Hengari said she cannot, at this point in time, confirm or deny if she plans to contest for a position at this year’s congress.

“Any young woman would appreciate that,” she said, adding that the conversation should be centred around capacity and competence.

PDM secretary general Manuel Ngaringombe said preparations are underway to finalise congress logistics.

“About the candidates vying for positions, it will be made known once it’s finalised,” he said.

Rui Tyitende

Political analyst Rui Tyitende said he does not foresee anyone challenging Venaani, as he is currently the “bull, cow and calf within PDM”.

“In fact, his brand is larger than PDM at the moment and any contenders will be fighting a losing battle. They simply do not have the political currency to challenge him. So, I expect Venaani to win with an absolute majority if there are any challengers,” he said.

According to Tyitende, Venaani has read the national mood in his party and across PDM’s strongholds and various urban centres countrywide, hence his unadulterated confidence.

“However, he should exercise humility if he wishes to inculcate a culture of healthy competition and succession politics. In politics, anyone is dispensable and has their sell-by dates.”

Tyitende said with an opposition that is generally weak and unable to drastically reduce Swapo’s electoral dominance, internal divisions and squabbles do not augur well for any opposition party that perceives itself as a “government in waiting”.

“Any squabbles or fallouts after the congress should be managed within a spirit of compromise and consensus.”

He said with the emergence of the Independent Patriots for Change (IPC) in the political arena, it is unlikely that PDM will retain their status as the official opposition.

“They will definitely lose that status come 2024, if the 2019 national elections are anything to go by. Remember, Dr Itula garnered 29,4% of the presidential vote compared to Venaani’s 5,3%. For the National Assembly elections, PDM garnered 16,6% of the vote (just over half of what Itula gained). Had IPC been registered as a political party by then, the same pattern of votes would have followed and IPC would have been the official opposition and not PDM. Look at the concentration of power at regional and local authority levels,” he said.

Venaani said his party isn’t fighting to retain its opposition status but rather to become the government.

“The numbers are looking fine and also we are ready for a coalition.”

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