Hage throws Jerry a bone

Swapo president also saves Katjavivi, Mensah-Williams

11 September 2019 | Politics

In a surprising twist, President Hage Geingob has included Swapo backbencher Jerry Ekandjo among his 10 presidential nominees to take up seats in the National Assembly after the 2019 general election.

The inclusion of Ekandjo, whom Geingob had fired in 2018 after the bruising 2017 Swapo elective congress, is seen as a move to appease the 'Team Swapo' faction within the ruling party.

The party remains deeply divided, with a majority of those who backed Ekandjo as presidential candidate at the last Swapo congress failing to impress at the recently held electoral college, also known as 'the pot'.

Ekandjo and his faction were soundly defeated by Geingob's slate during 2017.

During the pot elections, Ekandjo, who is 72 years old, ended at number 107, failing to make the list of 96 Swapo National Assembly candidates.

Ekandjo said he would only comment on his nomination when they are sworn in next March.

“It is still early to tell you. Just phone on 31 March. This is just part of life,” he said.

Geingob also nominated current National Assembly Speaker Peter Katjavivi, who ended 89th on the list. The 78-year-old Katjavivi joins Vice-president Nangolo Mbumba as the oldest Swapo candidates on the list.

Geingob, who was also guided by Swapo 50/50 gender representation policy, named National Council chair Margaret Mensah-Williams among his presidential nominees.

Although making the 96-member Swapo list, Mensah-Williams, at 92, was doubtful for a seat given the fact that Swapo only won 77 seats in 2014.

The Swapo president also seemingly appeased the two Kavango regions after naming former education inspector Kletus Karondo and Rundu teacher Bertha Dinyando-Nyambe among his nominees.

Former Zambezi youth leader Heather Sibungo, whom Geingob had appointed as one of the eight non-voting MPs in 2015, was also nominated.

Geingob also opted for the chairperson of the Erongo regional council management committee, Hafeni Ndemula, who had ended 105th at the pot. The other three nominees are Veno Kauaria, the deputy executive director responsible for lifelong learning at the ministry of education, former Tsumeb mayor Vincent Mareka and Swapo leader in Omaheke Nono Katjingisua.

The 10 nominees have been inserted into the top 40 and are in all likelihood assured of a place in the National Assembly next year.

Mensah-Williams said her nomination was no surprise as her track record as a dedicated servant of the ruling party speaks for itself.

“I have a track record of putting my energy and wisdom in serving the people. I am bringing my service, I am a servant leader. I am open to learn and I do things in a team. And I am an implementer,” she said.

“I am a disciplined cadre and I want to think that the Swapo Party and the president and the Namibian nation see that.

But I also know that the president have to make this decision and based on consultation and I am sure there was some collective wisdom that came up with this plan.”

Political commentator Phanuel Kaapama said the exclusion of youth leaders left a bad taste and the message that came across was that young people are only good enough to be voters and not for leadership positions.

He also questioned the return of politicians such as Katjavivi, Ekandjo and Mensah-Williams.

“The question is whether the president could have done better, especially looking at people who have never been to the electoral college. In terms of the Namibian youth policy you are in the category of youth up to the age of 35 and I do not think there are any.

“Consider the fact that those in that age gap constitute a substantial percentage of the voting population. So the message then is, go and participate as voters but you are not good enough to be voted for,” he said.

Youthful commentator Shaandre Finnies, who is a former speaker of the Children's Parliament, said Geingob must at least appoint the relatively young members of parliament into executive positions.

“However, all these young people must understand the responsibility they carry towards other young people. They must go to parliament to bring fresh ideas, represent and give agency to youth voices across the country.

“We want to see motions tabled, deliberations and consultations on bills - but this must be done with young people at the centre of it all.

“Finally, because there is such a small percentage of young people on the list, I think it would be both essential and strategic for the president to appoint them into his executive if he is re-elected later this year,” he said.

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